True resolutions need to be more than a "should" - something that doesn’t quite fit, but you feel guilty for not doing. The shame of “should” is something I’ve been trying to banish from my own life. I try to help my clients do the same. Resolutions are basically new routines. Often, they need to be planned for and scheduled in. I might have a YMCA membership, for example, but if I don’t put a trip to the Y in my planner, you better believe I won’t be going. I’m a planner. Some people need spontaneity, but that’s not me. Many people need association with another task to make resolutions stick. I know I stand around waiting for my water to boil in the morning. If I do exercises while I’m waiting, that’s a guaranteed morning ritual.
by Alison Van Doren, PT, DPT
I've never been one for New Year's Resolutions. I'm by no means knocking them - I love the idea of a fresh start and a renewed commitment to living with intention. I've made resolutions before, but my New Year's resolutions tend not to stick. I think, for me, the come down after the mad rush of the holiday season is not a time when I’m feeling energized or fresh. When I try to set New Year’s resolutions, I’m usually wracking my brain for things to resolve. I’m actually needing rest and not ready for new starts. And that’s okay. My resolutions are most successful when they don’t feel externally imposed, and when they don’t feel forced. For me, the sticking power of resolutions seems to hinge on one question: how does this change fit into my life?
It's the same issue I see my clients grapple with when they're having trouble working an exercise routine into their day. Even if the routine takes five minutes, even if it’s simple, if it requires lying down at a time of day when you don’t want to lie down, that’s a barrier. If exercise is something you “should” do, but not something that has a place in your life, that’s a barrier.
It’s all about finding what works for you, and that’s so much easier when we let go of shame and take a clear look at what motivates us and what we really want. That goes for any resolution. Our lives are often so driven by external forces – our jobs, our family schedules, paying bills, our hobbies – a mix of wants and have-tos. Our resolutions are most beneficial, and easiest to stick to, when they make sense in the context of our lives. They can still be hard – I still may struggle to go to the Y when it’s on my calendar – but taking the shameful power struggle with my other obligations out of the equation really helps me.
As you’re ready to make changes throughout 2023, consider letting go of the shameful “should,” and instead putting that energy into a plan that fits in your life. If that plan includes movement in any form, I’m here to help.