self awareness

Forget New Year’s Resolutions, ask five questions instead.

Forget New Year’s resolutions, New Year’s questions are a healthier alternative
Source: Five questions to ask yourself as you ring in the new year

 

If less than 10 per cent of us keep New Year’s resolutions, why make them in the first place?

As with most things in life, the motivation underlying making resolutions is key. All too often we spout off a long list of all the things we wish we were “better” at. These often include changing our exercise and/or eating habits, losing/gaining weight, and quitting/reducing a habit that we believe is unhealthy, such as nicotine, caffeine or alcohol consumption. We are extremely motivated by how others will see us, view us and ultimately judge us. At least, in the short-term.

Here’s the thing: trying to live up to someone, or everyone, else’s expectation of who you should be is rarely, if ever, enough to motivate you to make long-term meaningful changes in your life. What if there’s an alternative to mindlessly reeling off the same list of to-dos that we’ve recited every year for the past decade? We can take a chance to pause and ask ourselves some questions, which might inspire us to live closer in line with who we truly want to be, rather than who we think we should be.

  1. What was one sweet moment for you in 2015? As best you can, connect to what this moment was like through your five senses. What did you see, hear, smell, taste and feel in that sweet moment? This moment doesn’t need to be extraordinary. This moment may be something as simple as receiving a text message from someone you love or seeing a friend for coffee. In my experience, these sweet moments rarely cost a lot in terms of financial resources yet often give us so much. This sweet moment will most likely indicate what is worth investing more time in 2016.
  2. What is that one thing on your “bucket list” would you love to do in 2016? We often treat life like it is an infinite resource that will always be available to us. How many times have you put important life goals on the long finger? Often, we don’t actually end up doing these activities that we know would give us a sense of joy and fulfilment. What difference would it make to you if you engaged in this one activity on your bucket list? If, after mindful consideration, this still feels like something you want to do, see what small changes you can make to fulfil this dream.
  3. What have been the biggest drains on you in 2015? We all have drains on our energy. These can be people, relationships or activities that take more away from our life than they give back. Turn off the autopilot to ask yourself if these drains are worth your investment of time, energy and other resources. Most of us will find that some drains on our energy are not worth pursuing. Particularly, if we notice that our own tank is running on empty. It may be time to make some changes.
  4. What would you love to see yourself doing more of in a video of your life one year from now? When we make resolutions or goals we frequently focus on things like I want to be happier, calmer, slimmer or healthier. Yet, these goals are pretty abstract. It is hugely beneficial to make your goals more tangible by focusing on what you would see yourself doing differently in your life a year from now. This gives us something clear and concrete to aim for and engage in.
  5. What blocks and barriers are likely to come up for you? Most, if not all, of the people reading this now will know what it’s like to try and fail. It’s important to acknowledge the thoughts that we get hooked by such as “what’s the point?” and “that’s well and good for others but I won’t be able for it”.

It can be incredibly useful to put the phrase “I’m having the thought” before your self-limiting thought. For example, saying out loud or in your head “I’m having the ‘what’s the point?’ thought” and then reconnecting to what the point is for you. Feeling unwanted emotions when we go outside of our comfort zone is inevitable.

Aisling Curtin is a counselling psychologist.

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