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Resolutions vs wishes: How to keep new year’s resolutions

Are you making any new year’s resolutions this year? If so, keep in mind the difference between a resolution and wishful thinking.

The audio in this short video is a sound bite from a radio interview.

What’s the difference between a wish and a commitment? Wishing is passive. Commitment is active. When you wish for something to happen, you just hope that things will go well on their own. If things don’t go well, there’s no “Plan B”. You just won’t get what you wished for.

In other words, wishful thinking will get you nowhere, because it essentially amounts to professing your powerlessness: “It would be so nice if things happened magically, without having to fight for what I want.”

In contrast, feeling committed means that:
- you have a sense that things need not be easy
- and you’re ready to fight for what you want.

Aim for a specific goal

The more specific your commitment, the better. The devil is in the details. For instance, committing to "eating better" or "exercising more" is going to be very difficult to practice. On the other hand, a commitment to avoid specific foods, or to exercise 3 times a week at lunchtime... are easier to follow.

And how do you do that? Let yourself see it. Let yourself want it. Creative visualization is a great way to be pulled from where you are toward your goal. Let yourself imagine what it would be like to have achieved what you want. Picture the results. Let yourself feel how good it would feel. Let yourself bask in the dream…

Creative visualization

We've all heard about the use of visualization in gymnastics, in tennis, and sports coaching in general. We know that, for Olympic athletes, visualization of goals is a way to help improve performance.

Why shouldn't it work for you? I define being proactive as looking back... from the future. Creative visualization is a great way to look back from the future. More than that: a great way to be pulled from where you are toward your goal. Images, and the emotions that go with visualizing things, are a very powerful way to motivate us.

Visualizing is not magical thinking:
- What would be magical thinking is saying that the secret to getting what you want is just to let yourself form a clear image of what you want - - that this clarity of vision is a substitute for the effort to take the steps that translate this vision in reality.
- There is a kind of poetic truth to this kind of “secret”: If you have a clear, vivid sense of what you want, then you will be so motivated that the effort will seem much less onerous. In retrospect, when you reminisce about what happened, you may feel like it all happened so much more easily than it actually did!

As you contemplate making specific changes, let yourself visualize what it would be like to have achieved this goal. Let yourself feel the excitement. The goal is in sight, you can smell it, you can taste it... Remember what this feels like: This is the experience of feeling motivated.

Capture a snapshot of this image. Of course, you can’t do so with a camera. But write a few sentences to capture that image. And save these words.

There will be plenty of times, in the next few weeks, when you have moments of doubt, when the goal doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort. At those times, pull that sheet of paper, and revisit the dream. Let the dream inspire you to do what it takes to get there…

This article is an excerpt from the free printable PDF: How to make - and keep- new year's resolutions: Three simple principles.


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