So we’ve come to that time of year when everyone is valiantly trying to change their lives for the “better” and many of us fail miserably at sticking to those New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you’ve failed so many times before that this year you didn’t even bother making any New Year’s resolutions.
One of the reasons resolutions are so difficult to stick to for many of us is because most of the time we have no intrinsic connection to them.
Every human being has a unique hierarchy of values. It’s fingerprint specific and it’s determined by our experiences throughout our life. This hierarchy of values is essentially the paradigm through which we view our world and it influences every decision we make in life. That is not to say it isn’t possible for us to subordinate ourselves to the value systems of perceived figures of authority in our lives – preachers, teachers, doctors, parents, friends, etc.
Cultural norms of beauty, for example, are heavily influenced by “those in authority” – magazine editors, TV producers, etc. telling us what is beautiful. The problem with this is that societal beauty norms are subjective and highly variable. What’s considered beautiful in Brazil may be considered less important on the runways of Milan.
Our value systems are highly variable and subjective, they differ from person to person and this is why it is so pointless to subordinate your beautifully unique set of values to someone else‘s.
When we subordinate our value system to that of someone we have placed on a pedestal, we become too humble to admit that what they have is in us, though it may be in a different form and we require extrinsic motivation. When we acknowledge that their value system is no more or less important than our own and that what they have is in us as well, we become authentic and are intrinsically motivated. Suddenly, finding the time, energy, and resources to achieve a goal that is determined by our values is no longer a problem.
For example, someone who has a high value on physical fitness does not need to be motivated to go to the gym or engage in physical exercise, it’s something that they derive internal pleasure from and are self-motivated to engage in these activities. Does that mean that they always feel like going to the gym or waking up early to go for a run? No, certainly not but because they are intrinsically motivated, the perceived cost of staying in bed is higher than getting up and lacing up their trainers.
The good news is there is a wide variety of activities available to help you become physically fit and it’s important to engage in activities that you find enjoyable and are naturally motivated to engage in, because when you’re engaged in an activity that you find enjoyable the likelihood of success goes up. For some that may be running for others, it may be something as simple as a walk on the beach with your children or your spouse.
The best example I can give is a personal one.
For years I tried to get my wife to join me in the gym, we even went as far as getting her a gym contract but getting her to actually go to the gym was a real struggle. She would always drag her feet and come up with excuses not to join me. When she did join me it was half-hearted and she never really found she made much progress and certainly wasn’t enjoying herself. Then she discovered rock climbing. Since then she has had no difficulty being motivated or finding the inspiration to go to the climbing gym. She looks for reasons to go, she makes space in her schedule, she finds the time and she is a happier healthier person as a result. She’s in the best shape of her life and she’s been having fun doing it. Best of all she requires no motivation from me and so our marriage is better for it too.
I’ve used the example of getting fit but the same can be true for any New Year’s resolution you choose. If your resolution is not something that is intrinsically inspiring to you, is not in alignment with your unique hierarchy of values you are always going to find it difficult to stay the course, and even if you do, you will most likely find it a draining and laborious experience. In addition, should you achieve the goal, odds are you will find it empty and unfulfilling because it was never really something you actually wanted in the first place and it never truly mattered to you.
The truth is we can’t have it all in life. Life is all about compromise. Every decision you make, everything you say yes to, is you saying no to something else. Every choice you make has a cost and as I’ve already mentioned, your choices are governed by your values.
If I asked a roomful of people to raise their hands if they wish to have a beach-ready body, I can almost guarantee that 99% of the hands in the room would go up. However, if I laid out a detailed plan of what it would take to achieve that beach-ready body and clearly outlined what you would say yes to and what you would be saying no to, that percentage would likely decrease significantly. Then further down the line once the reality of the process sinks in and people’s true values start to shine through, the number of people who actually achieved the goal will be far less than the original 99% who raised their hands. If you value Netflix with your wife higher than getting an early night so you can get up fresh and go for a run, the likelihood of you making that choice goes way down.
So as you make your New Year’s resolutions this year I would encourage you to clarify for yourself what really matters to you.
What are you intrinsically motivated to do?
Those are the things that have the highest probability of success and will leave you the most fulfilled. It may be taking that art class you’ve been meaning to do, it may be starting dance lessons, it may be spending more time with your children or maybe it is a fitness goal, in which case I would encourage you to find something you enjoy doing. The gym is by no means the only place to get fit.
A great tool for helping you to discover your unique hierarchy of values is The Demartini Value Determination Process.
Yours in Health
Read some of our previous New Year articles below:
New Year, New Resolutions by Dr Emmie
New Year – Threat or Opportunity by Dr Greg
New Year Celebrations with Peak Chiropractic by Dr Justin