by Master Charles Cannon & Will Wilkinson
Could this be the year our New Year’s Resolutions actually last? We may remember how long they lasted into 2016 and experts warn us that of the 45% of Americans who make them, only 8% manage to keep them. Our top ten resolutions start with losing weight – ironic, since we tend to overeat during Christmas – and our favorite resolutions include, in this order, getting organized, spending less / saving more, enjoying life to the fullest, staying fit and healthy, learning something exciting, helping others in their dreams, falling in love, and spending more time with family. 1
Hidden in these statistics is the inspiring fact that those of us who do make the effort at crafting resolutions are apparently ten times more likely to attain our goals. In other words, it is a worthwhile endeavor… but the odds aren’t great. So, how can we increase our chances for success in 2017? The answer may be hidden in our favorite targets for change.
As we survey the list, perhaps we can glimpse a pattern: All of them relate to improving our quality of life in simple ways. Surprisingly, we don’t see resolutions for achieving great things, like climbing Mount Everest, making a million, writing a book, etc. In fact, most of what Americans choose seem quite manageable. So, what sabotages us?
We’re all different and losing our mojo depends on many things but it’s safe to suggest that we simply lose our motivation. Mazlow’s Hierarchy is probably the most familiar and widely respected articulation of fundamental human needs, organized in a pyramid starting at the bottom with physiological needs and working up through safety needs, social needs, self-esteem needs, and completing at the top with self-actualization. 2
Experts believe that we fill our needs from the bottom up and maybe that’s the problem. Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Perhaps we could question this idea of working our way towards self-actualization – given the results we’re getting – and experiment with flipping this script in 2017. What if we began with self-actualization? What if we made that our priority?
Further, what if we did that, not in an introverted fashion (retreating for even more meditation time), but by tackling this list of traditional resolutions – not as stand alone goals as a means to that end? Maybe we’ve been choosing the right things but using the wrong strategy?
Putting self-actualization first to achieve these improvements in our quality of life begins with acknowledging self-actualization as our single primary and over-arching resolution for 2017. In other words, 2017 could become our year of personal growth. With that as our overall intention, each sub-resolution immediately becomes dramatically more manageable and achievable (and appealing!). Let’s consider them all, looking through this lens.
1. Losing weight. This connects with staying fit and healthy and we can turn this into a positive rather than a negative. Instead of trying to lose weight – which is often a battle that involves a whole lot of denial – we could aspire to become the healthy person we know we are meant to be. Why? This connects with another on the list.
2. Enjoying life to the fullest. That’s hard to do when we’re sick and when we have a terrible self-image. Seeing this one through the lens of self-actualization, we could transfer our prior lust for unhealthy stuff like cinnamon buns and coach surfing for seizing opportunities to grow, including doing new things. Routine can be depressing!
3. We could learn something exciting. You probably already know something you’d like to learn, like a musical instrument, a new software program, a hobby, etc. Why not do it in 2017, not as a diversion but as part of your self-actualization strategy? They say that a mind once stretched never returns to its prior shape. Stretch away!
4. Spending less / saving more could connect to having more family time. If we remember the 1974 folk rock song by Harry Chapin, Cat’s in the Cradle, there’s some real wisdom in his lyrics: “When you coming home, Dad? I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a good time then.” The child wasn’t asking for toys but for attention.
5. Getting organized fits right in too. Instead of taking on more, pushing ourselves into excess, we can turn in the other direction and manage what we already have. Why? So we can experience personal growth in the midst of our lives, not in new peak experiences that generate maintenance we don’t have time to handle because now we’re giving that time to our family.
6. Helping others with their dreams may remind us of that Chinese proverb: “If you want happiness for an hour—take a nap. If you want happiness for a day—go fishing. If you want happiness for a month—get married. If you want happiness for a year—inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime—help others.”
7. Finally, falling in love… Who wouldn’t love to fall in love in 2017, either with a new partner or by re-engaging with a long-term partner. But, again, looking at this through the lens of self-actualization, it becomes fundamentally different. I’m reminded of the classic Crosby, Stills, Nash song – “Love the one you’re with.” No waiting is necessary, certainly we don’t need to wait for love to come to us or for those we’re with to become more lovable. Every relationship, from casual encounters with gas station attendants and waitresses to intimate moments with a beloved spouse or dear child, now becomes an opportunity to flow love, giving and receiving freely, and self-actualizing in the process.
As they say in neurolinguistics programming land, “When would now be a good time to do all this?” As we approach the brink of another calendar year change and consider making a list of New Year’s Resolutions, why not experiment with just one this year – increasing your experience of personal meaning and purpose? Everything else can be included, which means that you don’t even need the list anymore because everything becomes an opportunity to create the new life you’ve been yearning to experience.
Can you do it? Yes you can. But there’s a secret to this. As the well-known quote attributed to Goethe states: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."
Making New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 can be exciting, not daunting. Seize the day, not the duty and enjoy 2017 Unlimited!
Master Charles Cannon is the Spiritual Director of Synchronicity Foundation for Modern Spirituality. His other books include: Living An Awakened Life: The Lessons of Love, Forgiving the Unforgivable, Awakening from the American Dream. The Bliss of Freedom, Modern Spirituality and The Meditation Toolbox.
For more information contact Synchronicity Foundation visit the website: www.Synchronicity.org
Will Wilkinson is a senior consultant with Luminary Communications in Ashland, Oregon. He has written a dozen self-help books and delivered programs in conscious living for forty years, interviewed scores of leading edge change agents, and pioneered experiments in small scale alternative economies. His latest book, Now or Never: A Time Traveler’s Guide to Personal and Global Transformation, will be available in January