It’s just about the middle of January, and the majority of us are likely still trying to stick to those resolutions. We have all tried different ways to keep them – we write them down and stick them on the bathroom mirror, say them to ourselves every morning, post them to social media. And then by March they are long-forgotten. Or maybe we tweaked them a little bit. Some say we should even stop making new year’s resolutions. So what gives? What can you do to keep the resolutions that you set out to make? Let’s take an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy approach to our change.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Change Strategies
Step one: Be familiar with your demons. Ask yourself: what causes you to not follow through? If you’re 100% honest with yourself, what is it that is appealing about not following your resolutions? Get to know those reasons. Imagine yourself as a general who is planning an attack – you’ll need to know every move the enemy will make and every strategy they’ve thought of, and you’ll need to use that knowledge to your advantage. The better you know the things that lead to failure to live the life you want, the better you can work against them. Once you’ve identified those barriers, you’re ready for step 2.
Step two: Zero in on your values. It’s time to identify why you are making this change. And by values, we don’t mean goals. The goals we set eventually change or are achieved. Values, on the other hand, outlast our goals. They are the things we want to be known by, the things we want said about ourselves in our obituary. When the going gets tough, we continue to do the difficult things because they are in accordance with our values. If you’re unsure what exactly your values are, check out this exercise. We can now move to step 3.
Step three: Lean in to the discomfort. Become familiar with the taste of change. Remember those demons we mentioned in step one? Get up close and personal with how they make you feel. Approach the discomfort with an attitude of curiosity, like the feeling itself is an object from a distant planet that you’ve never seen before. Observe it from all directions and perspectives – how does your body respond? What do each of your senses give you in the discomfort? What does your mind give you? What is it like when you let the discomfort run wild for 30 seconds? Ask it to get worse. What is that like? Notice the fluctuations when you lean in to the discomfort. The more that you are familiar with the discomfort, the better you will be able to tolerate it. When we can tolerate it, we don’t need to give in to the discomfort, and thus go back on our resolution.
With these three steps – becoming familiar with your demons, zeroing in on your values, and leaning in to the discomfort – you are setting yourself up for any barrier that may arise in the journey to making personal change for the new year. Keep those resolutions. Get to know yourself better this year and make the changes that are important to you.