Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Happy New Year....It's Resolution Time!
Happy New Year to all!
It's that time of year when many of us begin to think about the habits and behaviors we want to change for the future. Mostly they are things that we know are not good for us. Such things as quitting smoking, losing weight, eating unhealthy foods etc. We rationalize that we must stop doing these things because...... (fill in the blank). We know these reasons make sense. We know there is really no argument against them and yet......we often fail to stick to our well intentioned resolutions.
As humans we are such anomalies. On the one hand we know that evolution has programmed us to be continually changing and adapting to our current circumstances but, at the same time we resist change with the determination of a new puppy refusing to budge at the tug of the leash. Like Fido we want to dig in our heels, sit down on the sidewalk and not move!
Major change usually only comes for most of us when it is absolutely necessary and unavoidable, when life or the people around us start tapping us on the shoulder or when circumstances give us no other choice. Then we go kicking and screaming into the vortex of change.
Perhaps the phenomenon of New Year's resolutions gives us the illusion of choice around change. If I get in first and decide to change, it won't be so traumatic or difficult. I will be more in control of it than if I leave it up to forces outside of myself.
Whatever the reason, it seems that the problem is not in making the decision but in the execution of our intentions.
This issue has come up both for me personally and with clients lately. We are great at the decision making part but the action is sorely wanting. So I have been asking why is this?
I believe that misinformation about the nature of self-change is to blame here. In our culture we have been led to believe that the most important thing we can do is to make decisions. We admire decisive people. We say that they are good leaders, that they are competent, responsible and in charge. Although it might not be articulated out loud, we are led to believe that, once we have made a decision, we have solved the problem.
The truth is that making a decision is only the beginning. An important place to start of course, but not the whole picture. Decision making is a left brained activity. It involves our powers of logic and organization. It involves rational thinking, judgment and evaluation but it says nothing about action. We have a wonderful brain that does amazing things not all of which can scientists understand. It has two sides, a left side that is mostly logical and does for us all of the incredible things I have already described but we also have a right side which houses our amazing imagination. When we make a decision we engage only our logical thinking process on the left side but, in order to complete the change in our behavior, we need to engage our imagination.
You might wonder why this is so. Isn't it enough just to make up your mind to do something different and then use willpower to carry out the actions? Oh, how wonderful if that were so but no, it is not enough.
When we are engaged in a certain behavior that we have done for years, we have created a certain energy around those actions. That energy is familiar and easy to slip into. In order to change the behavior we need to shift that energy. Although it is hard to describe what this feels like, we might see it as like changing key in music. It is similar and yet sounds and feels different. This shift in the energy is the missing piece. The decision to change sets us up for a change; the shift in energy makes it happen.
What then can cause this shift to occur? The answer lies with the right brain and its tremendous capacity to imagine. It has been shown for example, that visualizing different circumstances in our "mind's eye" i.e. the imagination, can help those circumstances to occur. Athletes do this all the time, visualizing improved performance and winning situations. Unhealthy cells respond to mind pictures of healthy ones replacing them. Visualizing a relaxing scene causes the body to relax and de-stress. Stream of consciousness writing can lead us to a creative solution to a problem.
Although we may be familiar with this evidence, we may not readily bring it to mind when making those darned resolutions but, this is where our answer lies, the answer to our struggles with making the transition from decision to action.
Here then, in practical terms are some things I am going to try in 2013 when making an effort to follow through with a resolution or making any kind of change in our behavior. Perhaps you'd like to try them too? I'd love to hear your experiences.....
- Sit quietly, take some deep breaths, relax and conjure up a picture in the mind of yourself doing the new behavior. Hold this image for as long as you can up to a minute at first and longer as you practice.
- Write affirmations around the new behavior on sticky notes and put them on your bathroom mirror or other places around your home where you will see them e.g. if you are quitting smoking, write "I am a nonsmoker," or if you are wanting to exercise more write "My body loves to exercise."
- If you like to draw or paint, make an artistic rendering of what the new behavior looks like to you. It can be realistic or abstract. Or if you are a writer, write about it. Make sure you write positive things about the way it looks rather than focusing on your struggles to get there.
- If you neither draw nor write you can make a vision board around the issue. Get a piece of card....as large or small as you like....and find pictures in magazines that illustrate to you the change you want to make. As long as it is meaningful to you, cut it out and stick it on the card. Add words or phrases that are helpful. It doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you.
- If you believe in angels (and most people do!) ask your angels to help and support you. Ask them to love you through this change and to help you love yourself especially if you "slip" or go back to old behavior. As well as your personal guardian angels, you can call upon Archangel Michael who is strong, powerful, protective and supportive and also Archangel Raphael who is a gentle healer.
- Instead of seeing change as a challenge to be conquered, see it as a gentle transition. If it helps you can visualize change as a gently flowing stream rather than a raging torrent. See yourself floating down the stream in a boat, going at the pace of the current and not having to work hard to get where you want to go.
Remember, change only comes about when a shift occurs in the energy around an issue or behavior. That shift can only occur if two basic things happen.....first there must be a decision and then the imagination takes over. Change comes about when we engage our whole brain, left and right sides, in the process.
Here's to positive changes in 2013!