As I was preparing to write this article I got to thinking about how we’re all doing with our New Year’s resolutions, or intentions. What happens if you don’t follow through? Do you start to beat yourself up for your failure? Or do you look at the times when you were staying on track and use that to remind yourself that you were successful, at least in part?
What’s the point of a New Year’s Resolution?
If you really think about it when we make a resolution, or intention, our goal is to be happier. What can you do to be happier? Does it involve doing more? Accomplishing lots? Being with friends and family? How do you be happy even when things aren’t necessarily going right?
One thing I found is to practice gratitude. Not just at Thanksgiving, but year round. Years ago I was working in a very challenging situation and at that time it wasn’t practical to change jobs, so I was trying to shift my perspective to feel more positive. I was advised to spend 5 minutes at the end of the day writing down everything that went right.
Wow – I started really appreciating those small wins and the rest of it didn’t get me down as much. I don’t still do this daily – but when I find myself upset or dissatisfied, I do a mental run through and then say “thank you” to each of those small wins.
It is much easier to start turning things around, by focusing on what goes right in our lives. Most of us in this culture are extremely aware of our failures, and often those failures define our entire life view. Being thankful for the small wins brings consciousness to our strengths and gives us the tools to positively transform our lives. It’s nearly impossible to effect change when focusing on the negative, but when you bring the positive to light that begins to overshadow the rest.
If you are struggling to stick with those New Year’s intentions, don’t stay focused on your failure. Write down everything that you’ve done right, or that has gone right, not sure about the resolution but about your life in general since New Year’s. I am going to guess that it’s a pretty good list. If it’s not, keep thinking, it can be tiny little things, a task completed, a friend you reached out to, etc.
Take a good look at that list. Mentally take a moment to be thankful to yourself and the universe for each one of the items on your list. Allow that to shine a bright light on your life that completely obliterates the shadows of failures.
Do this daily for a while, until you begin to notice almost immediately when something positive has happened. Each time give a brief “thank you”. After a while you will be so much more aware of the good things in your life, it makes it easier to put the rest of it in perspective…I’m not saying there won’t still be disappointments, but those little failures will be overshadowed by all the small wins. I’m betting that within a short time, you’ll start noticing bigger wins and feeling happier.
Spread the joy – acknowledge other people’s wins as well. We all love to be appreciated and the more that happens, the more the people around you will also focus on the positives. If you are a parent, teach this practice to your kids. Can you imagine how different your life would be, if you’d learned this at a young age?
I posted a shorter version on this the other day in a LinkedIn group about Happiness at Work. The initial question was how do you create an atmosphere of happiness at work and in life.
One woman, a PhD wrote back and very snippily pointed out that even our failures are there for a reason and that often they are the things that get us to where we need to be and that we should take time to reflect on them as well, and see the positive side. Actually she wasn’t nearly so nice about it, it felt a lot like an attack. Her comment did prompt me to respond that I am often grateful for the challenges and failures as well because they do spur me on to make changes or do things I may not have done if everything was going perfectly. But I also believe that by spending much more time on being grateful for the good things, you create neural pathways that assist you in making positive changes. Focusing too much on the negative can be overwhelming at times and is extremely life defeating. Celebrating your wins is life affirming.
Affirm your life! Have a year filled with loads of small and big wins.