I won't lie, making a big New Year's resolution has never been my thing.
BUT over the years I have figured out the ingredients that are key to achieving goals and making changes.
If the prospect of letting another year go by without realizing a big dream or goal leaves you feeling uneasy, this episode is for you.
After listening, share your goals for the year ahead in the comments below.
In this episode I mention a few things to help your journey.
Check out Start With Why by Simon Sinek (this is an affiliate link and all proceeds go back into making this podcast)
My new favourite way of planning and being productive - The Bullet Journal
Elemental Yin Yang Yoga - my new book that will give you a more in-depth look at some of the principles I share in this podcast
Episode 6 – Resolutions that Actually Work
Erin Aquin: Welcome to the Elemental Yin Yang Podcast, a fresh perspective on yoga and life. You are listening to Episode 6, Resolutions that Actually Work.
Hello, my name is Erin Aquin, and I am so glad you have joined me today. Now at the time I'm recording this podcast, we are just a few days away from New Years, and this can be such an exciting time full of fresh ideas, and new starts for so many of us.
But for others, trying to come up with the perfect resolution, figuring out how you're going to set up your year can sometimes be a little bit stressful. And so today I wanted to spend some time giving you my resolution recipe.
I think it's a really good one, it has worked wonders for me over the years, but it's not a process that just works at New Years. So if you're listening to this at another time, that's great. We are going to be really thinking about goals, and working on them from the perspective of the Elemental Yin Yang system.
If you are new to this type of thinking, I definitely suggest that you go back and listen to the previous episodes because it will give you a greater context for what we are doing. And if you've been with me so far through the past episodes, first of all I want to say thank you very much for being here, and getting feedback from all of you has been wonderful.
If you have not yet subscribed or left me a review over on iTunes, I would be so grateful if you could take a moment to do that, because that helps me spread the word, and if there is a topic or something you would like to know more about, please do head over to the show notes at www.AquinYoga.com/podcast and feel free to leave me a comment or share any of your insights that you've had since listening to any one of our episodes so far.
Okay so let's talk about resolutions. First I will say I am not a big fan of making a New Year’s resolution. As a yoga teacher, every single year I see my class sizes double and triple around the first few weeks of January, and although I love seeing how inspired people are to make a commitment to their health and their wellbeing, unfortunately most people do not stick with their resolutions for very long.
We all get points for trying, we all get points for the intention to do something really powerful and transformative this year. But when it comes to making resolutions and having them not work out for one reason or another, this can really hurt your confidence.
So if you have ever tried to commit to a new workout regime, or a new diet, and then after a few weeks you notice you have fallen off the proverbial wagon, you know how difficult it can be to feel motivated to try again. And besides that, you may notice that it really does negatively affect your confidence.
So if you have a friend who is constantly lying to you, and they break their promise over, and over, and over again, or it could even be something more benign like they are always late for meeting you, over time you are going to just not expect that person to show up when they are supposed to. You are not going to expect that person to stick to their word.
So the same thing happens in the relationship we have with ourselves. If we are constantly breaking promise after promise to ourselves, then when we do make a commitment, it's not going to feel as strong, and we are going to probably more easily wriggle out of it when things get a little bit uncomfortable.
I think a lot of us have this pattern, which makes the idea of having a resolution for the New Year in the first place very tricky, because if we know that we might not stick to it, it's going to be very easy to just not stick with it.
So the perspective that I want to work with today is coming from the Elemental Yin Yang theory, which is the style of yoga that I teach, and a lot of the philosophy and symbolisms come from Chinese medicine.
Within that system, there are five Elements that play into our natural world and into our human personalities. And while all five of them definitely contribute to how we achieve our goals, I talked about this a little bit in the last episode on living your dreams.
For me personally, the most important Element to really set you on a path to success when it comes to achieving goals or keeping your New Year’s resolution is the Element of Water. Now I did a deeper introduction on this a few episodes ago, but to recap, one of the associations with the Water Element is the idea of purpose, will, and even willpower.
So the first ingredient in my resolution recipe is figuring out the deeper purpose for why you are making this particular commitment at this particular time.
I would recommend picking up a copy of Simon Sinek's book, 'Start with Why,' and I'll have a link to that in the show notes.
He does a really great job in that book of helping to uncover the deeper purpose for why we commit to, or why we want to do anything. And here is why this is so important.
Most of us make resolutions or set goals for ourselves from a somewhat, for lack of a better word, a superficial place.
Let's say your New Year resolution was to start taking yoga five days a week. On the surface, that sounds like a great goal. I really love that idea, but on its own it doesn't tell me the deeper reasoning behind doing what you're doing.
So the next question I would want to ask you is, 'Why do you want to do yoga five days a week?' And let's imagine your response is, 'Because I believe it will help me change the shape of my body.'
'Okay, that's interesting. Why do you want to change the shape of your body?'
And let's imagine the next response is, 'Well I think doing yoga will help me change the shape of my body, and if the shape of my body is different and more to my liking, then I'm going to start to feel better.'
Now that to me is very interesting. As soon as someone starts to talk about how they feel, this is definitely the root that I like to follow because when it comes to our willpower, and our deeper intentions, having a feeling connection to what we are trying to achieve is to me what gets us through the more difficult and challenging times.
So now you want to feel better. Doing yoga five times a week is very, very arbitrary and very superficial when you compare it to wanting to feel a certain way or experience a certain thing.
With asking why, I would go at least five layers deep into the heart of your resolution. And sometimes you will find that the resolution itself does not always hold the keys to the kingdom.
So I know people who do yoga seven days a week and they don't 'feel better.' Now that maybe sounds strange for a yoga teacher to say that, but some people use yoga- and you can do this with anything. You can do this with food, you can do this with the gym, you can do this with work. A lot of people do this with work.
But they use going to yoga every day as a buffer to keep them from working on the things in their life that make them feel bad. So if you are running to yoga after work every day to keep from having to go home and engage in a relationship that you no longer feel a connection in, well no amount of yoga in the world is going to make you feel better because at the root, yoga is not the problem.
So I think this needs to be said right from the beginning. If you are making a resolution because you imagine that achieving a certain goal is going to make you feel a certain way- so if you are committing to a big shift in your lifestyle hoping that it is going to transform everything about your life, you're going to go to yoga five days a week, and you're going to feel great, and everything else is going to fall into place.
I just want to encourage you very gently to spend some time with this 'why' question. Because if you look deeper, and deeper, and deeper into the real heart of what you are searching for, what you are hoping to feel and experience, sometimes the thing you are hoping will get you there is not the path to actually making it happen.
Now on the other hand, if you would like to go to yoga five days a week because you love how yoga makes you feel, and you love the transformation that's happening in your life, and you feel that yoga has really supported you making big shifts, and your goal is to devote more time to that practice so that you can see how your- so you can experiment with where the exploration takes you if you give yourself more time in that head space and in that body movement exploration, then this would be a great resolution for you.
The Water Element, which helps us to clarify our purpose, is not the only ingredient we need. I would say the second ingredient is planning.
I used to be the type of person who was very good at organizing other people's lives. I used to be an assistant, I was a tour manager, I had to be very organized in my professional life, but my personal life was a hot mess. Maybe not so hot, actually.
I have tried so many different systems for getting organized. I went through every possible system to get my life organized, to stay productive, but in the last few years since having my child, basically if things don't get written down and my life doesn't get planned out, things do not happen. If you are a parent, you will understand.
My life would be chaos if I did not have a really great planning system that works for me. And although it may seem like a little bit of work to find and implement a system that really works for you, I guarantee the amount of time and stress you will save, the gray hairs that will not grow because of that system is definitely worth the effort.
I'm going to share in the show notes a couple of the different systems that I currently use and links to them, but just to tell you briefly, the one that I am loving right now is bullet journaling. So I'm back to pen and paper to write down the things I need to do, and I'm just loving that process. I even have a little Elemental Yin Yang spin on that, which I will be probably sharing on the blog in the next few weeks.
Planning is so key. If you have not experimented with different systems, maybe that should be your resolution this year, is really finding a system of planning that works for you; of planning and productivity that works really well for you.
I've had so many clients who make resolutions about their diet in the New Year. This is an easy one to make a resolution about and just as easy to completely ditch after a couple of weeks. For most people, what happens is you start again possibly with a more vague or superficial 'why.'
So you might say, 'I'm going to lose five pounds. I'm going to cut out junk food.'
Those all sound great from the surface, but if you are not really diving into why you would want to do that, the experience you are trying to have, or the way you're trying to feel, then chances are you're going to miss this next step.
You're going to make a resolution that sounds easy, but if it's made in a less thoughtful way, or you're doing it for a reason you're not fully connected to with your purpose, and your will, and your desire, then chances are the next thing that happens is you walk into your kitchen to make yourself dinner that same night, and suddenly all you have in your cupboards is junk food.
You don't have any of the good healthy foods that you said you were committed to eating because you didn't adequately plan. Diet is such a good one to use. I think so many of us can relate to this because we all eat, and changing those habits can be so, so difficult.
If you are not prepared, if you haven't taken a cooking class, or purchased some really great cookbooks that are going to help you find delicious ways of eating in a brand new way, then chances are you are going to exhaust your willpower trying to resist the junk food, or you're going to be miserable because all you're eating is something bland when you didn't bother to learn how to cook the healthy food. And at some point your willpower will just give out. You'll be so hungry that you just- and your body will be craving the foods you normally eat, that you're just going to cave and feel terrible about caving, but secretly probably glad it's over.
So I would say planning is the next very important ingredient. It is where so many people fail to give adequate attention and energy. Again, if you know the deeper 'why,' and the deeper 'why' of your resolution is important to you, and that resolution really is going to contribute to the thing you are trying to experience, the way you'd like to feel, then it is so important to plan appropriately.
And a word of caution here as well, sometimes I've definitely fallen into this little trap. Sometimes I will over-plan and it will feel like I have taken a big step towards my goal, but really I've just been spending a lot of time planning and not a lot of time acting.
Now if you've ever had to write an essay in school, perhaps you've had the same experience, but you plan out all the different pieces. You've planned the details in point forms, you sketch out your entire outline for your essay and it feels so good to have really planned it out, you feel totally ahead of the game that you put it aside and suddenly the night before the essay is due you realize you have not actually written the essay.
So do not mistake doing the planning, which is important, very important, very essential, but don't mistake it for doing the work. So taking steps to get things done. Plan your steps and take your steps.
The next ingredient that will definitely help you on that route is accountability, and there are so many ways that you can stay accountable to your goals.
Again this is all personal preference, but I will share with you two of my favorite ways of staying accountable. When I wrote my last book, I had some trouble getting started. I spent about a year really just doodling around the book. I did a lot of research, I re-read a lot of things I had been working on, but I was having a really hard time just opening my computer and writing.
And we were visiting family in Hawaii and one of their incredible neighbors is also a writer. So we got to talking, and we had a few writing dates while I was there where we would pick a spot to meet, and commit a few hours to just sitting and writing and working together, and I loved doing that.
I had done this before with other writers, but I found this particular person so inspiring, and she just put her head down and worked. So every time I looked up, she was there writing. I got more done in those sessions than probably the entire year of writing that had come before it, which is crazy.
So we started to have a weekly call, and every Thursday for the better part of the following year, we would chat for about twenty minutes or a half hour and tell the other what we had accomplished that week, or what we had not accomplished that week.
It was not a confession, but it was really helpful for me personally to know that I was going to have to speak with my accountability buddy, and it would be really lame to have blocked off a half hour of her time every week to show up and say, 'I didn't get anything done. I got too busy.' So knowing she was out there was a huge help for me. That accountability was everything.
Without accountability partners to go and do yoga with, or work out with, I would have a much harder time really sticking with my commitments because feelings work both ways. You might be very committed to your resolution or your goal, you might be very connected and committed to the experience that you are looking to have, or the transformation you are spurring, but occasionally you might also feel like laying on the couch and watching hours of Netflix. I certainly do. I'm right there with you.
And if you personally find it easy to write off your own commitments, I promise you it is not as easy if you know that your friend is going to be waiting at the gym for you. It's harder to just sit at home and ignore a commitment that you've made to someone you respect. So accountability buddies are great.
Another technique that I have used with tremendous success is a slightly trickier technique, but one that I think is very effective for so many of us. Basically this preys on your distaste for losing something.
So if even the knowledge that your friend is at the gym waiting for you doesn't motivate you to get up and get out the door, then this technique you would give them $20 for not showing up, or some other amount. You can decide this ahead of time, but you would actually- you would either pay with money, or with time. You know, you can make a friendly bet. The person that misses the most workouts has to clean the house of the other participants in your accountability group. You could really be very creative with this and hopefully not too mean, but the fear of missing out really does work for some people, or the fear of losing something.
And now the final ingredient for our resolution recipe. I call this ingredient, 'Just Say No.' Making a resolution or committing to a goal has so much to do with saying yes.
You are saying yes to a personal transformation, you are saying yes to a more connected conscious aligned life, but sometimes in order to say yes, you must in turn say no.
In the last episode, I told you about a newer perspective I was having about the idea of when people use busyness as an excuse to not move forward towards their goals, and their dreams, and living a life they're actually thrilled to be living, how when they say that it could also just mean that their life is out of control.
So the busy excuse, being too busy to make your dreams happen, it's very disempowering. You are literally giving your power away if you don't take responsibility for how you are using your time and your energy.
When we allow ourselves the space to say no to things that do not move our goals and our dreams forward, it can be a little bit scary. I've had this happen so many times.
When I moved to Boston, I had several teaching opportunities, but for one reason or another I didn't feel connected to the business model of certain studios, I didn't feel connected to their community or their philosophy, and I was in this very weird and kind of scary position of saying no to opportunities that were okay. They weren't ideal, but they were okay.
And my husband gave me this really great idea. He said rather than taking on classes or opportunities you feel lukewarm about, why not instead use the time you would have taken to teach those classes or do that work, and put that into things like your book, or your audios, or your longer programs. And that's exactly what I did, and I am so glad.
So sometimes your best and fastest route towards your big dreams and your goals and your resolutions is saying no to anything that takes away your time, your energy, or your focus from that path.
If your goal is to go to yoga five days a week, then you're going to have to say no to drinks after work. You're going to have to say no to certain social events in order to make the space in your schedule to allow your goal to be achieved.
This comes back to why it's also very important to know the deeper purpose behind what you're really committing to. Because if you don't know the deeper purpose, if you don't know what your true intentions are, it could be painful to say no to opportunities because you don't actually feel connected to that greater purpose in the first place.
So again, these ingredients. We have the 'why' or the purpose for choosing this particular resolution or goal. Then you must plan appropriately. Make sure you have all the possible resources that you need in order to be successful. Next you have to be accountable someway somehow. Make sure someone or something is helping you stay on track. And finally, get comfortable with saying no to the things that take your attention, your time, or your energy away from what you are planning for, what your goals are.
And this doesn't always have to be big major stuff, in fact the devil is in the details when it comes to saying no. It really could be something like taking a break from Facebook because you spend 45 minutes on there every day. Small things can make an impact. You don't have to break up with your best friend in order to make room to go to yoga. You know, that would make no sense. But maybe cutting back your YouTube watching time does give you the room to see your resolution through.
And finally, remember that when it comes to your resources and the things you really have to invest in any goal, in any project, time and energy to me are the most valuable resources we get. So if you choose to start this next New Year with a firm resolution, I hope you'll take the time to work with these ingredients that I've given you, and make sure that your commitments, values and honors, the preciousness of your time and your energy.
I'd love to hear how you're working with these ideas.