It’s January, the season for resolutions, fresh starts, blank pages. And an opportunity to buy a new notebook without all the scribbles. Yes to stationery, but I’m here to call bullshit on resolutions, they don’t work.

According to research by Strava most people give up their resolutions by mid-January.

Crazy right?

So why don’t they work? And what can you do instead?

Why they don’t work…

They come from a place of should

The things you think you should do, lose weight, finally go to the gym, stop rolling your eyes every time your Mum says something annoying. Too often they come from external expectations, or from the internal voice that tells us we should go to bed on time, stop moaning, and be more confident damn it.

Of course that’s nonsense, but it’s damn compelling if you listen.

It doesn’t mean enough to you

To make change you have to be committed to something that really means something to you. A resolution will give you an initial burst of energy to get moving towards something but it’s not sustainable.

Too soon you’ll find yourself shopping for leggings to go running, rather than actually running. That’ll happen if you haven’t quite done the work to find out what is most fundamental, central and important to you and build the structures to keep you on track.

Starting too big

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear says that the number one mistake humans make when building new habits is to prioritise intensity over consistency. That really resonated with me. I’m ever one to say I’ll sort out whole garden at the weekend rather than just deadheading the roses in the 5 mins I have while the kettle is boiling. So saying you’ll read a book a week is much more likely to lead to failure than reading 5 mins every day and creating the habit and success.

So what should you do instead…

Work out what you really want

Spend time working out what you really want. Not what people tell you you should want. Not what you think might make you happy. But what you really really want, that is aligned with your values. There are lots of ways to do this, journaling, self help books, coaching, therapy. What you want is a space and sturcutre that helps you to strip back the layers, and get to the heart of what your soul is saying. It’s there, speaking to you, but often it gets drowned out by the day to day, the baggage, the shoulds, the lack of time, the Netflix.

Make them flexible

Intentions are what I do these days with my clients. An intention is a word, metaphor or statement that you want to embody this year. It’s a flexible, supportive way to explore just how you want your year to be, not just what you want to do or achive. It’s gentler, less resolute, less pass or fail. There is no punishment, or yardstick to measure your achievement with an intention.

Manage your saboteurs

Even intentions can go awry if you allow yourself to be driven by your sabotuers. Saboteurs are the voices in your head that keep you small, tell you that you should do something, highlight your bad bits. Don’t set intentions from this place, the place of fear. Instead, ask yourself what lights you up, and go with that instead.

Get exploring

If you’d like to set some supportive, empowering intentions I’ve got two killer exercise for you.

1. Reflect on 2021

Take 10 minutes to write a letter to 2021. Write as if you were talking to a person, so you can start Dear 2021. The structure I’d suggest is to write one paragraph to 2021 as it was in the past, one paragraph about how you feel about it in the present and one paragraph about how you will feel about it in the future. If you want to find out more you can see me talking about the exercise and reading my letter to 2021 in Design Your Adventure Facebook Group.

2. Design Your 2022

Download a copy of the wheel of life, reflect on where you are now, and where you want to be. Then go through each segment of the wheel of life and consider the following questions. In 2022…

What is definitely happening in this area of your life? What are you hoping will happen in this area of your life? What dreams would you like to nurture this this area of your life? What is asking to be supported in this area? What does your heart need? And what qualities do you want to develop in yourself?

From this circle all the words that you’d like to take forward to support you, and if it feels helpful choose just one that will be your word for the year.

These are the sorts of things we do in coaching, whenever and wherever you are in life. Helping to reflect and process, and set intentions going forward. Go well in your 2021, and if you’d like some coaching support then just get in touch for a chat.

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