As this year begins, forget resolutions! Until you answer the big questions, it’s pointless to make them anyway.
Is there really much chance you’re going to hit the gym an hour a day for a whole year if you haven’t explored why you’ve purchased 3 yearlong gym memberships before and worked out a total of 3 times?
Will you be able to achieve your goal of reducing clutter if you don’t know why you buy more clothes, but don’t remove anything from your closet?
Is it realistic to set a goal to prepare most meals from scratch if you don’t know whether you believe that anticipated long-term health gains are more important than the convenience that gets you through today?
We’ve talked before about setting up a life structure to support change, but that’s really starting in the middle. Before you set up that structure, you need to know yourself and be clear on your values.
Most of us believe we have a clear view of ourselves, but I can tell you from interviewing many employees and then subsequently observing their job performance, we are either terrible self-assessors or willing to be incredibly dishonest to get a job. If we’re not good at self-assessing, we’re not being honest with ourselves.
I have only a passing knowledge of Brené Brown’s research into shame and vulnerability, but it seems logical that feelings of shame regarding our perceived inadequacies or the vulnerability of being unemployed contribute to our construction of a story that doesn’t match other people’s perception of us over time. While this may feel necessary for landing a job, or our social mask may feel necessary for navigating public interactions, it is important for us to connect to our true selves. If we don’t, we simply can’t construct a life that will benefit us.
Think of it this way, if you build a house with standard height doors, it won’t comfortably fit LeBron James or Kevin Durant. If you love to sleep late and work at night, a 7am – 3pm job does not fit you as well as an 11pm – 7am job. If you value routine, outside sales will make you crazy. It doesn’t matter that your earning potential is increased because the job is not a good fit! On the other hand, if you love flexibility outside sales will let you blossom.
Asking the big questions helps to identify our strengths, obstacles, and things that bring us joy. Answering the big questions with courage solidifies our values. With the resulting clarity, we can construct a life framework that supports us becoming our best, healthiest, most joyful selves, even if our new plan is 180º from where we’ve been headed.
Is it seriously possible to go from an inability to keep a single resolution to a 180º turnaround? I believe it is. I’m not saying the path will be straightforward – your particular trail may never have been blazed before. I never expect a journey that has a straight up trajectory, or is without failure. Forward progress most often requires a foundation of commitment, diligence, learning from mistakes, and holding yourself accountable.
What does a big question sound like if I should want to ask one?
Big questions are things like:
1)What are my greatest inherent strengths?
2)What are my greatest learned skills?
3)What are my greatest weaknesses?
4)What am I most lacking right now?
5)Can I sit still in total quiet without distractions or company and feel calm and comfortable?
6)What do I have in great abundance?
7)What do I have that I can live without?
8)Am I invested and engaged in my family, my job, and my community?
9)Am I able to feel my real feelings in the moment?
10)What do I do to avoid my feelings?
11)Do I embrace my emotions, both positive and negative, and lean in?
12)Can I look myself in the eye in the mirror and sincerely utter the words, “I love you?”
13)What is the worst thing I’ve ever done? Have I forgiven myself for that?
14)If I have not yet forgiven myself for my worst action, can I do it now?
15)Do I have good boundaries?
16)Do I contribute more often to peace or to conflict in my relationships?
17)Am I more likely to display compassion or judgement?
18)Do I take responsibility for my contribution to family or work conflict?
19)How do I behave when I’m my best self and during what percentage of each day am I my behaving that way?
20)Am I willing to practice gratitude, bravery, health, fitness, kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity?
21)Am I reliable? Can others regularly count on me?
22)What kind of friend am I to myself? Do I take care of myself as well as I do my husband, wife, children, friends, coworkers, or clients?
23)What inspires me?
24)What motivates me?
25)If there were no obstacles, what would a perfect week look like?
26)What steps can I take today that will move me toward that perfect week?
27)If there is no way to change my current circumstances, will I be okay and can I learn to thrive?
28)How much time am I willing to commit each day to improving my physical health and fitness?
29)How much time am I willing to commit each day to strengthening my emotional & spiritual health?
30)What percentage of the time do I say no when I should say no?
31)What do I believe is the biggest obstacle standing between me and my #1 goal?
32)Do I have the courage to sit with my fear?
33)What one thing can I do each day that will add joy, laughter or connection to my life?
34)What do I believe I deserve in life?
35)Am I aware of the effect my choices have on those around me?
36)What one kindness can I offer someone else today?
The answers to big questions often reveal themselves in stages of realization slowly over a period of time as we gain insight. Many of us have had our relationships to ourselves interrupted in a manner that leaves us feeling alone, helpless, weak, undeserving, defective, or numb. When this is true, it can be a monumental task to reconnect with our emotions. If you have difficulty seeing yourself as lovable, deserving of good things, or feel a need to avoid all emotions, Somatic Experiencing® may be a good place to start.
Somatic Experiencing® Therapy allowed me to reconnect with my body so that I could relax the defenses that prevented me from feeling. Developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, SE can easily be practiced with or without the assistance of a practitioner. Using SE tools still helps me trust my body to support me while I free my mind to know what I know and my heart to feel what it feels. That puts me in a much better position to answer big questions in a manner that is consistent with supporting my best self.
If you’re already feeling concerned that you may not keep your resolutions this year, forget them and try answering some big questions! After all, there’s no danger in trying something different and the knowledge you gain about yourself can give you insight into a better strategy for sustaining positive change.
Take your time, you’ve got all year! Let’s just call this a rebuilding year.