At this time of year there is a myriad of articles, blog posts, and advice columns providing guidance on how to set goals and resolutions for the New Year to make 2017 the best year yet! And there are as many articles on why we don’t keep our New Year’s resolutions to avoid sugar, fats and simple carbohydrates.
We will join a gym, start out regularly exercising, and begin to lapse in our consistency until our exercise is opening the freezer to get out that carton of Hagen Das Dulce de Leche ice cream after a tough day at work.
I gave up New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. I was well intended when I crafted them and like most people, I adhered to them for a month or two until life challenges and unforeseen events created what seemed like huge barriers. Then I would berate myself for my lack of discipline and follow-through, and scornfully laugh at myself for falling back into old habits.
I used to think I was not very good at being disciplined, that I was lazy, and wanted to get by with the least amount of effort. (Actually, I still think that in many ways.) As I began to learn more about neuroscience, I realized that in many ways my behavior mirrored the way the brain works.
The brain has evolved to be as efficient and use as little effort as possible, as often as possible to ensure it has the capacity for more challenging processes like decision-making. The brain has many processes on “speed dial.” (How often do you think about raising your right foot to take a step forward?)
What has all of this to do with the fact that I have an unsuccessful track record of maintaining New Year’s resolutions? It means that I need to pay attention to how my brain works if I want to change my behavior.
Knowing that the brain likes puzzles and conundrums, and will focus on questions, I’ve decided to write New Year’s Questions to guide my behavior. Questions for which there is no easy answer.
Here are a few of my questions for 2017:
Who am I in my best moments?
Who am I when I am my most happy, no matter what others may think or say?
How do I want to feel when I look back on this action I plan to take?
Who is at my core that pulls me from deep within to feel, think, or behave the way I am?
How do I push the boundaries of my areas of comfort?
How do I deepen relationships?
How do I behave in a caring and loving manner to myself?
What is the experience I want to have in this moment with this person?
How am I expressing gratitude for things that aren’t visible?
I could have generated more questions, but I know my brain can only hold a few of them in my working memory at any one time. To make it easier to focus on these questions, I plan to dedicate myself to one question each day. I may decide to add additional questions that I want to ponder as I move through the weeks and months ahead.
I’m looking forward to a year of discovery and the challenge of sitting with questions for which I don’t have a ready or easy answer. I expect that this process will slow down my knee-jerk reactions, my “I already know” behaviors, and provide a good source of exploration.
Happy New Year! May 2017 bring you Powerful and Interesting Questions!