How goals and rituals can help you realize change

Why we don’t stick to our New Year’s resolutions

Photo: Marco Herrndorff / Colourbox
This year, why not start by writing your New Year’s resolutions down and formulate steps to carry them out? You can keep track of your progress, noting the times you follow through on your goals. And any times you missed, if you need motivation, get an accountability buddy or coach. Remember, your environment should also support your objectives.

Seline Shenoy
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Most people start the year excited about making resolutions, but they eventually find themselves losing enthusiasm. Like many people, you may find it hard to stick to your New Year’s resolutions and consequently hit the brakes on your efforts. The solution to making change last goes beyond better planning and organization. We have to go deeper and find ways to get emotionally invested in goals. 

When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, the New Year will bring with it a range of emotions, hope, fear, gratitude, excitement, or indifference. Regardless of what we feel, we instinctively know that change will come with a new dawn, an energetic shift in the cosmic plane that spurs growth and evolution. Such a momentous transition causes us to reflect on the previous year and instills a desire to wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

Most people bookend their year by setting New Year’s resolutions, promises they make to themselves to improve their lives and change for the better. Yet, while they start the year excited about making resolutions, they find themselves losing enthusiasm as the weeks go by. Studies show that out of 40% of people in the United States who set New Year’s resolutions, 80% break them by the first week of February and only 8% end up achieving their goals.

Like many people, you may find it hard to stick to your New Year’s resolutions and consequently hit the brakes on your efforts. The cause could be circumstantial, like insufficient resources, or behavioral, like difficulty breaking old habits to make change last.

To realize our goals, we must integrate the rational part of the mind that likes to plan and organize with our emotional mind. That gives us insight through symbolic meaning and big-picture thinking. As Carl Jung once said, symbols are the language of the soul that bypass the logical mind and communicate with us on a deeper level.

This integration is best achieved by incorporating rituals. Age-old practices from the traditions of yoga, shamanisn, and Khabbala offer rituals to help us connect with our innermost beings and get a deeper understanding of our inner longings. According to Yogi traditions, rituals that are rich in meaning allow us to honor the process of letting go of the old and embracing the new on a deep cellular level. It affects the subtle body, the energetic realm of imagery, dreams, and where the chakra system resides the transformation and consciousness.

At this deep level, we achieve results in powerful change in our physical world and the choices that we make, the rituals we partake in our catalysts, in our transformation and healing. They empower us to be stewards of our evolution and growth.

These tradition-based rituals are great starting points, but you don’t want to limit your options. Develop and personalize rituals to suit your needs and sensibilities. Anything goes as long as they have symbolic significance to you and they speak to your subconscious mind and your heart.

If you want to let go of old energies, engage in letting-go rituals, such as cleaning out your closet and donating clothes. If you want to make more money, try prosperity rituals like placing a bowl of coins outside your door, so it’s the first thing you see on Jan. 1. Intention-setting rituals for finding love could be as simple as lighting red candles and listening to romantic music, or you may simply want to integrate simple practices from a Nordic lifestyle, such as a quiet contemplated walk in the outdoors or meditative moment s over a cup of coffee.

It takes a couple of weeks to rewire the brain and create new patterns of behavior. You must continue with the rituals while also acting proactively. If you are finding it difficult to stay committed, you might be facing common obstacles. Besides the lack of rituals, here are five reasons you don’t stick to your year’s resolutions.

No. 1: Lack of structure. Breaking old habits is not easy. You must make the process of ditching your old ways and replacing them with new ones as easy as possible by creating structure.

Start by writing your resolutions down and formulate steps to carry them out, and keep track of your progress, noting the times you follow through on your goals. And any times you missed, if you need motivation, get an accountability buddy or coach. Remember, your environment should also support your objectives. For example, if you are an emotional eater trying to lose weight, keep that pint of ice cream and chips out of your fridge and replace them with healthy snacks like nuts and berries.

No. 2: Your resolutions aren’t aligned with your core values. Many times, we set New Year’s resolutions that we think are good for us, but they aren’t necessarily what we really want to do. They don’t reflect our core values. The key to sticking with our New Year’s resolutions is becoming emotionally invested. That happens when we pursue things that align with our values.

For instance, if one of your core values is freedom, you’ll be more committed to activities that liberate you, whether it’s working hard to establish your own business or detaching yourself from unhealthy relationships.

No. 3: You are unclear about your intentions. In other words, your big why when setting a New Year’s resolution is unclear. You must take on a big-picture perspective. We need to ask ourselves what the intention behind it is and what our big why is.

Dig deep and ask yourself why you want to achieve your goal. Seeing the deeper purpose behind our actions gives gravitas, and we’re more likely to maintain new habits. This can be a source of inspiration to keep pushing you forward every time you feel like giving up. For example, a person wanting to learn a new language because their friend is doing it won’t be as emotionally invested as someone who is learning it to volunteer in a country and mingle with the locals.

No. 4: Your resolutions are ambitious and daunting. Just like with any goal, you want to make sure your New Year’s resolution is achievable. Many people quit because the resolution is too big and takes too much effort and sacrifice. A better approach is to step back and create a plan. That’s easier on you. The proverbial advice to eat an elephant one bite at a time is the best strategy.

So, break your resolution down into smaller achievable steps and create many milestones when you can celebrate your success. If one of your resolutions is to read more books but you have a hectic work schedule, instead of aiming to read two books a month, shoot for reading a few pages a day, or listening to an audio book during your commute to work.

No. 5: You’re too focused on short-term rewards. Another trap that causes people to abandon their New Year’s resolutions is expecting to see rewards immediately. A person who is caught up in instant gratification is blind to the long-term wins of their actions. One way to combat this is by rewarding ourselves when we hit those many milestones. If you’ve been working hard at the gym and start seeing signs of progress, treat yourself to a massage.

Another way to do this is by visualizing yourself finally achieving what you want. Visualizing success and really feeling it makes it more real, tangible, and within reach, whether it’s the start of a new year or not. Every day is full of promise and potential. Each morning when we rise, we’re given an opportunity to be more, love more, and give more. The sun rising over the horizon is symbolic of our ascension process and the higher ideals we can aspire.

This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Seline Shenoy

Seline Shenoy

Seline Shenoy is a Dubai-based blogger, podcaster, reporter, and content creator on topics related to psychology and personal growth, wellness, social and global issues, and history. Having lived and traveled in different parts of Scandinavia, Seline has a fondness for all things Nordic and is a regular contributor to the online magazine scandifiaction.com. Visit her website at www.selineshenoy.com.

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