Feeling cynical about New Year’s Resolutions? Try a New Year’s Visualisation instead
So, what are you going to do differently this year? Have you written your New Year’s Resolutions yet?
This is me, with the voice of an overexcited kid who’s been given another chance to go into the sweet shop to get a taste of something new or experience something better than last year. I’ve asked these questions of practically every one I’ve come into contact with since the New Year started – even the quiet, unassuming man in my local Dry Cleaners just this afternoon: So, what are you going to do differently this year?
But every single response has been the same: a huge helping of cynicism topped with a dollop of disdain, mockingly sandwiched between thick slices of laughter. How’s it so? Am I the only one who still believes?
To say I love New Year’s Resolutions is something of an understatement. I’ve been making them since I can remember, and my diary – which for the majority of the year lies idle and neglected at the bottom of a drawer – takes on a kind of biblical importance in those special days between Christmas and New Year. I love using this time to reflect on the year that has passed. It is both cathartic and sobering to try to catalogue the good things I achieved, and face up to the reality of the number of last year’s goals I didn’t quite manage. For me this period is sacred. It’s the amnesty in which I can surrender the failings or disappointments of the previous year without judgement or punishment. So I didn’t get my book finished as I swore that absolutely, this year definitely, no matter what, I would. So I didn’t get 100 likes on my Facebook business page, or get my Twitter following up to 1000. I fell short of my target of 10 new corporate clients. No matter! The clock has been reset and hey presto, I’ve got another 365 days! If I can get this excited about New Year’s Resolutions, why can’t anybody else?
Of course you only need to listen to some of the conversations on this topic – be they online, in the interminably long post office queue or over the first Costa coffee of the morning – to discover the answer: nobody gets excited about New Year’s Resolutions because nobody believes they work. Most of us know either from our own experiences or the experiences of those around us that most resolutions are dead in the water by January 2nd, and that’s assuming they actually came to life in the first place. That new gym membership you just paid 4 figures for? Ha! Giving up alcohol/smoking/eating/swearing … whatever’s on the list you can bet that most people have fallen off the wagon long before they’ve stopped accidentally writing 2014 on their letterhead.
I know all of this of course because I’m just as bad. I too have a history of slipping back into my old habits sooner or later (though I pride myself on hanging in there until at least February). How ironic that I spend my working life helping others to realise their goals while year after year the same resolutions end up back on the shelf awaiting fulfilment.
That is, until now.
This year is different. I can smell it in the air when I jump out of bed, and feel it in the pit of my stomach when I turn off the light at night it. Twelve days into the New Year and my hunger, focus and determination to achieve this year’s goals is more powerful than ever (come hell or high water that book is getting written!). I’ve come closer to fulfilling this year’s Resolutions in 12 days than I came in six months last year. Those goals are so alive I feel I could reach out my hand and physically touch them. And it’s all down to one thing:
Visualisation – the art of using all of your senses to create a visual and emotional realisation of your goal, and living that experience everyday until it becomes a reality.
If you haven’t come across Visualisations before, let me explain. Want to quit smoking? You’re best investment is taking fifteen minutes, at least three times a day, to picture yourself – your new non-smoking self – as clearly, vividly and emotionally as you can: What do you look like without a cigarette in your hand and what are you holding instead? What do you smell of now you no longer smell of smoke? What are you buying now that you have more money in your pocket? What colour are your teeth, and what is the taste in your mouth when you wake up in the morning? How do you feel when you are exercising with clean, nicotine-free blood coursing through your veins?
Imagine every single detail of your new glorious life and imagine it every single day, as often as you can. See yourself crossing that finish line over and over again, whenever you have the chance. What I love about Visualisations is you can do them anywhere – in a queue, on the tube, while walking home, on the toilet (who’s going to know?). All you need is a vivid imagination and a desire to see it work.
For 10 days now I’ve been visualising the moment when my book – yes, the one I haven’t written yet – becomes a best seller, the day I fly Upper Class to New York to celebrate and the day I’m interviewed by Oprah Winfrey because even she thinks it’s fabulous. I see the book’s shiny glossy cover, I feel it’s weight and I delight in the faint smell of wood chip and lavender that radiates from its pages. I taste the champagne bubbles on my tongue, and see delight and pride on the faces of those who helped me get to this point. The images are so vivid they fill my stomach with butterflies – the ones you get when you know something truly amazing is going to happen.
Will all this really come to pass? Time will tell of course. But in the mean time, know this: I have written 10,000 words in 10 days, which is 50% more than I managed to write the whole of last year. I can’t remember the last time I felt this focused, energised and motivated. Such is the power of pictures.
New Year’s Resolutions don’t work because they focus only on the physical: the physical act of not smoking, of dieting, of working less, of exercising more. But we can’t train our bodies to behave differently until we first change the thinking behind our actions. This is what makes New Year’s Visualisations a far better bet.
Whatever your goal, the first step to its realisation is to visualise it fully and frequently: use your imagination to see, feel, hear, smell and taste life as the new you. And see how much easier it becomes to achieve what you want.
What do you think about Visualisation? Do you think it could help you achieve your goals this year? I look forward to reading your comments.
Caroline Flanagan is founder of Babyproofyourlife.com, where you’ll find inspiration, advice and resources for the career woman who wants it all.