Have you ever set a New Year’s resolution, only to have it not work out after just a few weeks? Have you ever told yourself that starting in the new year, you will go to the gym every day, eliminate all junk food, quit unhealthy habits, and better manage your finances?
Most people who set New Year’s resolutions set unrealistic expectations. For example, although going to the gym on a regular basis and eating nothing but greens may be sustainable for a brief amount of time, most people are unable to sustain a drastic change in their lifestyle for an extended period.
Stringent life changes and harsh restrictions, coupled with self-shaming, have been found to lead to a greater probability of setbacks. In fact, people who do not allow any room for error are more likely to give up not if but when setbacks occur. They are more likely to assume that if they are unable to do something perfectly, that they should not do it at all. For example, people who break their diet by eating a donut are more likely to binge on donuts if they are holding themselves to an unrealistically high standard. On the other hand, studies show that individuals who are able to be kind and self-compassionate to themselves are less likely to binge-eat and are more likely to bounce back after a setback because they believe that even when mistakes occur, they can still return to their goals.
Setting a New Year’s resolution is almost like training to become a Jedi. When Luke Skywalker is training to become a Jedi on Dagobah, he struggles to move the stones, to elevate his ship out of the water, and use the Force in general. Over time, Luke becomes a powerful Jedi, capable of facing Darth Vader himself.
In equating your New Year’s resolutions to Jedi training, we can look at seven core practices of honoring your resolutions to ensure your success.
- Mindfulness. Mindfulness refers to noticing your internal and external experiences in the present moment. Much like the Force in the Star Wars franchise, mindfulness has to do with noticing yourself and your environment in the now. This means that rather than focusing on your past experiences or future-based anxieties, you can focus on noticing how you are feeling and what you are doing right now in this very moment. To practice mindfulness does not necessarily mean that you have to assume a meditation posture. Like Yoda, you can mindfully move objects in your environments, noticing the sensations of your hands as you move them. Using mindfulness can allow you to notice when you are having emotional or physical distress, which tend to lead to unhealthy behaviors. Noticing when you are in distress can allow you to take an action to soothe and support yourself in the way that can nurture you, as opposed to distracting you.
- Non-attachment to outcome. The Jedi are known to practice non-attachment to outcome. That means that when practicing changing a particular habit, the goal can be on becoming healthier over time as opposed to a specific attachment to an outcome, such as a set goal weight. Having goals in itself is not a bad idea; however, many people can become so attached to having met the specific goal that they may overlook all their hard work if they do not reach their goal completely. Attachment to outcome is more likely to lead to suffering than it is to set one’s intentions according to their core values.
- Core values. Unlike goals, which are specific and finite (such as reaching a particular weight goal), core values are broad and infinite (such as being healthy). Core values are essentially heart-driven categories that are meaningful to us. These categories can include being a friend, a family member, a spouse, learning, traveling, being creative, adventures, health, spirituality, helping others, and more. Building resolutions according to our core values (such as to spend more time with friends) as opposed to specific goals (such as to lose a certain amount of weight) can allow us to maintain our motivation because we are engaging in activities that are meaningful to us. For example, protecting others from the Dark Side is a core value, as opposed to defeating a particular Sith, which may be a goal.
- Self-compassion. Self-compassion refers to being as kind and accepting of ourselves as we are of others. To be kind to ourselves means to accept ourselves with any setbacks, imperfections, and difficulties that we may have. It does not mean letting ourselves off the hook by giving up our responsibilities or overindulging on cooking from the Dark Side. Instead, self-compassion refers to supportively motivating ourselves to keep going even after experiencing a setback.
- Willingness to take chances. Starting a new lifestyle or working on creating a positive change in your life usually means having to step outside of your comfort zone. It can mean getting out of bed to go meditate/work out/meet a friend even when it is difficult. It means the willingness to be uncomfortable, the willingness to be like Luke, like Rey, like Ezra when they are working on their Jedi training.
- Practice. Practice by definition means that the results will not be perfect. However, by practicing, we can get better and whatever we are working on, just as the Jedi spend years learning how to use the Force.
- Intention setting. Intention setting is a practice of daily setting of a specific intention, such as to be kind that day, to be patient, to be mindful. Such daily intention settings can allow you to reexamine and reevaluate your resolutions on a regular (as opposed to an annual) basis. Your intentions can be written down in a journal, an app, or spoken out loud to make a commitment to them on that set day.
In the end, remember that you are stronger and more capable than you may ever realize. Have a wonderful New Year, and may the Force be with you.