It’s Not About Will Power (Why you Can’t Seem to Make Your New Year Intentions Stick)

willpower blog post

We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.”–Henry Cloud

Stop Beating Yourself Up

As we roll into the New Year, there is intense pressure for change. 

“New year, New You” is the siren call of beauty products, the diet industry, and every service on the market. New year resolutions abound, like:

  • Losing weight
  • Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption
  • Paying off debt
  • *Finally* cleaning out all your household clutter
  • Writing that novel, resume, or dissertation
  • Quitting smoking
  • Improve relationships
  • Meditate more

I’m sure you’ve got a few more good intentions kicking around your brain that haven’t landed on the list above, but that you’ve “promised” yourself you’ll absolutely see through this year.  There is a strong feeling of “should,” and the guilt of not meeting an expectation that is pushing you hard.

And then what happens? Around March you lose steam, focus, and drive—and those intentions disintegrate like snow melting into springtime gutters and ultimately floating out to sea.

You spend a few weeks in mild or moderate shame, but then move on just as you always have—without the satisfaction of change that really sticks.

You know what? It’s not your fault that change is hard. BUT, there is a better way to set yourself up for successful shifts in your life that actually become part of who you ARE, not just something you do.

Also, (I know I say this a lot, but it’s true) you’re not broken. There is nothing to fix here. Just a mindset and a couple of actions to embrace that get you more progress on the life areas you wish to improve.

(Be sure to visit www.themindfulmovement.com for a ton of free and subscription resources to assist and support you on your “change” journey.)

Change is about Being, not Doing

Many folks out there believe that making lasting change is about DOING something different over a period of time. While action is key in changing behaviors you don’t want to keep, the real secret is in changing your identity—a tiny pivot at a time—until you literally become the person who does the new thing—easily.

So, here’s what this looks like. 

Let’s say you’d like to pay off your credit card debt and not rack up any more charges in the new year. Where do you even begin?

Try getting curious about folks who don’t have credit card debt. What’s true about them that is not true about you right now? 

If they’ve adopted the identity of No Credit Card Debt, every decision they make will support that outcome—from where they live, to how often they eat out, to the type of hobbies they enjoy, to how much money they spend (or don’t spend) on clothing.

And those decisions aren’t usually painful or foreign to them—the actions are simply extensions of Who They Are. They have the mindset of someone who is debt free.  They have the attitude that says, “of course I pay off my credit card every month.” “Of course I spend within my budget.”

What’s your Current Identity?

A good way to begin shifting your identity for change is to tune into your current identity markers.

If you’re a runner, it’s very likely that you don’t have to force yourself out of bed each morning to hit the road or the trails.  Some mornings may be more difficult than others, but it likely isn’t an internal fight every time. You do it because:

  • It’s YOU time and you love the sovereignty and solitude running gives you.
  • You know and anticipate the natural endorphins that will kick in after your warm-up, making you feel awake and alive.
  • Running in nature makes you slow your mind and get super calm before your go-go-go day.
  • Your body misses the movement when you DON’T do it—something just feels “off” if you go too long without running at least a mile or two.
  • There is a carrot to chase. You love answering the question “what is possible for me?” with running further, faster, or with new challenges each week.
  • And you are so deeply connected to your why–the big picture reason that in your intrinsic motivation to be “a runner.”  This is what it affords you in your life outside of the actual action of running, such as being physically able to play with your grandchildren.

It’s easy to tweak and apply this list to whatever you do naturally, joyfully, or automatically right now. I mean, just look at brushing your teeth. This simple hygiene habit is baked into nearly everyone’s morning or evening routine. We barely notice we do it, but when we don’t? Ew. We feel it right away—and NEED to fix the oversight!  This is an “of course” action that you’ll always do.

So, what’s one way that you might shift your identity so that the thing you want to accomplish feels good for you?  What is one new “of course” that you can build into your life?

The Identity Pivot In 3 Steps

Let’s break down clutter-cleaning. This one’s a toughie, because many people LOVE their stuff (me too—no judgment here.) We hold onto things–even if it’s causing relationship stress or shrinking our available space–because of our deeply held beliefs.

  1. If you keep a lot of “stuff” around because you think you’ll “use it someday,” notice where this belief comes from. Your parents who never threw anything out? Your older siblings who hung onto every souvenir and keepsake? That time you lost your favorite blanket when you were 3 years old? What would it feel like to release this message from your system? What would the person who DOESN’T carry this inner message do? Perhaps they would freely release the item in question, knowing that they can always acquire it again if they truly have a need down the road.
  2. Once you identify where the belief comes from, it’s crucial to “re-message” your inner self. You can practice this skill by first observing when the original belief arises, and then countering with a new statement, like in the example above. Instead of “I can’t throw this out because I’ll need it someday,” try “I can get this item easily whenever I might need it. The space it’s taking up is more useful to me today.
  3. Repeat this process of shifting your inner beliefs until you no longer observe the original message getting in your way. As you re-pattern your beliefs, the new pattern will become an “of course” for you.

Get Help Developing your Chosen Identity (and habits that stick)

I’m excited to offer my first ever self-led retreat, going LIVE on December 28, 2022 and offered at your convenience. This powerful experience will help you create the rituals, ambiance, and time to do this crucial end-of-year/new year self-care and identity work, so that you can flow into 2023 knowing change is afoot (and won’t slide off your toes like your summer flip-flops.) 

Reserve ONE full day in your calendar of workshops, OR two half-days for flexibility and convenience.

The retreat goes LIVE on 12/28. Enrollment is available NOW. Get everything—all the tools to make the changes you want for yourself in 2023 (and beyond)–all for FREE as my gift to you for being part of The Mindful Movement Community.

Here’s the LINK to join me!

In the meanwhile, be well, friends. 

Sara 

 

 

About the author, Sara

Sara is the founder of The Mindful Movement and the owner of Coreworks Fitness, a Pilates and Yoga studio in MD. Sara is also a Pilates and CoreAligh Master instructor with Balanced Body.

Sara is passionate about helping others grow and live mindful, fulfilled lives. She helps others move better, feel better, live with a deep awareness, gratitude and their whole heart. She strives to inspire others to live authentically and passionately in love and abundance.

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“The past is gone, the future is not yet here.  If we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Whether this is your first time practicing meditation, or you have joined the journey with me to deepen or reignite your practice, I am grateful you are here now.

Know that this journey inward may not always be easy, but it can offer profound benefits when practiced regularly. And like any other skill, it takes practice and patience to experience progress.

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7-Day Meditation Course with
The Mindful Movement

“The past is gone, the future is not yet here.  If we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Whether this is your first time practicing meditation, or you have joined the journey with me to deepen or reignite your practice, I am grateful you are here now.

Know that this journey inward may not always be easy, but it can offer profound benefits when practiced regularly. And like any other skill, it takes practice and patience to experience progress.

Start, Deepen, or Re-ignite Your Meditation Practice With This FREE 7-Day Foundations of Meditation and Mindfulness Course