Before You Choose Your New Year’s Resolution…

Motivation is the fuel needed to keep us tackling our goals. Learn how to unearth this often ephemeral feeling.

Each year we see the psychic slate wiped clean for us, the calorie count set back to zero, the goals written neatly at the top of our agendas in colorful, promising ink. Whether it’s learning a new language or giving up nail biting, a New Year brings a highly marketed opportunity to dazzle us with motivation, to “improve”, to grow, to challenge ourselves, to be the best version of ourselves.

But something happens just days or weeks after each New Year. The shiny can-do determination felt in the Auld Lang Syne song (thank you, Dougie MacLean) sounds distant, the once heady anticipation of a New Year looks daunting on the other side, the conviction felt with the palpable count down around the world now seems like a pipedream, the reality of Time marching on with the same challenges before the magical New Year’s Eve.

So how can we sustain motivation long past the bells and whistles of New Year’s Eve? How can we keep chugging along towards the very things we find downright hard? How can we stave off the onslaught of intoxicatingly-convenient-and-must-less-painful excuses in the weeks and months to come?

Many are familiar with the baby step philosophy: taking those small steps that lead to big changes. And while that works fantastically well for many, this doesn’t address the core issue for sustained change: motivation.

My book, The Friendship Diet, explores the metaphor of food and personal relationships: we are starving for affection, we can fall prey to Diet Coke denial with the people we love, we find certain things our partner says or does distasteful. But the diet isn’t only about our romantic relationships. It’s about knowing our hunger, the why behind the things we do with everyone from our partner to our boss.

So, before you ring in the New Year with your mental (or physical) to do list of resolutions, ask yourself a couple of important questions:

  1. Why do I want to do these things? (i.e., lose weight, learn Tai Chi, give up smoking, adopt a dog, take up gardening, etc.)
  • How will my life be different with these changes?

The why is the oxygen supply of motivation. The how challenges our assumptions and potential roadblocks.

For example, let’s say you want to lose weight.

The why may be because you want to look and feel good in your body.

How your life would be different requires you to get specific and real with yourself. It’s no longer enough to think in cliches—not if you want to stay motivated. The more detailed your list here, the more likely your goal will manifest.

So, imagine how a life with weight loss would look and feel. Maybe it’s easier to get in and out of a chair, or you’re no longer out of breath when you take the stairs. Maybe it’s feeling sustained energy throughout the day. Maybe it’s donating your former-sized clothing to Goodwill. Maybe it’s the healthy annual physical report from your internist.

I recently went through this exercise with a colleague regarding her goal of weight loss and the how of her resolution plan brought up a roadblock:

“I can’t give up my clothing. If I give it up, I know I’ll start putting on the pounds again.”

Going through the how caused my colleague to run smack into something she didn’t want to acknowledge. But if we don’t digest the why and how of what we want to change, we are unlikely to remain motivated. 

Thinking we can gain weight simply by giving away our former size is magical thinking. We are all susceptible to irrational logic like this when we delve into the potential landmine of how. The key is to recognize the mental panic for what it is (our brains valiant effort to protect us) and stay the course.

And the why behind our motivation offers a conduit to potential discomfort as well. After all, the reason behind wanting to lose weight might stem from a childhood memory of bullying and bear no reality on the present. My colleague can still hear the taunts of a kid in school call her “Pillsbury Doughboy.” By tuning into the why behind her weight loss goal, she gained awareness of the potential tricks our minds can play. 

“I can still remember my cheeks burning every time he called me that.”

Naming the why, dispels the false narrative. Naming the why allows us to better tackle the potential hurtles of the how (i.e., donating her now baggy clothes to Goodwill). Any negative emotion (i.e., shame) from the past does not need to journey with us into our present or future. And when we can change the feeling behind an experience, our resolution potential is limitless.

Wishing you and healthy and rewarding New Year:-)

Sheri

The Dish of a Hard Lesson

Our harshest teacher is often where we find our greatest strength.

We all have someone or something in our lives that pushes us to do the very thing we may not want to do or don’t think we can do. Today, I ask you to consider the following idea:

Our greatest teachers or lessons are often the ones that involve falling to our knees.

Why is this? Why can’t we get the lesson or experience like one would experience a massage? Why is our greatest teacher often the person who makes us feel ready to pull our hair out?

The Universe works in mysterious ways, but it is always working in its own intricate and beneficial way. We are like fish in a bowl, looking out at the world around us but only having a limited perspective of what reality is. Hindsight often offers us a better view in our respective fishbowls.

When I reflect upon the very things that I was certain would break me (the death of a loved one, the belligerent colleague, the litigious ex), it is hindsight that demonstrates time and time again, how each hardship, each challenge caused me to push past my comfort zone and grow. Each seemingly impossible situation or person caused me to get up off of my figurative knees and figure out a way. Had the person or situation not felt so overwhelming or heartbreaking, I would not be the strong, capable person I see myself as today.

We all arrive on this planet loving ourselves. We never see a baby embarrassed about the size of their derriere! But over time, many of us are taught to doubt ourselves. That doubt attracts us to all kinds of lessons and teachers. Once we get the lesson, the problem or problematic situation disappears.

Some of us—like myself—needed some tough lessons. It is once I thank those teachers that I notice they start bothering me. 

I encourage you to consider a figurative dish in your life—a person or situation that is challenging you (You know, the ones that cause your blood pressure to rise or the ones that make you feel like your heart is breaking and will never be whole again.). Serve yourself an alternate perspective: what if this person or situation is here to teach me another way? To show me an inner strength that was dormant until now? To help me realize what really matters and what I need to let go of?

When we thank our hardest teachers, we receive the invaluable gifts of peace and growth.

The Gift of an Appetizer

Appetizer Accomplishment Thinking Increases Our Motivation to Get-Stuff-Done!

I’m a single Mom, a full-time teacher, an author, an actor—on camera and on radio. Whew, even just writing that sounds fatiguing! And why is that? Because we all know that each role comes with a generous serving of responsibilities and there are just so many hours in the day!

My family and friends have asked me, “How do you do it?” Did I mention I am a yoga and ballet barre enthusiast as well?

We all have those 24 hours in a day; we all need to sleep; some of us have less commitments than others, but have you ever noticed you get more accomplished with less time?

I refer to the taking-Time-by-the-hands mindset as “appetizer accomplishments.” You know, those mini-quiches or hotdogs in a blanket? They aren’t exactly a meal and they aren’t dessert either. They are these micro dishes of food meant to give one a sample, a little taste. If you’ve ever found yourself ravenous at a wedding or other formal event, you know the power those appetizers have to stave off your hunger pangs and normalize your blood sugar again. 

Appetizer Accomplishments work in a similar way: they offer a sense of getting-stuff-done without feeling overwhelmed or lazy. Much like their edible counterpart, the Appetizer Accomplishment helps keep us going.

Here is one of today’s Appetizer Accomplishments: I washed the shower faucet—no scrubbed the shower faucet today. Didn’t do the entire shower stall or the bathroom itself at all. Nope—I just had time for one area of domestic cleaning today (It looks fantastic, BTW). And now when I walk by it, admiring its shiny surface, I’m already motivated to scrub the shower door tomorrow.

Another Appetizer Accomplishment: I secured a team meeting with the core group of teachers I work with. This took less than five minutes.

Another Appetizer Accomplishment: I wrote back a dating site that is interested in having me write another blog piece for them. Again—this took less than five minutes.

There is a power in momentum. Each action builds upon itself, creating a cumulative effect in both our outer and inner reality. Appetizer Accomplishment thinking keeps us in a delicious zone: fostering our sense of purpose while simultaneously preventing burn out.

I challenge you (and would love to hear from you, to choose one Appetizer Accomplishment you could experience right now.