Rescue from Resolutions: Read Before New Year’s!

Listen to the Podcast Version HERE: On The Spiritual Coaching Dashboard

QUICK SUMMARY: Let’s cut to the chase and try some brutal honesty. Research shows that 88% of those that make New Year resolutions will not keep them. Only 8% are still going by December. This means that for most, this year will not be different. The probability is that you will not be one of the 8 percenters. I know that is a huge dose of unwanted negative reality, but it is a cold hard fact. It is the elephant in the room. If you love failure, go ahead and ignore the statistical reality.

Here it is. Most New Year resolutions should not need to be made. There is no good reason why they need to be made. The whole idea of “resolution” is flawed. Why? Most New Year resolutions are the result of procrastination. Most New Year resolutions are about things we should have already taken care of during the past year. Want proof? Many of them are the same resolutions we made last year… or a decade ago. Like determining to lose weight, we may have succeeded initially, but as soon as our goal was reached, we are eating again and putting the weight back on! Truth is, if we are making a resolution, we have known about our need to make this change for some time and have been putting it off. Truth is, our new year resolution has plagued our lives for some time and should never have been allowed to make it to (another) New Years. The problem with New Year resolutions is that there is usually nothing new about them!

In this podcast…

  • What is motivation? Motivation is the fuel behind behavior.
  • Where does sustainable motivation originate? Intrinsically not extrinsically.
  • Old/bad habits have a purpose… There is a reason for their existence.
  • Old/bad habits are only symptoms… They are not the disease and will eventually return.
  • Why you will probably ignore this… Un-keepable resolutions are easier than real change.
  • An alternative… Clean the “inside” and the “outside” will clean itself
  • 7 steps to keepable resolution… Any day of the year!

Interested? Want more? Scroll down and keep reading!

By Kerry Krissel

GO DEEPER: (Read the QUICK SUMMARY first.) Do not get me wrong, I get the lure of resolution making. We are wired to want to progress, to grow, to change, to live better lives in the future than we have in the past. It is in our DNA to feel the need to improve ourselves. The drive is understandable. But in itself it is not enough to help us see resolution through to victory. However, it may be enough to help us not need them.

What Is “Motivation?”
Motivation is simply the fuel behind behavior. It is the force (or set of forces) that drives us to repeat an action and make it a habit. Intrinsic motivation comes from psychological force(s) that compel us to take action. When it is a difficult behavior—something we have put off, something that will cause discomfort, pain, awkwardness, or stress, something our “flesh” does not really want to do—more fuel in constant supply is necessary. Actually, everyone has ample fuel… in perpetual supply. It is finding what taps into it that is the trick. If we are not compelled to lose weight, at least not enough to sustain the choice till it becomes habit, we have to find an alternative pathway to necessary fuel. Maybe your spouse or significant other, whom you love and would do just about anything for, asks you to take better care of yourself so you live a good long life with them. Maybe you experience a health scare that moves you to make changes. Heck, even vanity over your expanding circumference may plug into the motivation needed to eat different and take exercise seriously! Whenever the pain of not changing becomes greater than the pain of staying the same, you have motivation! It is suddenly easier to change than not. There is still challenge, but less so than the difficulty of the status quo or where it will lead.

Whenever the pain of not changing becomes greater than the pain of staying the same, you have motivation!

Where Does Sustainable Motivation Originate?
Let’s push aside for the time being those resolutions that someone else has been nagging you to make. That is another discussion entirely. In those cases, a lack of motivation is understandable and probably unavoidable, even if the “nagger” is right. For most people, if the only reason they want to lose weight is because the doctor said they should, it will not have a very good chance of happening. Until it becomes something you believe you need to change, motivation will be in short supply. Motivation does not come from outside us, but from the inside. If it comes from outside it may be many things, but it is not motivation in the truest sense. External pressure is not motivation or motivating. True inspiration that brings sustainable motivation comes from our own heart. Let’s focus on something you really believe needs to change. Any other type of resolution will most assuredly fail regardless of the time of year or anything else we will say here. If external fears, manipulation, reasoning, and facts coming at you from others is all you have, quit while you are ahead! But a good reason that we feel deeply about, now that motivates. Motivation comes from within so we have to find what is in our heart and connect resolutions to that. The fuel of motivation will then be more readily available.

External (extrinsic) motivation is not useless. Seeing someone else achieve a higher level of competence or accomplishment can inspire us to strive for more. But my experience is that it is seldom enough to support sustainable effort. Often, external inspiration (from someone or some event) gets us going and that produces greater or deeper motivation after the fact. But that then is intrinsic motivation—grounded in our own inner person. Maybe it would be best to say that there are levels of or two different kinds of motivation. Either way, I want to address the second, intrinsic motivation.

 True inspiration that brings sustainable motivation comes from our own heart.

Old/Bad Habits Have A Purpose
Alright, we are talking about sustainable change, deep motivation, the inner heart-fuel that energizes action that leads to habit. Let’s talk about your own heartfelt need to change. You know you need to stop smoking, begin to exercise, loose weight, stop spending more money than you make, look for a new job, repair that relationship, figure out the God question, break that addiction, forgive that offender, clean out the garage…, and basement…, and attack…, and backyard shed…, and the car… and…! Often these types of resolutions are ones we want to make, but only from a certain perspective. If we do not stop drinking we are going to end up jobless and spouseless. We know that and probably do not want either to happen. But looking at it from another angle, there are reasons why we have not cleaned the garage and drink too much. Making the time to declutter and get organized or change a destructive habit will mean we need to do something with whatever it is that the lack of doing it (the thing we are doing, for example, drinking) is drowning out. With whatever we are trying to escape, numb, or ignore. That underlying driver is why we regain the weight we just worked so hard to loose. It is why the garage is still a mess, or worse, cluttered again only months after cleaning it out! The bad habit (or failure to change) serves a purpose. It is there for a reason. The thing we need to stop or change or transform, exists the way it does (negatively, destructively) because of some real or perceived advantage it provides.

The bad habit (or failure to change) serves a purpose. It is there for a reason.

We must figure out what the pain behind that habit (or behind our fearful procrastination that keeps us locked where we are) that we both hate and love. Sure, read that again. The habit we hate but cannot leave behind is also a habit we love. We cling to it for a reason. Deep down somewhere we believe we need it and the purpose it serves. If we love it, we protect it. We show it leniency. Consciously or unconsciously. We may have even made a deal with it. We show it sympathy. The coddled and excused and defended habit is a frenemy. Somewhere along the way that nasty little practice or characteristic was chosen in response to something we were trying to escape. Now we believe that without it that evil will resurface, reopen or rewound. The garage is messy because we fear that if we throw things out we will not have what we need. Or if we do not employ the time and energy it will take to clean it on something else, something more important, we will screw that other thing up or disappoint someone or have to face difficult memories that hide behind much of that mess in the garage. While we may no longer even know what the original reason was, we have made that thing that is now a destructive reality, a friend. It is pretty hard to kick a habit we secretly want to keep. If we do succeed to break the bad practice, without defusing the energy behind it, it will give rise to a new, alternate but equally destructive, lifestyle to take its place. It may be more socially acceptable, more “grown up,” but it springs from the same place the old habit did.

The habit we hate but cannot leave behind is also a habit we love.

 Old/Bad Habits Are Only Symptoms
Taking this New Year resolution thing to a whole new depth is the key. Think about the difference between physical symptoms and the actual physical problem. A fever, headache, upset stomach, and dizziness, are all symptoms. We can treat them with medications. Stop the medication and they return until the real problem is gone. But treat the sickness or disease behind the symptoms and they go away. Continually treating only the symptoms will mask the true problem that will then never be uncovered, and therefore allowed to stay and grow. That headache is a symptom. Your headache is a habit. Treating the pain is not treating the problem. In fact, most illnesses gives rise to multiple symptoms. If we apply this to life change, it suggests that getting to the source and taking care of the deeper reality may actually bring an end to more than one bad habit that we need to break!

What am I saying? I am suggesting that our resolutions are usually aimed at a symptom, not the real problem. Resolutions often target something our subconscious does not really want to remove, something that it feels it needs, a symptom that is “medicating” a known or unknown “wound.” No wonder we do not keep those well-meaning resolutions. We do not want to!

Why You Probably Will Ignore This
Now I will tell you why many of you will ignore my observations instead of learn from them. Making resolutions, even if you know that little real and lasting change will occur, is easier. It allows you to tell yourself that you are working on it and therefor feel better about yourself. The reality is that either you do not want to change deep down and lack the necessary motivation, or you have failed so many times that you have given up. Maybe you never realized that your resolutions were little more than aspirin for your hurting heart. Still, the New Year resolution makes you feel like you are progressing even though the truth, if you stopped to process it, is that you are not. Even if this new information seems helpful, unless you identify and chose wellness, you are sticking with a symptom directed resolution that even if kept, will never fix the real trouble.

Maybe you never realized that your resolution was little more than aspirin for your hurting heart.

An Alternative
Rather than resolutions, try making a real and costly decisions this year. Have the courage to do the harder things and pursue some self-discovery. Decide to pop the hood and find the real reason why that pesky dash light keeps nagging you. What is behind your bad habits, your lack of ability to change, or a fear that keeps you trapped where you are? Determine to get to the bottom of the impulsivity, or stifling and stagnating fear. Transform your life by honestly dealing with the real issue and the annoying and destructive symptoms will take care of themselves. Get some help killing the beast and you will not need to patch things up after it blows through your life again, leaving a mess in its wake like a tropical storm. Treat the root problem and you will not need to rely on a powerless resolution anymore.

I want to point you to something Jesus taught about treating the deeper heart issue instead of just cleaning up the outside so it looks like we are well underneath the surface when we most definitely are not.

Matthew 23:25–26 25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!  26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. (NLT)

You probably do not identify yourself as a “teachers of religious law” or “Pharisees” or “hypocrite” for that matter. Greed or self-indulgence may not describe your struggle. But you do probably identify with the rest. So careful to look good on the outside while inside there is all manner of mess. You present well but hide many a defect. You clean up OK, but the only thing that has changed is your exterior presentation. Like lipstick on a pig! Wow! Was that metaphor a little too blunt? Yeah, I thought maybe! I may as well include one more while I am on a roll. “If the shoe fits…! Our sympathy may not be toward greed or self-indulgence, but the principle remains true. Clean up the mess in our heart and the outside will “become” clean. Whatever the more obvious problem is that we cling to, that is not likely the real problem and that is likely why you will not keep your resolution. But clean up your interior life and the need for a resolution will begin to disappear faster than your tax return does!

You clean up OK, but the only thing that has changed is your exterior presentation. Like lipstick on a pig!

Tricks and hacks designed to help you keep your resolutions abound. Forget them all. They are little more than self-deception. This is obviously written for people who call themselves Christians. If you do not, you can leave God out of it. Put another person or a therapist in the slot. I cannot promise the same results but at least it will be a start. If leaving God out means you still struggle, try putting him back in!

7 Steps to Keepable Resolution

  1. Pick any resolution (you feel deeply about) you have made at least twice before but not followed through to completion.
  2. Ask God if he is behind the proposed change or if it is just your own or another’s idea. If it is his…
  3. Ask yourself and God when that undesirable/unhealthy/ destructive/annoying habit first appeared.
  4. Ask yourself, God, and a coach if necessary, what it may be hiding or providing – what is its reason for being?
  5. Get God’s help walking through what you discover behind the bad habit or change that never happens.
  6. Do it as soon as you realize you need to, New Year’s or not.
  7. Never make a New Year’s resolution again and live freer and better than you every though possible.

There, I solved your dilemma over whether or not to make a resolution this New Year!

Would you like help working through the first six steps so you too can live the seventh one?
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Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash