LA Psychology ~ Los Angeles Psychological Services

Resolutions and Renewal

On New Years Day we make resolutions-- but why is it so difficult to keep them? Even our most determined, teeth-gritted resolve seems to often fade quickly into the day-to-day. So much of the time we can barely sustain our fiercest ideals even for a matter of weeks. What's up with that?

The reason we have such a hard time living up to our ideals is that the motivation for our resolutions has the wrong origin. When the motive for change is to fix something externally-- to lose weight, look better, find a romantic partner-- it is rarely sustainable. And even if we do manage to sustain such superficial changes, the solution doesn't solve the problem-- we may find ourselves looking better or having successfully landed a new romance, but we don't end up
feeling better. When the focus is external, we may obtain what we want but still find ourselves lonely, empty and dissatisfied-- and all the more hopeless having realized that "the fix" didn't really fix things.

The thing about real, lasting change is that it has to come from the right place. All the external stuff isn't supposed to be an end in itself; it's supposed to be the natural outcome of a balanced, centered life. We think we have to obtain, achieve and accomplish before we can be happy. My experience is we must devote ourselves wholeheartedly to
ourselves before authentic transformation can occur. 

When you are dedicated to loving and accepting yourself boldly and unabashedly, all of those external things that you so desperately crave begin to fall into place. When you are committed to listening to your needs and honoring your feelings without judgment, your life begins to transform.

You probably think you have to change before you can love and accept yourself; on the contrary, you must love and accept yourself in order to change. The more you accept the dark, the grumpy, the needy and the scared parts of you, the less energy you devote to them.

When we reject the dark parts of ourselves, we spend an enormous amount of energy trying to change them. As one of Jewel's songs says, "no longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from." What you resist persists, as the old therapy adage goes. And according to famous psychologist Fritz-Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy, change occurs when we become what we are, not when we try to become what we are not. That's what's so paradoxical about change.

When you accept even the parts of yourself that you see as bad, you free up your resources to create the life you really want out of joy rather than out of fear or shame. No matter how much you achieve, you cannot satisfied until you are in proper alignment-- until the achievements you desire are secondary to your self-love rather than contingencies of it. When you love and accept yourself you are more likely to eat healthier, workout more frequently, invest in creative endeavors, create closer friendships, attract more romance and experience more joy and adventure in life. And when self-acceptance is the foundation, these things can actually take root, grow and develop in a sustaining way in your life. Go to yoga, eat your vegetables, take a risk and talk to that cute guy or girl you've been eyeing all year
not so you can look better on the outside, not as an end in itself, but rather as a means for caring for yourself and precisely because you love yourself.

So my suggestion this New Year is to make the resolution to be wholly committed to the creating a life that gives you the space to listen to yourself. Center yourself, find balance, commit to engaging fully in your passions and treat yourself with love and acceptance. The rest will follow.