I can’t keep count of the number of times I’ve sworn to do better on New Year’s Day. Each year, I’d be lured in by this need to reflect on my life and make promises to change, improve, or quit whatever was holding me back. And with the same certainty, my fervent desires and unwavering motivation were all distant memories come February.
Sound familiar? Take a moment to consider the various resolutions, goals, and habits that frequent your life after the holiday festivities fade. Mine typically focused on five areas:
A few years ago, I looked back at my years of resolutions and the string of broken promises that followed. I realized my motivation rarely lasted beyond a couple weeks, and I never achieved success in any area on a permanent level. So I decided to break the cycle and instead began asking questions. Starting with why…
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.” ~ Einstein
I kept making grand plans, with complicated commitments that didn’t fit into my current lifestyle, and which couldn’t be sustained without extraordinary measures. Let’s face it, the bitterly cold, dreary post-holiday blues are a perfect setup for willpower depletion. So why did I keep doing this?
I’m not encouraging anyone to throw up their arms and resign themselves to the status quo. However, I would like to suggest that instead of resolutions, we start with intentions. Can you feel the difference between those two words?
For me, resolutions imply strict boundaries, the expectation of living up to lengthy or specific checklists in order to feel competent about our lives. An intention, on the other hand feels gentle yet firm—a guiding suggestion against which to measure our actions, without beating ourselves up when life throws us a curveball.
As I get older, it’s starting to sink in that time still passes, despite any resolution or intention I set. A year from now (no matter when you’re reading this), do you want to be in the same spot, with the same regrets and longings? Or would the tiniest bit of momentum make a promising start for your future? Our personal growth is the journey of a lifetime, so we don’t have to jump from zero to sixty in under ten seconds.
It’s important to consider the consequences of not taking action when you desperately want change in your life. This can lead to an identity crisis, that often lies buried underneath our daily thoughts where it’s most destructive. When you constantly make and abandon resolutions, it’s easy to start believing you’re no longer the type of person who will keep a promise to themselves. And that’s more damaging than you can imagine…it carries over into every aspect of your life, seeding doubts and neglect. If you aren’t keeping commitments to yourself, it’s hard to uphold promises to others. That’s where I found myself one New Year’s, wondering what happened to my self-integrity, and how I could build it back.
Today’s society is focused on action, getting things done, and staying busy. As I wondered how to escape the pit of my failed resolutions, I finally asked if there was a better way to spend my time than frantically doing, doing, doing. This was the beginning of my experiments with stillness, contemplation, and questions.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we can lounge around contemplating life, and meaningful change will magically appear. Even with purposeful, values-driven action, if we don’t evaluate its meaning and effectiveness, we can wander off our intended path… and away from our higher purpose.
I’ve come to realize my time, and ultimately my energy, is finite. So before I start making promises and taking action, I have to be absolutely clear on why I want to go after this change. If I can’t find a solid reason that speaks to my heart, then I need to listen for what’s truly calling to me.
Have you ever wandered your way through an amusement park, searching for your favorite attraction, while getting lost among all the game booths, food carts, and winding paths? If you had a guide that could help you plot a straighter way to the exciting rides, wouldn’t it be worth it? Questions can be the map that gives you a simpler route through life.
In the past, as soon as the Christmas gifts were unwrapped, I’d start crafting a list of resolutions, imagining all the fabulous new habits I would have, the experiences I would pursue, the person I would become. Not once did I ever look at my packed calendar and think about where these life-changing habits would fit into my schedule.
No one finds time in their lives. Even if you have a few unscheduled moments, they won’t knock loudly at your door, begging to be used creatively or productively. Making time requires evaluating what is currently filling our days. This process provides a great place to start asking questions.
Consider any of the following that spark for you:
For added power, speak one of these questions out loud, and listen for what follows in the silence. Write down anything that comes to you, and post it in a location where you’ll see it every day.
My favorite analogy for making the most of our time involves trying to fill a jar with sand, pebbles, and rocks. If you try to stuff everything in, starting with materials of the smallest size, there’s not enough room. However, first adding the stones, letting the pebbles filter in between, and then sifting the sand into the tiniest crevices allows the jar to hold everything. So it is with our daily obligations. We have to make the time to prioritize what’s important to us, and trust that the rest of life will fit into the spaces left open.
So whenever you choose to make the time, whether it’s before the sun rises, on your lunch break, or late in the evening when the house has quieted, asking yourself the right questions will be your first step to an unforgettable life.
Comment below to let us know if now is the moment that you’ll make time for what matters, and what part of your day works best for you.