Tricky New Year’s Resolutions

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Let me tell you why I decided that this year I would approach my New Year’s Resolutions a week or 2 after the first 1st.  New Year’s Resolutions are a tricky thing for me. You too? On one hand, it’s an opportunity to start off fresh – aspirational, clean slate type of thing.  On the other hand, we are making these life choices amidst a very hectic, emotionally-charged time that can offer us some real challenges.  We might not be in the best mind set to be taking personal inventory or thinking critically about the direction of our lives.  For me, the holidays are fun but EXHAUSTING and OVERSTIMULATING. They are so far from the other 340 days of the year, we have 7 birthdays in my family, as well as Hanukkah,
Christmas and New Year…Yikes!   Why do I try to take stock of myself in a state of anxiety triggered by airports, crowded shopping malls, work obligations, aging parents, the extra 5 (I’m being kind here) pounds, 3 WEEKS of winter vacation for my kids (thank you so much LAUSD), wine, sugar…

And I really wonder why I can’t keep my New Year’s Resolution?  Why should I keep a resolution a crazy lady made? And when I “fall of the wagon”?  The crazy lady is gone, and the real me gets to deal with all the lousy feelings of not keeping these resolutions yet again. 

I am going to assume that I am not alone in this yearly ritual.

That being said, I do think there is a lot of value in looking back at your life and wanting to make changes for the better… so this year I really wanted to help myself be successful… I decided I would wait a week or two before attempting these commitments … let life return to some semblance of what I see the other 11 months of the year, get some sleep, detox a bit. 

And as a side note…I hate the word resolution – resolute – it implies to me something very finite, unwavering, with no room for human foibles, or the inevitable small slip-up. It says to me that it’s about will power, that if we wanted something badly enough we could exert enough will power to make it happen. And if you don’t – you’re weak.  But studies are showing that will power is not usually the best approach to reaching our goals and changing our behaviors. – See I’ve been doing a lot of reading on this subject in anticipation of the year 2020, and I’d like to share just a few things I’ve learned.

At EMAS – we have a class called The Actor’s Life. On the first day we learned that the main thing my students felt was hindering their acting career was a feeling of overwhelm.  Between training, creating projects, survival jobs, auditions and the business aspect of the entertainment industry, they are going 20 different directions. This creates stressors from so many directions that it can create a feeling of anxiety that becomes so strong you feel paralyzed, unable to make ANY decisions.  Where you end up doing nothing or nothing well. So, one of the first exercises I decided to do is called Value Ranking. Values are priorities that tell you how to spend your time, right here, right now. They are often tied to our sense of who we are in the world and what we aspire to be to the world.  

In class we did an exercise that helped us narrow down our top values, literally pitting one value up against another to rank them in order of personal importance. Some of the values that were presented in class included

  • Career
  • Family time
  • Health
  • Creativity
  • Freedom
  • Gratitude
  • Financial Stability
  • Decisiveness

Once you land on your top 3 or 5 or 10 personal values, you can get help making difficult choices (like should I spend my time on this student film?) by putting your options up against your most important values. Will spending your time on something reinforce one of your top values?  Will a more important value be sacrificed by making that choice? It’s just a little guidepost that can keep you moving forward and avoid unhelpful detours. It can keep momentum moving forward, one decision at a time.

But values have also been proven to be helpful in making personal change (aka resolutions).  Goals that pertain to personal values (“I want to have more stamina so I can play with my kids”) are more often successful than those that have to do with self-image (“I want to look better in a bathing suit). The whole point of discovering your values is to improve the results you get in those areas that are truly most important to you.  So I am going to take time this week to reassess my values – try to get my top 5 clear in my head – so I can keep moving forward.

Next week I want share with you the other bit of cool info I learned about how to keep moving towards our New Year’s Resolutions Intentions.

Until then – how about you share with us some of the values you hope to bring into 2020…