More family time, paying off debt, cleaning out the basement, a deeper relationship, more exercise. The list of things we want to accomplish goes on and on, year after year... with most of them making it back to the top ten, year after year. When will it end?
Parents, ditch the list! Don't even bother making a New Year's Resolutions list for 2015. Odds are very high that by the end of the year, most items on your list will still be there, unrealized. And there go your confidence and belief in yourself.
The Resolutions List is more harmful than helpful. It morphs into a Wish List. A Wish List is just that - wishes - until you add action. And this is where most of you drop the ball. So few people are able to consistently follow through. That doesn't make you a bad person or a loser. It means you have made something else a bigger priority, or you don't know how to break the goal down into smaller, easier-to-accomplish steps, or life just gets in the way.
Another thing to be aware of is that feelings are at the center of everything you do. Emotions rule. Keep that in mind when you make even the smallest decision. You wouldn't consciously do things that make you feel bad, would you? Unfortunately, your conscious mind isn't in control, and too many decisions are based on strong emotions that you're not always aware are in play.
Either way, those things just aren't getting done. As always, good intentions are not enough. So what should you do?
1) Think about how you want to feel, not what you want to accomplish. Everything that you do, you do in order to feel an emotion. Getting rid of clutter is about feeling calm and in control of your environment. Working on a relationship is about feeling loved and safe. 2) Be mindful and pay closer attention to what you are already doing and to the tasks and responsibilities you are already handling. They are most likely connected in some way to the items on your Resolutions List. In the course of your day, examine and reflect on your actions and what you are making, or not making, a priority. How did it all make you feel, and do you want that or something else? 3) Make one little change, in that moment. This is the golden nugget. You're not going for a total transformation all at once. Most change (and I mean permanent change) is incremental. Slow and steady wins this race. 4) Do it with greater and greater frequency. Conventional wisdom says that it takes 21 days (three weeks) to ingrain a new habit. Even if you don't do it for 21 days straight, just keep doing it! The more you do, the more it will become second nature. 5) Acknowledge and celebrate moving in the direction of your goal. Give yourself that pat on the back, a treat, or some kind of pampering. Everyone likes a little reward. We do it for young children. Why not for you?
Let's look at a couple of examples. If your goal is to be healthier (which includes food and exercise), watch what choices you make in preparing and eating food. Swap out 1/2 portion of starch for another vegetable. While watching TV, walk up and down stairs during the commercials.
If you want to do some de-cluttering and feel at peace in your own home, don't tackle an entire room at once. It's draining to do that much at one time. Pick a shelf, drawer or surface to work on. (And when you're walking the stairs during those commercials, be sure to move something that's out of place back to where it belongs.)
You don't need a list to make these changes. You already know in your mind, and in your body, what to do. You already know the feeling you get in your stomach, heart rate or breathing, when what you're doing conflicts with your goals and beliefs. Listen to that.
What will help are a few moments each day to take stock of what you're doing, and decide if it is effective. What is your gut telling you? Then make small course corrections, and repeat. Practice makes progress. And when the end of 2015 rolls around, you won't need a checklist because you will already be doing those things and feeling satisfied with your progress.
Fern Weis is a Parent Coach and Family Recovery Coach, specializing in supporting parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations (including underachieving, disrespectful behavior, addiction recovery and more). With a parent-centered approach, Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life’s challenges. Learn more about coaching and workshops at www.fernweis.com and www.familyrecoverypartners.com