The Christmas season is coming to a close. While some of us might be very excited about that, there is another problem right behind it. We will now be inundated with messages about the changes we need to make in our lives. We get to hear about how we are not quite good enough. We will be told all the great things others are doing and how we can do those things too. It is officially resolution time. And I don’t like them. Believe me, I love change. I have devoted my life and career to breaking the cycle, changing my stars and living a better life than I was set up to live. And I am devoted to helping others do it too. But there’s a problem with resolutions.
Resolutions don’t make lasting change. And because they don’t, they can cause us more problems with making real change. They can distract us from the real change-making strategies. And honestly, that is part of the plan. The concept of focusing on behavior was created by the macro controller (a societal collaboration of many controllers trying to keep us from our deep emotional work). Resolutions are meant to be a distraction. Don’t get me wrong, there is place for behavioral goals. But it must be combined with emotional expression, building awareness of the unconscious and an understanding that rigid requirements of behavior will never EVER work.
Let’s talk about how resolutions get it wrong, so we can take a new, much more successful approach to inner change in the coming year.
You can’t control your behaviors with your mind. Contrary to popular opinion, the conscious (frontal lobe) mind has very little control over your actions. Oh sure. You can make plans. You can set intentions. You can follow through on your plans. You can post mantras all over your house. But if you are not in alignment with the goal, if there is too much resistance in your system, you will not succeed. Many times, you won’t even realize it until it is too late. You might just forget key steps. You might walk away from the tasks like you are possessed by some strange force. In the end, you will be scratching your head about what happened. But the answer to real change happens in the unconscious. This is where the resistance lives and it must be processed. That resistance might show up as emotions, flashbacks or external circumstances. But if we ignore it and try to plow through it, we will lose. We need to get curious about what lies beneath the constant stream of unmet goals. That resistance needs our attention. It needs a voice. Only then will we see the truth about our struggles.
Resolutions fuel our unworthiness with inevitable failure. Resolutions can get very rigid about what constitutes success and failure. We are never allowed to eat carbs ever again. We must exercise three times per week every single week. You get the idea. When our focus is on changing behaviors with no consideration for our resistance to the change, we aren’t likely to succeed. And when we fail, we will feel less worthy. A lack of worthiness and futility go hand in hand. So the next time we try to make change, we will have one more experience fueling the hopeless feeling that change isn’t possible. This makes it more difficult to motivate ourselves toward change. Instead of racking up failure after failure with rigid impossible goals, we can try a new approach. If we can re-frame a needed behavioral change as a journey through the inner obstacles, we can be more tolerant to the times when we miss the mark. As we process resistance to that ultimate behavioral destination, we will learn that some of our best resistance work will happen when we are not meeting the behavioral goal. And that understanding will change our ability to stick with it.
Our external situation isn’t actually the problem. Society and our family have taught us that our focus needs to remain outside of self. They taught us so well, we have lost self completely. When difficult emotions come up, we only know to “fix” our external life. We have lost any understanding that we have inner options. But external changes are a band-aid to our inner turmoil. And changing one defense will usually bring another defense forward. External changes that work will come as an organic shift resulting from inner changes. But we haven’t been taught that. And society does not encourage that thinking. So we run on a hamster wheel trying to make changes that can’t be sustained. And it fuels our futility until we give up. We must shift this way of thinking to make long term changes possible.