Are New YEAR’s Resolutions Obsolete?

The end of December always leads to trepidation. It hasn’t always been that way, but as I enter the seventh year of my blog the thought of January leads me to panic about how I can talk about New Year’s Resolutions. So far I have written about:

new year resolutionIn revisiting this topic again, the first thought I had was about a self-created dividing line. Who says that January 1st is the start of the New Year? The Chinese and Jewish cultures have different days they use to start anew. With this in mind, remember you determine how important this day is to you. If you had a wonderful 2014, don’t panic that it must come to an end in 2015. On the other hand, if you had a rough year, use this as a time to wash away your troubles and focus on creating a better year.

In 2014, I actually started the monthly practice of recounting my successes and failures, removing what doesn’t work for me, and creating a vision of what I do want. Every New Moon I take a moment to check in with myself personally, professionally, emotionally, and spiritually. Where am I close to my ideal? Where am I off? How do I want to be? What I have found is that, like not allowing our stress to build, taking mini resolution check-in’s allows me to react to constant changes in life, revise how I am acting or reacting, and reevaluate what I find important in life.

Constant Changes

Imagine you make a New Year’s Resolution to move to a senior position in your company. You lay out how you need to network, where you need to improve your skills, and when you will be ready to ask for the promotion. Then on January 2nd you learn that your company is going bankrupt, your spouse is being transferred, or a family member’s health becomes a priority. Life happens. By reevaluating your desires and needs on a monthly basis, you are more easily positioned to adapt to all that life throws at us.

Action / Reaction

Instead of focusing on results and outcomes, I prefer to focus on how I am acting, reacting, and being. When all things are said and done, are you most proud of the expensive car in your garage or the first time you had the power to speak up for yourself? Much more reward is available in our self-control, overcoming fear, speaking our needs, and doing our best. Check monthly to review where you could have acted better and where you made the most of who you are.

What Is Important

Especially when we create an annual plan for our business, we have a tendency to look at outcome versus goals. A great way to stay in touch with what really brings you joy, satisfaction, and accomplishment is to continually reevaluate what is important to you. I learned this one again and again with my book. The number of books sold were not as important as the stories I heard of how the book affected people’s lives. Check in every so often and question if what you desire is truly what makes your heart sing, or is it the false desire of fame, recognition, or success society tells us we should want. Release outcomes which do not add to your happiness and celebrate where you have made a difference in the world.

This New Year I challenge you not to create annual resolutions but instead to look to the next month. How do you want to be? What do you want to experience? What would make your heart sing? What do you need to do to bypass fear and live fully? Then 30 days from now, see how well you did. Celebrate your wins and make plans for how you can make the next 30 days even better!

 

Originally posting on Huffington Post.

Balance

Change Your Focus – Change Your Experience

Neil Findlay was a guest on The Empowerment Show recently. In his episode, we discussed his charity work. He helps children living on the street in Madagascar who may be as young as five years old. No resources. No education. No future. A situation he could only describe as hopelessness.  He also works with teens in Australia who often turn to drugs and alcohol due to their family situations. The teens have access to everything – food, shelter, education, and technology yet the suicide rate is rising. Suicide is rare in Madagascar where living conditions are worse. This intrigued me. Why was one group in a truly hopeless situation yet the other group felt they were in a hopeless situation?

Melissa Heisler
Melissa Heisler

The difference between the two appears to be one of focus. The children of Madagascar only know what is around them. They are focused on the reality of their situation. They are focused on what they have in the present moment. The Australian teens are bombarded in the media by images of wealth and better lives which they do not have. The teens are focused on what they lack. They are focused on a future which seems unattainable. They are not in the present seeing the good that is around them. The result is a feeling of hopelessness.

Whenever I feel pain, stress, or depression, I can usually tie it to something I want. I am focused on something I don’t have. I am focused on some future event or thing I believe I need to have to feel safe, happy, or successful. The focus on what I lack drains me. It is the “as soon as” syndrome. As soon as I finish my book, get this speaking gig, make this amount of money, or complete this project then, I tell myself, things will be good. And while I am waiting for that thing that may or may not happen, I find myself unsettled, down, and not enjoying life. I am denying myself until that condition is met.

When I catch myself, I stop and immediately think of three things to be grateful for. What do I have right here and now that is fantastic? An abundance of healthy food, shelter, ability to read and write, a loving husband, sunshine, and a host of other things are always available for which to be grateful. Taking a second to be grateful also brings me back into the present moment. The present moment is the only one that I can affect and it is the one where I can find joy. I come back to the now and find joy in writing this post, hearing the birds chirp, and smelling dinner in the oven. Suddenly all of those future desires don’t matter so much.

Where are you focusing? How could coming back to the present help you re-frame what you have?

What you give to others, you give to yourself

Finding Joy through Focus

A client told me about a time when she struggling in her relationship.  The honeymoon was over and those little habits overlooked before now became a sore point.  Every day she was reminded about things she did not like about her partner.  After fights she would question whether they would stay together.  In her mind she would repeat what annoyed her, what she disliked about her significant other, what was missing from their relationship, and where she was dissatisfied.  Her frustration grew.  She was unhappy and frustrated.  She didn’t want to leave their relationship but she questioned why she needed to stay with someone who made her unhappy.  Then we tried a tool I had learned from other client.

She bought a journal.  Every day she was to write down three things she liked about her significant other.  They could be about his personality, intellect, appearance, choices, how he was with others, and a multitude of other things.  Some days she had no problem finding three things.  After a fight it was more difficult.  But she stayed with it.  For one full year she wrote down three new things every day.  At first it was a chore.  She was angry and didn’t want to find the good in her partner.  She wanted self-justified victimization and to mire in her discontent.  But as the project went on, she started to remember all the little reasons she loved him in the first place.  Two amazing things happened.

What you give to others, you give to yourselfFirst, she let down her guard.  For years she was unhappy.  This made her on edge, quick to judge, and guarded against attack.  As she remembered her love, she relaxed.  She expected good.  She looked for good.  She changed her experience by changing where she was putting her focus and attention.

Second, her partner shifted.  As she released her unhappy energy, it freed up space for him to breathe.  He then also let down his guard.  He relaxed for the first time in years.  He too became more open to the good.

What we focus on is what we experience.  Think about a relationship which is currently not ideal whether it be personal or professional.  Think about a job or a situation in your career which is less than satisfactory.  Go through all the aspects of your life and become aware of those areas where you are focusing on the negative, the less than desirable.  Whatever it is, start a journal about it.  Every day write down three things that are positive about that person or situation.  Do this exercise for at least three months.  Don’t skip a day.  And see if you too can improve your experience through your focus.