Introducing contributor Christine Faucher-Kelley, who offers this pre-New Year exercise to work on. She'll be back in January.
Only 8 percent of us achieve our New Year's Resolutions. We don't get clear on why they are important to us. Taking some time to understand your "why" -- before the New Year -- could make you make you part of that successful percent.
As a two-pack a day smoker, for nearly 30 years, I was part of the 92%.
Ironically, my friends called me a "health nut". I ate well, did yoga... and smoked! But it was catching up with me: I had developed a "hack" and my addiction was so out of control that I was craving another smoke moments after lighting up. Despite all that, my multiple attempts to quit failed. I was a slave to nicotine.
And then something happened. I was at a yoga retreat and I had snuck into the woods to have a smoke. I felt like a fraud. All the "good reasons" why I should quit were not enough, but this one made sense: I could no longer look myself in the eye. I was ashamed because I had betrayed myself.
So around Jan. 3, over eight years ago, I broke away from my enslavement. While it took nearly a year to be "smoke-free" I ultimately succeeded.
How did I do it?
Rather than hide in a "cloud", I had to get "mindful" (or aware) about what made me want to smoke, and why it was important to quit. When I wanted a cigarette I'd ask myself, "What's going on?" I'd consider solutions to relieve the stress and then I'd go for a run, or I'd breathe. Seriously. Smokers don't breathe, we smoke. By deeply inhaling air instead, we can reduce our stress. Breathing is highly underrated.
Once I got mindful about why my resolution mattered to me, I was able to follow it through.
We must start where we are.
Is some version of this a familiar start for the New Year? You:
charge down the road in your new sneakers,
post your revised resume on all the job sites,
vow to stop eating lunch at your desk, and
slap on a nicotine patch?
A few weeks later...
the sneakers are collecting dust,
your inbox is full of unread job listings,
there's a half-eaten burger on your desk, and
you're stubbing out another cig while you're wearing the patch? (That was me!)
When it comes to resolutions, most of us want to start at the end and we don't enable our success by having a plan. But before we can know where we're going, we've got to know where, and more importantly why, we are.
Back to the basics.
(Grab pen and paper, and get ready to make clear resolutions.)
A key part of any change is seeing yourself on the other side of it. I envisioned what would it be like to stop hiding my addiction from people who loved me. How would it feel to look myself in the eye again and be proud?
What do you want and why is it important to you?
This New Year it is your life that you are creating when you decide to change. Follow these steps to create your Mindful Plan.
Step One: Why does it matter?
Effective resolutions include an important outcome. Knowing the difference it will make helps you to stay the course. For example: Working 60-hour weeks but you're craving balance so you can do some volunteer work for your community?
(Get inspired: Watch the video below for something you could do with more time. Then continue on. There's more to do in this exercise after the video break.)
Answer these questions:
Why do you want to make this change?
What will be different when you do?
Step Two: What else is affected?
Often there is a life pattern of breaking promises to ourselves, which damages our self-confidence and leads to procrastination and feeling overwhelmed.
Answer this question:
What else in your life could be improved by this? For example: Might you be more effective at work if you weren't exhausted?
Step Three: Where are you now?
To get from where you are to where you're going, you must assess your situation right now. For example: Why the 60 hour weeks? Do you need to speak up? Organize differently?
Answer this question:
What will it take to get from point A to point B and how can you support yourself in getting there?
Step Four: Be kind to yourself...
Going through this process can reveal some deeper truths and what's at stake for you. Breaking your promises to yourself damages your self-trust, and it can be regained by honoring your commitments to yourself now. Know you will have set backs... (Remember, it took me a year!) AND you can quickly right your course by getting back on track. So, while New Year's Resolutions are fine, there's no reason you have to wait.
Answer this question:
When will it be a good time to start honoring yourself?
Oh, and by the way, a couple of years ago I took a curious puff of a friend's cigarette and I am proud to report that it was disgusting. I am finally free.
I'll be back in January and will explore how to support your resolutions.
One final question: What has gotten in the way of your New Year's Resolutions? Let me know in the comments.