We’ve all, at some point, attempted to use January 1st to reset our lives.
When I was in that space of trying to reach a set goal or intention each year, I saw my resolve quickly melt like ice and evaporate.
Has that ever happened to you?
After falling far short of my resolutions year after year, I changed my approach…
Instead of making a specific resolution each year, I set a broader intention. And to my surprise and joy, something extraordinary started to happen.
Before I share what happened, I want you to understand why resolutions usually don’t work.
The real problem with resolutions
Resolutions almost always fade because we become distracted, and our commitment softens in a down moment.
For example, on January 1st, Ella resolved to drop twenty pounds by springtime. Two weeks later, she and her partner argued. Ella was hurt and soothed herself with a large piece of chocolate cake.
She tossed and turned through the night, replaying their argument. Ella skipped the gym the following day because she hadn’t slept much.
Ella’s thinking went from optimistic and inspired to doubtful and lackluster. Her commitment to losing weight waned. She told herself that losing twenty pounds in three months was unrealistic.
Hurt and doubt distracted Ella from her goal and made room for the surviving self. The surviving self feels safest in known waters—surviving difficult moments in the familiar way it always has. Even if the familiar situation leaves us unhappy, the surviving self, which leads with worry, doubt, and fear, is prone to choose the familiar over a new - untried and unknown - path.
This is how we lose touch with our desire to change, and our New Year resolve dissolves.
Does that sound familiar?
If you’ve ever lost faith in one of your resolutions and want different results in 2023, keep reading. You are about to learn a simple and empowering approach that overrides your surviving self.
It’s easier than you think
A minute ago, I mentioned that I switched from making specific resolutions to setting a broader intention.
My intention was simple: Respond to life better.
That intention made me more attentive to my life in every way:
I started thinking about what I wanted and who I wanted to be far more often.
I focused more on how I wanted to feel.
Circumstances and events dictated my thoughts and mood less and less.
When I missed the mark or performed poorly, I chose to look inward instead of judging myself. I asked myself what I could learn from the experience that could serve me the next time or for the rest of my life.
When someone addressed me with a bad attitude, I chose not to take their state personally and did not give them my precious attention or energy.
As a result of these internal shifts, I began to realize that no matter what I faced, I could make a choice that empowered me instead of depleting or stopping me. And that changed everything.
Always choose you
These subtle shifts and moments of awareness taught me that no matter how difficult the circumstances are, there’s always room for a self-empowering response.
Seeing this, I felt giddy inside. And do you know what happened then?
I became more resilient, daring, and hopeful...
Whenever I felt lost or like I was losing my resolve about a direction or goal, I trained myself to stop and ask myself, “What’s a self-empowering choice that I can make right now?”
Simply asking the question put me in charge. By stopping to ask the question, I was moving forward even through the muck and sludge of my circumstances.
Stop making resolutions and
start asking questions
Can you remember when you had a resolution or goal puddling at your feet? How did you feel when you realized you weren’t going to succeed?
If you’re serious about resetting your life in 2023, there is an approach that won’t evaporate in a few weeks or months.
Make this your primary objective as you move through each day: RESPOND BETTER.
Any effort to respond to life better leads you to engage with thriving Self qualities like awareness, curiosity, and openness. And the thriving Self has the power to lift and redirect the surviving self.
Curiosity and openness help you see your thoughts and actions more clearly. And seeing them ushers in conscious awareness of what you are doing or how you are behaving.
Awareness is becoming cognizant of your default or unconscious patterns, beliefs, judgments, and assumptions that distort or compromise your life.
That is so important because you can’t change what you can’t see. But once you see something, you can choose to embrace, reject, or change it.
If you are used to defaulting to fear, remind yourself to get curious instead. Learn to default to the question, “What’s a self-empowering choice I can make right now?”
This question helps you access a more open mindset and cut a path out of the old and into unfamiliar territory.
Choosing the intention to respond to life better can turn the coming year into a year-long adventure that grows and refines you and expands your life.
Steps to a better life in 2023 and beyond
In summary, here are five life-changing steps you can take to build and strengthen your respond-better muscles:
When you wake up in the morning and throughout the day, say aloud: “Help me become aware of my patterns, beliefs, and habits that hold me hostage and rob my life of joy.” You can never pray this prayer too often.
Whenever you experience old feelings, reset your intention to become more aware and respond to life better. Do this over and over regarding any area of your life, and awaken to a new, increasingly empowered you.
When you notice that you’re afraid or feeling doubtful or stuck, immediately ask, “What’s a self-empowering choice that I can make right now?”
No matter what patterns or limiting beliefs you discover, be grateful for your ability to see them. Gratitude is another thriving Self characteristic that helps you to be open. Most people tend to beat themselves up when they discover ways that they have been holding themselves back. They say things like, “Why did I do that? What took me so long? Why did I put up with that behavior or person?” Don’t do this to yourself. Be grateful for the gift of finally being able to see where you were once blind and feel where you were once numb.
If and when you are beating up on yourself, get curious. Ask, “How can I move beyond attacking myself?” Instead of beating yourself up, use this wonderful phrase that my friend Deborah Gayle says to herself. Say to yourself, “With this awareness, I am not the same person who made those old choices.”
The more you approach your life in this self-accepting way, the more you will send the message to the deepest part of you that, from this point forward, things in any and every area of your life can change for the better!
This belief, held tightly and supported with practice, will eventually become a guiding principle in your life. Guiding principles eventually become default tendencies and a new way of being and living.
Here’s to creating a Happy New Life… FOREVER!
In the comments below, let me know what you might do to respond to life better in 2023.
Thank you for sharing your voice in the comments and the community.
Let’s create a more fulfilling life,
Tina Lifford plays Aunt Vi on the critically acclaimed television show, Queen Sugar. The Little Book of Big Lies: A Journey Into Inner Fitness is her first book; released by Harper Collins, November 2019, and is full of the kind of internal “actions” that will transform your thinking and your life. You can also join her at a workout in her Inner Fitness Studio to practice strengthening your wellbeing and making it actionable in your day to day life. Don't miss the latest news from Tina Lifford and The Inner Fitness Project. Sign up our monthly newsletter here.