Many of us are approaching the end of a long and exhausting march toward the holidays. We swore this year would be different; that we’d get in front of it all and be able to kick back a little bit to appreciate and enjoy this magical time of year. Instead we’re limping across the finish line, cutting open Amazon boxes, racing to get out last minute greeting cards, making Christmas tree Rice Crispy treats for school parties, and planning grocery shopping lists for family gatherings (and dreading the inevitable heaps of dirty dishes to come).
I can only speak for me and my family but, yup, we did it again. There are lots of fun, memorable times to come in the next week or two, but the holiday season has again gotten the best of us.
Despite it all, there’s a bright light on the horizon. The new year offers new promise, and an opportunity for many of us to make change happen that we’ve been seeking for a long time. Almost all of us have a desire for transformation of some variety or another. The longing for change burns bright every December, fueled by exhaustion brought on by busyness.
This is the time of year we dare to dream big.
That’s what New Year’s resolutions are all about—a chance to imagine a future different, and better, from our current circumstances. Indeed, there are two lives inside all of us: the person we are and the person we hope to become. With the end of the hectic holiday season in sight, many of us are more committed than ever to manifest our true selves.
The problem is, we’ve all done this dance before, too.
Battling the Drift
Procrastination. Weakness. Lack of discipline. Call it whatever you want. I call it “The Drift.” It’s the feeling that your demons are getting the best of you despite your best intentions. You let your guard down and slip up once, then again. Pretty soon you fall back into old patterns of behavior and bad habits that you swore you left behind.
You know you should be doing something — whether that’s working on your new business, working out, or being present with your loved ones — and yet you can’t find the motivation you had just days before. You’re drifting, and one day slips into another. Before long another year has passed and you’re back in the same spot you swore you’d never return to.
You wake up one day and think: What the heck just happened?
The Numbers are Stacked Against You
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Almost no one succeeds at New Year’s resolutions. Statistics vary, but most studies confirm that between 81 and 92 percent of New Year’s Resolutions fail. In other words, there’s an 80 to 90 percent greater chance that someone will slip back into old habits than stick with a new behavior.
Change is hard.
There are Ways to Battle Back Against the Drift
There are many theories posited about why it’s so hard to adapt new behaviors and achieve transformation. I believe the problem fundamentally boils down to one of mindset. There are limiting beliefs that hold us back from the change we so desperately seek. If we can transcend them, we can transform. If not, we stay stuck. These limiting beliefs include:
Conflating Discipline with Hardship.
Transformation requires discipline. Discipline, however, is a word that conjures up negative feelings for many of us. It connotes strictness, rigidness, and deprivation. Because of this, we resist the change we seek because we fear that the process of change will be painful. It may sound counterintuitive, but the exact opposite is true. As Aristotle taught us nearly 2,500 years ago, “Through discipline comes freedom.”
When you live a life bereft of direction and stricken by apathy and indifference, do you feel free? Not likely.
It’s through discipline, which involves making hard choices and accepting trade offs, that the freedom to live the life you’ve always wanted emerges.
Fear of Failure.
One of America’s most famous inventors and innovators was a huge failure. Thomas Edison failed all of the time—or at least that’s how it appeared to the outside world. It’s said that Thomas Edison created nearly 10,000 unsuccessful prototypes before finally refining a commercially viable lightbulb. Of this work, Edison is quoted as saying: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
If you have big dreams, you’re going to fail on the journey toward realizing them. The key is to have the resilience to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going. As Oprah once said: “Failure is another stepping stone to success.”
Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse for many years, wrote a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, which is based on her time working with people during the last few weeks of their lives. She chronicled the regrets of people approaching the end of life. Few regretted what they did – almost all regretted what they never tried.
Fear of Judgment.
Putting your hand up and declaring to the world that you’re changing or, as is often the case, that you’re revealing the true self that’s been hidden from view is not easy. It’s the kind of thing that invites scorn, ridicule
As for the few who pass their days passing judgement on others: Who cares what they think? Are you going to let them stop you from living the life that makes you happy? Of course not. Never let others stop you from living your dream.
Living the Life of Your Dreams is Hard, But it’s Far Easier Than the Alternative
Let’s face it, it’s hard to live the life of your dreams. But it’s a heck of a lot harder not to. Our time is finite. We can’t afford to waste it worrying about the consequences of failure, or the judgement of others. Life’s a journey that we live one day at a time. As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Keep going. Stick with it. Dream big, and move forward every single day. After all, how you spend your days is how you’ll spend your life.