Look at the calendar and you will see that we have stepped another year forward and have arrived in 2017. In the months leading up to January 1, 2017, people lamented the disappointments and failures experienced during 2016. There has been a lot of talk about what went wrong, but not nearly as much about what went right (and certainly not how we might avoid pitfalls in the coming year).
With much fanfare, we welcomed 2017 as the clock turned from 11:59 pm on December 31st, 2016 to 12:00 am on January 1st, 2017. The year 2017! It has arrived...but what do we do now?
In years past, we boasted of the new routines we would begin in the next year, or perhaps the things we promised that we would stop doing or eating. By the end of January, the resolutions would begin to weigh heavy on our time, wallets, or willpower, and the bold statements of change would fade into the background. People used to take New Years resolutions very seriously (and perhaps some still do), but personally, I'm heartened by the new approach to this time of year that involves a focus on vision, goal, and intention setting, in contrast to rigid resolutions that seem bound to fail before they have even truly begun.
If you are someone who doesn't quite understand why this distinction can make a difference between success and failure in making the changes you seek to see in your life, here's a little more context. If I could persuade you to consider making this bridge in your thinking as you make 2017 the year of you, here is the argument I would present:
1. Resolutions are rigid, but life is not.
You may resolve to bring a healthy lunch from home every day, but what happens when you forget your lunch? Or when your team goes out for a bonding lunch? Or you just plain ran out of time to make your homemade bento box of veggies and lean protein? That would mean you have broken your resolution. That sounds pretty harsh and doesn't encourage an effort to get back on track, whereas approaching an intention of feeling fresh and fueled gives you the flexibility to find balance and healthy habits that don't become a source of additional stress or burden.
2. Resolutions encourage going 0 to 100 in making lifestyle modifications.
Have you ever heard of someone quitting "cold turkey"? You might be one of the lucky few out there who can say "no more" and never look back, but for the majority of people, habits are truly and sustainably built (and broken) over time, not overnight. The common approach to a resolution is attempting to get out all of the bad behavior right before declaring the resolution, after which point one will never engage in that behavior again. That's a tall order. However, living with intention allows for the building of sustainable behaviors that become part of a well-rounded healthy lifestyle. Making these flexible modifications over time rewards us with a lifetime of health and happiness, rather than a handful of days where we deprive ourselves/force ourselves to do something we do not enjoy, before quickly quitting altogether and returning to our former routine with a resigned "Well, at least I tried."
3. Resolutions offer no alternative to complete success.
Unless you are perfect (and I have not yet met a human being who is), there is a good chance life will throw something at you that could create a roadblock to achieving that resolution. Resolutions are pass-fail. Did you do it right, 100% of the time? Great, you pass. Did you, for any reason, not achieve the act that you resolved you would? No? FAIL.
Ugh. I don't like thinking in terms of failure, nor do I advise my clients to think that way. It just isn't helpful. Our reality is a world of gray, not black and white. This is no exception.
Back to the question at hand: 2017 is here. What do we do now? Here is my best advice:
The visions we have for our lives are realized as we travel a path of stepping stones built by accomplished goals. Start somewhere, map out where you're going, enlist the help to get there, and then get going! And don't stop, unless it is to reevaluate your direction (because it is okay to make changes) or to celebrate how far you have come.