The reason our New Year’s resolutions so often fail us—or do we fail them?—is that, by definition, they engender change. Change is difficult enough for most of us, but volunteering for it can be even more of a challenge.
Change is the only real constant in our lives. Yet, most of us resist it, or, at least, studiously avoid it. So, it seems sensible that our New Year’s resolutions, which are essentially a voluntary contract for change, are often simply a gesture and soon forgotten.
Genuine change requires investment— not in the future, but in the present. It’s not about the then-and-there, but the here-and-now. Then-and-there is something of a ‘what if’ mentality and implies a certain amount of wishful thinking. Here-and-now is, well, here-and-now. It is an immediate and tangible shift in thought and behavior that moves us away from wishful ‘what if’ and into the realm of ‘as if’. What this means in terms of change is not just changing, but figuring out what actually needs to change. This prompts us to rewrite our personal narrative and invest ourselves in that revision as a new context for the life we are creating.
Losing 15 pounds in the New Year is a good goal, but if the context of that loss—living ‘as if’ you are a leaner, healthier version of yourself—doesn’t shift, chances are you’ll gain it back, if you lose it at all. Figuring out the context of change not only makes it more likely to stick, it also makes it less daunting because the change itself is a consequence of the larger, subtler shift in lifestyle and self-perception.
When we think about genuine change what is often helpful is to take this broader perspective, focusing not just on the thing we want to change, but the circumstances around it. Losing weight is not about weight loss—it’s about changing the context in which the weight was gained—that’s where living ‘as if’ comes into play. Understanding this and putting it into action is what creates that larger, subtler shift in lifestyle and self-perception.
Paying attention to the context of change is also not restricted to specific goals, like losing weight or quitting smoking. It can take on a larger significance. Let’s say you’re dissatisfied with your job situation, and you’ve decided to make a change. Addressing the context of change would beg questions like, ‘Is it this job, or the job that I am dissatisfied with?’ or ‘In the best of all possible worlds, how do I want to spend my time?’. At first blush, this may seem like a somewhat fanciful line of inquiry, but it is exactly the kind of examination that brought one of my corporate coaching clients to leave his upper management position at a Fortune 100 company and open a (very successful) tackle shop in the Outer Banks.
The change we might envision for ourselves is always available to us. If we embrace that change and invest ourselves in its potential, it’s likely to be fruitful. We may not always get exactly what we anticipated, but, even then, the possibilities that become available to us when we choose to step out of our comfort zone and rewrite our narrative can be an astonishing gift. And it is a gift that only we can give to ourselves.
© 2013 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved
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