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New Year’s Resolutions

Why achieving them doesn’t always bring happiness.

It’s a new year and the start of a new decade, a time when people reflect on the past and look forward to the future. We ask, “What is working in our lives and how can we keep it working? What’s not working and how can we change it?” Most importantly we ask, “What dreams are hanging out there, just beyond our reach?” Is this the year we will find our courage and go for it?

There are several categories that most goals fall under. They are health, relationships, money and work. When something is going well, it’s easier for you to focus your attention there. If you’re good at managing, saving and investing money then you will naturally gravitate to that. You will invest your time and energy on money. Your success creates positive feelings and positive feelings propel you forward.

Let’s say you’re thirty pounds overweight, have high blood pressure and love junk food. For you, it’s no fun eating broccoli and sweating at the gym. What’s going to motivate you to change? Sure, you want to be healthy and lose weight, but that reward is in the future and you want to feel good right now. This is the reason so many New Year’s resolutions fail, it feels awful getting to the outcome, so you quit.

When it comes to your New Year’s resolutions, it’s not just about reaching your destination. It’s also about enjoying the journey.

For years I have helped my clients achieve their goals. Together we create a strategy and an action plan designed to accomplish a specific outcome. Imagine my clients’ surprise when, after we create an action plan, I tell them we’re not quite finished. I invite them to consider one more thing, which is, “What do you want the journey to feel like?”

When it comes to things like New Years resolutions or goals, very few people give time and attention to how they want to feel while on the journey. That is always a mistake. Let’s use an actual trip to help us understand why it’s so important not to skip this step.

Picture yourself at the start of a much anticipated vacation. You’re at the airport waiting for your plane to board. A few minutes later you learn that your flight is delayed. How do you feel? You tell yourself, "No big deal. I'm not letting anything spoil my trip."

Five hours pass. It’s now early evening and there’s still no word about your flight. Your initial great attitude has waned and you and your partner are not even talking to each other. When you finally board your plane you’re exhausted and just want to get the flight over with. You’re no longer focused on fun movies, resting or the great book you brought to pass the time.

You arrive at your hotel in the middle of the night. The room is small and stuffy and the windows don’t open. “Great,” you think, "No fresh air. This sure is turning into the trip from hell.” Do I need to go on? You get the point. Your vacation isn’t just about arriving at your destination, you also want to enjoy the journey to your destination. It’s no different with your New Year’s resolutions.

I created a tool called Results Mapping™ and I’m going to share it with you now. Results Mapping consists of a few key questions that help you get clarity so that you can create a strategy for your journey.

Choose one of your New Year’s resolutions to focus on. Here’s the first question, “How do you want to feel before, during and after you achieve this outcome?” Choose feeling words that align with your values, choose heart feelings. “I want to feel peaceful, calm or grateful,” or “I want to feel energized and focused on my outcome while staying present and attentive to the people I love.” Write down your desired feeling outcomes.

The next question is, “What challenges may arise that would prevent you from experiencing your outcome?” For example, if you want to feel peaceful, what might cause you to lose your peacefulness? Now that you have identified challenges to your outcome, you can prepare for those challenges.

A client of mine (let’s call her Diane) shared that she and her husband experienced a lot of stress in the evening. Both arrived home from a full day at work with small children to care for, dinner to make and homework to do. It was chaotic and everyone was grouchy. Diane created a routine that would definitely make their evenings more orderly and pleasant. Next, we did Results Mapping. What did Diane want to feel? "That's easy," she said. "I want to feel connected to my husband and children." Diane wanted warmth and intimacy.

The big aha moment came when she explored the next question, “What challenges may pop up that will make it hard to create and maintain connection?” Very quietly she shared with me that when it’s her turn to pick up the kids at daycare she’s usually late. The reason? At work she is always trying to squeeze in one more thing before she leaves. Often she is so late that she has to call her husband to get the kids. This always makes him angry.

In order for Diane to achieve both her outcome of an orderly evening and connection and intimacy with her family, she must give up trying to squeeze extra work in at the end of the day. Diane struggled inside because she hates unfinished work left on her desk at night. Diane decided she was ready to break her habit of compromising her commitment to her family. She would leave work on time. After all, Diane's new evening routine would bring her little joy if connection and intimacy were missing.

This is how we achieve our goals but miss out on the happiness we want. We long for our lives to be filled with the qualities of the heart; when they are missing, life feels flat like cardboard. It doesn’t have to be this way. Learn to start each day by asking yourself that first key question, “How do I want to feel?” Then make it happen!

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