The Lie of the New Year's Resolution
Fri, Jan 2 2015 11:38 | Adult Development, Change, Commitment, Habits, Intention, New Years Resolutions, Professional Development
It is that time of year.You know it—we are just around the corner from those good old New Year’s resolutions. Suddenly a new focus emerges. Ideals around getting “back into shape” emerge. Resolutions to cease bad habits strengthen. Maybe it’s to stop drinking or smoking. Maybe it is a firm resolution to spend more time with the family. Or a commitment to give yourself the time needed to nourish and replenish yourself captures your attention as January 1st brings in a new year.
Whatever it is, this year I urge us all to proceed with caution.
While our calendar has just made its new transition, the holidays have ended and the new year’s celebrations have come to a close, and we are all back inside the same lives. The same contours surround us. The same challenges and responsibilities push and pull on us. The same aspirations will draw us forward and the same unseen competing commitments are holding us back and they will continue to hold us back.
In this overarching reality, our new year’s resolutions don’t have much of a fighting chance. That’s just the honest truth. That’s why by the end of January, the gym will return to its normal volumes filled with the familiar faces of the regulars. Resolutions to cease bad habits flounder and eventually disappear into forgetfulness. The existing habits of our lives are likely to swallow us whole. This is the power of most new years resolutions:
In three weeks, the same behavioral patterns will enslave us.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love intentions. I love new resolutions to change ourselves and our life. I am all for them. My entire livelihood is built around helping people evolve themselves. I spend just about every day of my life focused on how to facilitate my clients’ development. Whether it is in their jobs, families, intimate relationships, company, community and/or in the realm of athletics, I’ve got my hands, head and heart fiercely engaged in improving how people perform in all walks of life to make their lives better.
And for adults attempting self-directed changes to improve their lives, these changes always originate in perspectives. Your vantage point or outlook is your most fundamental asset. Whether we call it perspective, vision or a new year’s resolution, inner directed change does stem from your insights and commitments to change. And, whether or not your intentions actually embed themselves into new mental, emotional and behavioral patterns rests on one major question:Is your vision, intention or perspective worthy?
New resolutions are a dime a dozen. They are cheap. Ideas for change are not by any means lacking. To recognize when your mind and efforts have been temporarily hijacked by a cheap insight is itself a dramatic move forward in clarity. This year, I encourage all of us to be suspicious of what resolutions tend to seduce us. The first and most important challenge in changing our lives for the better asks this all important question:
Is your perspective more worthy than the existing intelligence of your present life?
Most people look into their idealistic resolutions, aspirations and new intentions and instinctively say, “Yes, it’s totally better than my current life.” Don’t be seduced by these lies. Our more superficial assessments often fail to understand the broader implications of the intended changes we are envisioning. Intoxicated optimism does not understand the ingenuity and creative adaptation that is structuring, guiding and stabilizing our present lives into their current orbits.
So let’s ask ourselves, “Are my new resolutions for change truly worthy? Are they genuinely worthy of my life force? Is my intention valuable enough for me to, at least in some important ways, abandon part of the intelligence of my present life? Does this perspective provide greater value? And is this value more powerful than my existing habits to keep anxiety at a minimum?”
Most efforts at change fail here so straighten that spine, deepen your breath and sharpen your focus right here. Often the preference to not experience anxiety in change is greater than the desire for change. As such, visions are too small. Resolutions are too fleeting. Intentions are infused with wishful fantasies. Perspectives are less complex than the realities presently governing our lives.Regardless of how sincere, excited, determined and/or committed we may be, if our perspectives fail the value test, real sustainable change isn’t in our favor. A vision that is too small or a resolution that merely extends a few months (or even a couple of years) will fail most adults. Intentions fueled by or resting on hopeful fantasies fail. Visions holding less complexity than our present lives fail.
I often find myself repeating the saying, “Go big or go home!” Our perspective has to be bigger, more complex and hold greater continuity and endurance than our present lives. If we are not bold, we will likely fail. Our guiding perspectives must be born from courage. If it is weak at this this starting point, our minds and hearts will lack the ability to reshape the reality of our lives.
Reality rules, my friend. Our minds are either an early manifestation of a reality that is greater than our present life, or our minds are seduced into tinkering with shadows as they flicker on the wall pretending to be real.
Once our perspectives passes the value test, the next all-important question to ask ourselves is, “Can my desire for change conduct from intention to behavior?” With my clients, I use a proprietary system called Core Asset Management. It follows this critical thread from our perspectives down into our behavioral adaptations.
Without carefully following this sequence, ideas (regardless how valuable they are) remain as glimmers of possibility in our minds. Here now, gone in a short while. Meanwhile, the gravity of our habits powerfully cascade from one day to the next. From week to week, month to month and year to year, our life habits carry onward for better and for worse.
By adulthood, many decades of momentum are in full swing. When new year’s resolutions surface, the sheer force of life’s habituated intelligence dismantles even the most sincere attempts at positive change. Regardless of how painful or limiting habits may feel now, they are carried by a pragmatic tradition. They work. While we may be desiring to outgrow certain habits, they are still employed to fulfill a purpose.
Let’s save ourselves some frustration this year. Let’s not fall into the trap of wasting energy in efforts that may already be eroding our precious life force. Instead, focus intently on cultivating an intention, perspective and vantage point that is truly worthy.
Do not expect to discover it with a vision worksheet, in an hour’s conversation with a professional coach or over dinner with your partner. If we want real change, we have to give ourselves fully to this endeavor. Devote weeks to this endeavor. Apply the full intelligence of your life into this single inquiry.
Some of my clients spend months piercing through the entrenched limitations of their mind until finally something immeasurably precious occurs. A worthy resolution emerges. A new perspective captures them. They cannot forget about it because it is not merely an idea that comes and goes. Instead, it is an intention that permeates all that they are. It informs who and what they are at a fundamental level. When this foothold has taken shape, the flywheel of habit, its momentum and intelligence are but small pieces in a now larger, vaster and more capable self that is genuinely capable of life-altering and world-sculpting change.
This year, go big, my friends. Our world needs it and so does your heart.
Leadership and Performance Coach, Author of The Elegant Self and Strength To Awaken
Break The Limits of Your Aspirations
Mon, Oct 21 2013 01:13 | Adult Development, Aspiration, Autonomy, Death, Desire, Devotion, Dialectics, Dying, Freud, Intention, Life, Postautonomous Development, Power, The Elegant Self, Transmutation
If you've got a piece of paper near by, take a few moments to jot them down. If not, launch the notes app on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Give yourself only a few minutes to get your various drives down. Don't think too hard and don't sensor. Just write down what you've been consumed by the past few days - perhaps the past week or so.
Get going now... .
Next, circle or bold the aspirations, goals and/or drives that are genuinely worthy of your life. The question I often ask my clients is, "Is this worth dying for?"
Ask yourself this question with each of your aspirations. Answer from the most sincere intelligence you are capable of participating with right now.
If you're like most adults, you'll see a whole bunch of activities, intentions and expenditures of your precious life force that are simply unworthy of your time, attention and energy. You have two options.
Option one: Develop an exit strategy.
Set a limit on parts of yourself. Put a boundary into place with the culture you're immersed in. Say no to the distractions that are wasting your most precious assets. While conventional assumptions maintain that the life force, perspectives, attention, energy and time that compose you belong to you, this is a lie. It's an innocent lie, but a lie the autonomous self fabricates to bolster its sense of control, ownership and self-imposed importance.
From a vantage point beyond autonomy, peering through the eyes of elegance, these assets are on loan. We might even say they are a free gift belonging to something exquisite. Your perspective, the shape, direction and quality of your attention as well as your energy and behavior that follows from this gift is an experiment. Perhaps we may think of it as a test.
The exam of life is investigating your worthiness as a human being.
If you're expending your precious life in unworthy aims, you're failing. Failure in this context is not something to be avoided. Rather, it is the doorway into a larger elegance that commands a life that does pass life's examination.
Our autonomous (and pre-autonomous) lives are in many ways already and always a failure. Discovering the failure is the opening of a precious opportunity. And, it is a simple as this. Peer into your greatest intelligence and ask yourself, What is ultimately worthy of your life?
What are you willing to die for?
When you find something you are willing to die for, live for it.
The failures, distractions and empty activities of your life are to end. Regardless of the consequences, an exit strategy is required in some cases. You simply must suffer the losses and inhabit the limitations of your finiteness. Elegance requires sacrifices my dear friends. If you don't know deep loss, you don't know the greatest gift life has to offer you.
So, find facets betraying the life that has been given to you and create your exit strategies. You'll likely need more than one.
There is a second option. It is a more sophisticated response to those items on your list that are not circled or broadened in bold text. This second option is also a necessity for human elegance. As much as our more conventional intelligence would like to clarify life such that we only engage in the most significant of activities, this isn't possible.
Life will not let you divide the sacred and the mundane. You cannot separate the unsubstantial from the significant for they are married to a union fundamental to the very fabric of existence. As such, you have an invitation for transmutation or what Freud called sublimation.
Option Two: Transmutation
You do possess the power to participate with a transformation that can join the unworthy aspirations of your lesser life to the very center of your greatest of intentions. To do so you must devote every facet of yourself without hesitation, limitation or mediation. Apply yourself completely. Do not give in. Do not give up. Press forward until your body, mind and heart unconditionally demand the fullness of your life.
For the areas that an exit strategy does not work, this is your other more sane option. Sure you can collude with culture and pretend that something has more significance than it really does. Or, you can play the "good enough" game where you comfortably settle into a life of habit. Years clip by no different than leaves falling from trees. All the while, a betrayal larger than the conventional mind can fathom unfolds.
Exit or transmute, these are doorways toward elegance. Take action now. Do not delay. Do not project your larger alignment and greater aspiration into the future. This is to distort and diffuse the potency of you. You become the betrayal of your greatest purposes.
The Dialectics of Aspiration
The last step is for you to inquire if something else should be on your list, but it isn't. If this is you, I encourage you to go big. Have few aspirations, but be possessed by elegant ones. As such, go big! Let your perspective broaden, allow your imagination to dream of a world that is qualitatively more good, true and beautiful. Then live into these unknown dimensions. Yoke them from possibility into actuality.
In order to truly go big, to dare to be dreamed by the creative advance of novelty, you must paradoxically acclimatize to a way of functioning that is free from all aspiration. The fullness and greatness of your vision only is gifted from you if you are capable of inhabiting your greatest freedom. Liberate from your conventional aspirations. Drop them. Let them go for a short while. Get used to the space, the sheer unbounded room of your heart. Only from this place will you come to know true aspiration.
Take action swiftly. Be infinitely still. Reflect. Clarify. Devote all of yourself to that which is worthy of your life. Stop nowhere. Give everything.
Performance Coach, Psychotherapist and Professor of Developmental Psychology