The best way to set resolutions – Dream of yourself

Posted on January 1, 2011


What are your possibilities?

Today is 1-1-11!

What a great day to dream about who YOU want to be, or, rather, who you ARE.

Resolutions can be a bit of a downer, at least for me.  They seem hard-wired to come with lots of ‘shoulds.’  I should lose weight.  I should exercise.  I should be nicer to my boss.  The problem with the typical approach to resolutions is that they are based on a basic assumption that I am flawed, I’m not doing what I should do, and, perhaps, I am unworthy (for what, one might ask).

Bleh.  Who wants that?  For me, when you resolve to do something, usually something virtuous (‘cuz VIRTUE is what New Year’s resolutions are about, right?), it feels like you’re setting yourself up for discipline, hard work, . . . suffering, and martyrdom.  Yuck.  No wonder it’s so easy to blow those resolutions.

For my friends who are discipline machines (and you know who you are), this post is NOT for you.  For the rest of us, let’s try something a bit more fun.  Specifically, let’s try dreaming about what we want out of our lives.

STEP 1: Tell yourself, “I AM [insert dream here]”

Do you want to lose weight?  Don’t say, “I will lose 20 pounds in 2011.”  Figure out why you want to lose weight.  Is it so you’ll feel more confident?  Is it because you want to be healthy?  Or even, do you think you’ll be more attractive if you lose the weight?  Say, instead, “I AM a healthy, fit person.”  Or even, “I AM a beautiful, thin person.”

Start with one dream – the one that you think will make you happiest.  (You can add more later, but for now, just start with one biggie)

STEP 2: Picture the dream

What does the healthy, fit, beautiful YOU look like?  What do you feel like?  What do you do?  I think one of the reasons people fail to keep resolutions or, worse, relapse after making just a little progress towards a goal, is that they have the mentality of, “I’ll suffer for a little while, then, once I reach a certain point, I’m living it up!  I’ll be happy!  Life will be good , and I can do whatever I want.”  In other words, I’ll choose to suffer NOW because it will make my life wonderful SOMEDAY.  The fact is that the more suffering you make yourself endure and the more you defer that ‘good, wonderful complete life’ (at least if you’re anything like me), the quicker your smart, self-preserving self will say, This was a dumb idea, and your unconfident self will say, What on earth were you thinking?

What’s wrong with living that wonderful life today?

Don’t bother resolving to do something hard.  Instead, put every ounce of creativity, imagination and will power into imagining YOU ALREADY ARE that dream self.  If that is hard, adopt the mindset of someone you think has the attributes you admire. Ask yourself, “What would so-and-so do? Think?  Eat?”  Particularly when you get into situations where your Dream Self and your Old Self might diverge in your choices.  Facing the all-you-can-eat buffet?  What would Thin, Beautiful, Healthy YOU do at an all-you-can-eat buffet (assuming that Dream You would make it to the buffet in the first place)?  Maybe Dream You would look for the most gorgeous looking food – and take a small portion.  Maybe Dream you would eat slowly and enjoy all the flavors and texture and smells of the food.  Maybe Dream You would ask herself, “Am I really hungry?” and answer in the affirmative before taking each bite.  Note! Dream You ENJOYS the buffet by making excellent choices.

The key is that Dream You does not put herself in the Box of Suffering or the Box of Shame.  Dream You is confident, proud, and happy.  Dream You chooses to do things that allow her to enjoy things fully.  Dream You feels pleasure NOW! But Dream You has a different mindset of pleasure than Old You.  Your quest is to adopt the mindset of Dream You.

STEP 3: If you must, start small

One of my goals last year was to join my church choir.  Oh, how frightening a thought!  Our choir is so awesome, and joining requires an audition(!)  Many of the members are or were music majors and have sung professionally.  I am not.  I spent years listening to the choir and loving the music . . . and yearning to be there with the rest of the choir, singing.  But given who was in the choir and who I was (or thought I was), even thinking about joining seemed audacious, preposterous, even.  To tell myself, “I am a singer” seemed ridiculous.  I felt that even including that wish on my goals for 2010 was outrageous.  So, instead, I started out small.  I told myself, “I am a music lover!”  As a music lover, I paid more attention to the music selection at Sunday Mass (both choir pieces and congregation pieces).  As a music lover, I attended the free concerts given by our choir and concerts of other musicians in other venues.  As a music lover, I looked for great music and immersed myself in it.  Of course, all this music-loving made me yearn to join the choir even more.  So much that I started trying to psych myself up to do something about it.  I told myself I was courageous.  Brave Ami tries things, takes risks! It was too hard to march right up to our choir director in person and ask about joining.  Making a phone call would have been equally difficult.  But email?  Oh, thank-you e-mail!  You make it easier to send out audacious requests and questions.

I sent the email.  Our choir director encouraged.  I auditioned.  I joined the choir.  I AM a choir member! But first, I was a music lover.

STEP 4: Immerse yourself

Once you’ve gotten started, actively look for opportunities to BE your new and improved self.  Take them!  More important, relish them!  If your resolution is to BE a runner, run – 10 steps if that’s all you can do – but relish the speed, the strength of your legs, the wind on your face.   Raise your arms over your head and cheer for what you accomplished!  Celebrate the fact that you ran 10 more steps than Old You, lying on the couch, would have.

Bottom line: BE your joyful, life-filled dream

Don’t resolve to do something virtuous and admirable.  Just BE your Dream Self.  That’s something you can do be TODAY.  Don’t put life off.  Slurp it up, dance in it, revel in it.  It’s YOUR life.  It’s YOU.

I’m a bit astonished at some wonderful things that have come together for me recently, many after I started challenging myself to BE what I loved.  Aside from being a choir member, I am . . . employed (!)  for money (!)  Well, not a lot of money.  I’ll be working for my local public broadcasting company :).  But talk about being near the things I love!  I’m excited about 2011!


How about you?  What’s YOUR dream self? Share!

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