The New Year Resolution has a poor reputation.
I say it is because it is a promise to change. An example all have experience with. We don’t like to change, us humans. We squirm, struggle, fight, make excuses and do many contortions to get out of making changes. There are book shelves full of explanations. Real, lasting change seems quite difficult.
Within the hollows of our minds stands a change stopper. “Mighty it is and none of us escape the Stopper“, intoned Daphne, with the deepest voice and the most threatening pose she could get her little body to muster. Funny. Donald chuckled but then thought a bit before cautiously asking, “oh yeah, ha ha, the Stopper, sure. Uhm, What do you mean?”
“Sure, I’d love to”, she almost squealed. “We, all of us, have this voice in our head, right?” Donald nodded yes. “And that voice can be helpful or not so much and most people, most of the time, hardly notice that it is the voice speaking, not even them thinking, just this voice.” “Wait. Are you saying that the voice I hear is not me thinking?” “Not exactly Donald, but yes, often. What I hear is not always my deliberate, reasoned, thought, but rather almost like pre-recorded elevator music. When I stop and become fully present to what I am thinking, the ‘voice’ I am referring to is silent. My thoughts, initiated by me at that moment, is what I then hear. You too, you hear your own thoughts when you stop to listen to yourself in right now time. No preconceived assumptions etc repeating endlessly, round and round”.
Donald held up his hand in a gesture that said ‘stop’. After many seconds, he nodded, “OK, so what I am thinking right now, about what you have said, I hear that voice, and that is me hearing my thinking. Yes?” “Yes”. “But sometimes, I may hear that automatic kind of pre-recorded thinking. Give me an example of that ‘voice’.” Daphne loved the invitation, stood up and animating with her hands, said, “let’s say you are strongly against something like maybe eating sugar. You have done your research and the conclusion, as far as you are concerned, is absolute. Sugar is so bad for you that it ought to be a banned substance. You are walking along and see a Mom give her little kid candy that is obviously loaded with sugar. What is your voice saying about that already, even though this is fictitious? Notice how that voice is saying the same thing it said dozens of times before, how the conclusion is already taken, not debatable either. Automatic.”
After a pause. Donald replied, “kind of. OK, so let’s say that is the way it works, what does that have to do with how hard it seems to be to ‘change’?”
“Oh, exactly the best question. In the example, the person is pretty convinced about the sugar, has stood up in public a few times for that position on the topic, is prepared to defend it. In that scenario, how likely is that person, with that historical stance on the topic of sugar, to allow new information to cause them to stop and possibly reconsider?” Donald, still reflecting on all of this, said slowly, “OK, maybe not so likely, or if they do, maybe it takes a bit to get them to re-consider. A lot invested, a lot of that investment could be public too. Hmmm?”
“Yes, yes and imagine how deep the trench of the familiar, could be,” came Daphne’s bright response. “If a person writes using their right hand, they just do that, not even consciously, done. They can write, hum a tune, tap their foot to the beat, drink coffee and carry on some level of light conversation, all at the same time. Get them to write with the left hand. Back to just one task done slowly. It takes a lot to make that physical change. It takes a lot to change thinking too. ” Daphne released a big exhale and just stood still for what seemed like a very long time. She liked her explanation.
Then, readying her body as if to do a big thing, she inhaled and started, “now, back to those New Year Resolutions, those are really strongly associated with thinking rather than feeling.” “So what?” Donald pushed back. “Yes, that is a good question Donny. The ‘so what’ is in how we experience goals that come from ‘thinking’. Those have associated with them a bunch of questions, like how?, when? and, a real killer, why?, plus others. Those are challenges, potholes in our road to accomplishing the goal. Things we need to solve , work on, fix, get past first, before we can realize our goal. Those (many different kinds) can zap the energy out of what could be a joyous thing.” Daphne waited while Donald seemed to be checking out what she claimed.
“Sometimes, yuh”, was his conclusion. “Isn’t it the same for you?” “Yes Donald, it is and probably something like the same for most people.” “And your point is… “? He was getting impatient.
“Stay with me. There are two crucial points to be made here. One is about not thinking about a new thing from scratch, a kind of laziness that lets ‘the voice recording’ run the show. When we allow that we get same olde thinking and same olde results, so much so that we point and say ‘I knew it, I said it would come out this way’. The other thing I alluded to when we started this conversation is the part about thinking our way to solutions.” “Wait. Are you saying we are not supposed to think in order to get solutions to whatever?” Donald was getting edgy. This was not going fast enough for him.
“Almost there. I mentioned the feeling path to getting a New Year Resolution to actually work. Then I tried to show you how the path to solution via just thinking has potholes everywhere. And, bottom line, how come we don’t feel so good anywhere on that potholed road? It is because we didn’t end up where we wanted and are not even sure how that happened.” It was still a ‘so what’ for Donald. His body language said ‘I’m outa here PDQ if you don’t tell me something that isn’t so woo woo’.
Daphne was ready. “There is another way to set up a goal. Base the outcome on a feeling state. (pause) What is the feeling you want to have when you have accomplished that goal? What will that be like? Where will you have the feeling of this over the top success? What will be the look on your face, the feelings in your body, the sounds coming from you?” Eyebrows up, hands out, as if pleading, Daphne sent Donald her signature faite accompli look. Not right away, but Donald had come to trust Daphne on this kind of stuff, so he let himself stay and notice the thread develop in his mind. Finally, his posture acknowledged the spark of a possible realization as Donald became engaged in pursuit of the question. He could see how that might be, wait, he started to feel how that might be. Light-bulb moment here… because he was feeling the little ahaa of recognition, head nodding ‘yes’, entering a different mindset. Hmmm? Was this the feeling state Daphne was describing? Donald considered. He concluded that it might be, so asked her, “walk me through setting and then getting a goal”. And he decided to add, “please”.
“Sure thing. We start, as always by stating the desired outcome, the goal, the result of the New Year Resolution or any goal, as if it were already achieved. Take yourself to the ‘done’ end of the time line. If it is a marathon you wanted to complete, look behind you at the finish line you just crossed. Feel the wobbly legs that are barely holding you up. Let the applause of the crowd congratulating you bring the biggest smile ever. Cry tears of joy and hear yourself saying a ton of ‘OMG I did it’. Be in that time of accomplishing the goal and absorb the feeling of it. Luxuriate in it. Yum, yummy yum. Anchor that feeling by living in it as strongly as you can imagine.”
“How is that?,” danced Daphne, eyes all a sparkle. “Like it?” Donald nodded gently and started to smile. “Yuh, I think, I mean, I feel it”. “And do you want it Donald? Do you like it enough to want it? Really want it? Really, really want it?” (pause) “If I were a runner type and had a marathon on my future list, yes, I feel it strongly and would really want it and really enjoy the feeling of imagining that I have it. It is quite nice. Yes Daphne, yes.” Again, the faite accompli pose from Daphne with that infectious twinkle in her eye. She then said, holding the pose, “so when you feel the result rather than think it, better huh. And notice too how little it might now take to get you started on preparing for that accomplishment. Drop in one of your New Year Resolutions instead of that marathon, experience having kept that resolution. Feel that and notice how you feel about it now compared to when we first started this conversation. What has happened to your chances of fulfilling that Resolution?”
Donald was kind of happy, squirming, smiling and shuffling about, head down, thoughts off somewhere, probably at the ‘done’ end of accomplishing what he had resolved to do. Finally, “yup, my chances are way up. I can actually feel it being fulfilled and telling two friends etc. Yuh, up for sure.”
Again that faite accompli pose, the twinkly smile, the so funny Daphne saying, “see, using feelings to anchor future goal results is the way to go Donald. And, it’s free. Use the feelings route to topple the Stopper! J”
Daphne is the best.
Joseph Seiler MCC