It's the time of year when people make new year's resolutions. Here, according to Time magazine, is a list of the ten most common resolutions that people have made in recent years:
1. Lose Weight and Get Fit
2. Quit Smoking
3. Learn Something New
4. Eat Healthier
5. Get Out of Debt and Save Money
6. Spend More Time with Family
7. Travel to New Places
8. Be Less Stressed
10. Drink Less
And what would you guess is the success rate for people sticking to their resolutions? The most common figure given is 8%. That's right, on average, 8% of people follow through on their resolutions for six months or longer. Perhaps this is why now 38% of people say that they never make New Year's resolutions.
Whether or not we make resolutions this time of year, we all know that creating sustained and lasting change is difficult. This is as true for individuals as it is for couples, families, and organizations. Our habits and routines become comfortable over time, and so by definition a change in those habits and routines is uncomfortable. The bigger the change we try to make, the greater the discomfort and apparently most like to avoid discomfort.
I believe that one of the reasons that resolutions to change fail (whether at New Year's or any other time) so often is because most resolutions to change focus far too much on the what and not nearly enough on the why. Connecting with the why we want to do something helps us to connect with the deeper emotional or spiritual reasons that we want to grow, which is different from merely making a change.
A parent who wants to change their critical tone with their child will be more likely to make that change if they first reconnect with their love for their child and their deep emotional and spiritual awareness that their child is a gift and worthy of respect. A desire to make a healthy life style change will have a greater chance of succeeding when it is grounded in a higher purpose, such as wanting to have more energy to bring to one's work, service to others, or to share with friends and family. Many people who follow a spiritual path, are wanting to make changes in their lives on an ongoing basis (not just beginning of a new year), ones that more fully align their lives with their spiritual ideals, such as loving their neighbor, caring for the environment, seeking peace and reconciliation in the world, or living with greater kindness and patience toward others. Spirituality focuses on the why of our lives, which in turn gives rise to what, if any, resolutions to change we may wish to make. The question then for all of us is why do we do what we do? Why do we want to work hard to make the changes we desire?
We at Living Compass would like to wish you all a Happy New Year. And if you are thinking about making a change this time of year, we invite you to first take some time to reflect on why you want to make that change. Connecting with the deeper spiritual and emotional reasons you want to change will not only help you clarify what you want to change, but will greatly increase the likelihood that the change will last.