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A Tool for Positive Change.

Photo: Martin Fisch

It’s week three of the new year, how are those resolutions going so far?

I have been amazed by the lists I hear people rattle off of changes they plan on making this year: “Exercise more, stop eating so much, be nicer to my partner, quit gossiping, find my life purpose, stop drinking so much, watch less TV, be an overall better person.”

I feel so overwhelmed and defeated just listening to them that by the time they are done all I want to do is fix myself a cocktail, eat a donut and curl up with the Kardashians. 

Having a list of resolutions like these can be self-defeating and often have the opposite effect that we were hoping for. For starters, they keep us in the bad vs. good, right vs. wrong way of thinking: If I eat kale I am good, If I eat a cookie I am bad. And the only thing that way of thinking will get us is a free ride on the shame train.

May I offer another perspective?

Instead of making a to-do list of changes why not figure out what resultant qualities you are hoping to gain by making them and approach it from that direction?

For example, each year I come up with a quality or word that I want to be the theme of my year. Instead of listing all the changes I want to make, I dig a few layers deeper and consider what the intention is behind them. Then I narrow it down to one single quality to use as my beacon throughout the year.

This year I have chosen the quality of thrive. Instead of listing resolutions like: eat healthier, make more money and spend more quality time with my friends—all of which just overwhelm me by making me feel like I have more to do—I focus on thriving.

I can’t begin to tell you what a difference this simple shift in perspective has made for me in terms of building and sustaining positive change.

Here’s how it works:

  1. It provides a working tool to use throughout the year. I post the word on the wall across from my bed, so that I am reminded of it every day when I wake up and every night before I go to sleep. I refer to it throughout my day with every choice I am faced with whether it’s about how to spend money, what foods I eat, how I engage in relationships or how I spend my time, “Will this decision help me to Thrive or will it dampen me?” It is an actionable tool I can use to help guide my choices.
  2. It can be embodied.  I bring the quality into my morning meditation practice. I imagine what it feels like to have the quality (in my case: thrive) and I breathe it into the present moment. I allow myself to bath in the emotion of it. It’s challenging to do at first, but the more we practice it the easier it becomes to find. This is probably the most powerful of any practice because we are reprogramming our mind, body and spirit to connect with this emotion allowing easier access to it on a regular basis. The more familiar we are with feeling our quality the more we are inclined to make choices that support it.
  3. It sets us up for success. Have you ever gone on a diet, “I’m not gonna eat any sugar for a whole year!” and then the moment you break down and have a cookie, you think there is no reason to continue with your goal, “Screw it, what’s the point? I already broke my diet!” When we choose a quality it doesn’t matter what our answer is from one moment to the next because each minute is a new opportunity to embrace that quality. It’s a cumulative effect and yet mutually exclusive. One mishap doesn’t affect the overall gain or commitment. If we decide to go with something that does not support our quality, it’s OK; there will be another opportunity to choose again.
  4. Allows room for possibility. Choosing a quality leaves space for something new. If we are confined to specific action items on a list we might lose the opportunity for a new way of being that will support our efforts to connect with the quality we are seeking. For example, if my New Year’s Resolution is to go to the gym more, I am limited to that action. If I don’t do that action–I fail, but if I am working with a quality there is flexibility to try other things that will support my effort. For instance, I might skip a Yoga class, but say, “yes” to a friend’s invite for a hike with other folks, which will support my health and my relationships in thriving.

The hardest part of this process is usually settling on a quality that resonates with us. The more connected we feel to the quality the more effective it will be. There are many ways to come up with a quality to work with. One way is to refer to our to-do list and ask ourselves some of the following questions:

  1.  What would I like to gain from making these changes?
  2.  What would it feel like in my body, mind, and spirit if I were engaging in these activities frequently?
  3.  What would I feel like if I succeeded with them? What is the emotional association I make to that?
  4. What would I look like, be like, act like?
  5. How would I be different than I am right now?

Sometimes, that is hard to do on your own, so I recommend enlisting the help of another. Please feel free to reach out if you would like my assistance in finding a quality that works for you.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi Catherine, GREAT article! Sue, Paula and I meet with a small group of people each month as part of ongoing spiritual development. It’s my month to lead the group and I asked each of them to read your wonderful article, answer the questions and come prepared to talk about the quality they want to embody in 2013. Thank you for your wonderful work. Patty

    January 21, 2013
    • WOW, what a compliment! Thank you so much for sharing. I would really love to hear details of the outcome. It’s always so informative for me to know other peoples process. Thanks so much and good luck with your group! Catherine

      January 21, 2013
  2. This is a wonderful blog post that puts into words exactly how I feel about new year resolutions and why I choose an annual power word each year instead. I really love the questions at the end. Change happens to be my power word this year! I love how I keep running into my word all the time now! Even in the title of this post! 🙂

    January 24, 2013
    • Hello and thank you so much for your nice comments. Sounds like collective conscious at work again!

      February 8, 2013

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