Enlightened Living

Meaning and mindfulness in everyday life

You Only Need One New Year’s Resolution

Make it a habit, not a choice

This is the time of year that we make New Year's resolutions. For many of us, keeping those resolutions is something of a challenge. In truth, for all of those resolutions to stick, you only need one.

Systems theory-whether we are talking about interactive media, organizations or individuals-suggests that when we impose a condition on a system, the impact of that condition will diminish over time. But if we integrate that condition into the system, the system as a whole will shift and the condition will foster lasting change.

A New Year's resolution is a condition that we impose on an existing system-us. If we only impose it, but don't integrate it, it won't stick. So, the only New Year's resolution that you really need to have is to keep your New Year's resolutions.

When we impose a condition, there is an implied choice. When we choice to integrate change, we make an agreement with ourselves to maintain a different way of approaching our lives. It is a matter of living as if, instead of what if-a concept I discussed previously in Living Backward in Time: How to Set Intentions and Remain Present.

If your New Year's resolution is, for example, to quit smoking, you can approach it in one of two ways: "I am going to quit smoking in the New Year" or "I am not a smoker". The first is a "what if" statement. The second is an "as if" statement. Living backward in time is about starting the future now, rather than waiting for the future to happen.

One of the reasons that keeping New Year's resolutions is difficult is because we set them up as choices, not habits, and in doing so set ourselves up in the process. So, creating a context for success is not so much about making resolutions that can we can keep, but changing the structure of the resolutions and the way that we think about them. Making a simple agreement with ourselves to keep our resolutions, then treating those resolutions as if they are already fact will bring to a much different outcome.

© 2012 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

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Michael J. Formica, M.S., M.A., Ed.M., is a psychotherapist, teacher and writer. He is an Initiate in the Shankya Yoga lineage of H.H. Sri Swami Rama and the Himalayan Masters.

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