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Tired of Broken Resolutions? Consider Value-Based Living

It’s that time of year. We feel motivated, inspired and ready to conquer our New Year’s resolutions. We will be new and improved! This year will be different! Or so we hope. Though for many of us, as the new year marches on, our once aspirational resolutions will slip away from us.

When we consistently struggle to stick with our resolutions we are quick to find rationales. Sometimes we are able to hold in mind some of the barriers to following through with these goals such as time constraints or the goals themselves being too lofty. Usually though, we land on self-condemning explanations such as, “I’m too lazy,” or “I’m unmotivated.” Our initial determination quickly soured into a feeling of defeat and deflation.

Let's be clear, the tradition of resolutions is an imperfect and flawed way of making changes. Landing on such self-disparaging beliefs is not only unhelpful and painful, but it’s reductive and unfounded. There are reasons why the tradition of making resolutions has become more of the tradition of making and breaking resolutions every year.

Let’s take a brief look at why resolutions set us up for failure and then consider another approach to making the changes we would like to see in ourselves.

Resolution is defined as, “a firm decision to do or not do something." Simply making such a decision rarely leads to change. For starters, it lacks specificities and considerations for how this change will be made. This feeds into overly ambitious resolutions that are even harder to stick with. Research demonstrates that we are more successful at reaching and maintaining goals when we have small, actionable and measurable steps. An additional flaw with most resolutions is that they embody all or nothing thinking. The resolution has either been completed or not and there's not much room for the inevitable setbacks. Instead of giving ourselves the space to roll with these setbacks we are often so dismayed by them that we give up entirely. Lastly, resolutions often are driven by something that we feel we "should" do. It's hard to maintain a sense of motivation using these "shoulds," rather than an internal driver that we feel more deeply connected to.

Clearly, we’ve been burned by resolutions. Rather than bolstering our self-confidence and self-trust they leave us sheepishly punting our goals to the following year with the hope that that will be our year. If you’re ready to leave resolutions in the past and make room for another way to inspire change consider getting familiar with your values.

Brené Brown defines a value as, “a way of being or believing that we hold important.” Values cultivate a feeling of groundedness by rooting us to our core principles and beliefs, while also providing us with direction and guidance when making decisions.

Using the new year as an opportunity to contemplate and reassess your values is an opportunity not only to self-reflect, but it can be a jumping board to making intentional changes. When our goals are driven by our values, they are more meaningful, and thus we are more likely to follow through on them.

Take the few minutes to do this values clarification exercise.

When you are clear about you core values, consider the following questions:

How am I currently expressing my values?

Are there specific behaviors that are misaligned with my values?

What are the specific changes I can implement that will lead me to feel more aligned with my values?

Are there behaviors and people who support my values?

As you gain more clarity and self-awareness by considering these questions you will be better able to harness your values to make meaningful shifts in your life.

Unlike resolutions which have failed us year and year again, values provide long-term guidance and direction towards living a fulfilling life. Mapping our values gives us clarity on what motivates us. When we are truly anchored in our core values we feel connected to our true selves and are better able to establish a path towards our dreams.

- Catherine Comiskey, LCSW

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