We all have motivations for making resolutions. Much of the time, that motivation is a desire for less stress and more happiness
The key word here is happiness.
Our attempts to find happiness look different; weight loss, financial goals, relationship desires, new clothes, etc. But it's the desire for happiness that drives all our motivations.
Many of us spend hours at the gym, the office or on the psychologist’s couch in attempts to bring the happiness we desire. You might think that if only you could stick to those resolutions, happiness will find you.
This isn't the change that will bring you the happiness you seek.
Think about this analogy, used by my Buddhist teacher: If the entire city ground were covered in thorns, making it unbearable to walk around what would you do? Cover the entire ground with leather? This is a solution, but it seems exhausting and impractical. What if you covered just your feet with leather? Ah-ha!
We often try to change the world instead of changing ourselves. If I'm lonely and believe that having an amazing partner is what’s missing in my life, then I might resolve to find the perfect mate. Will this cure my loneliness? Maybe temporarily, but I haven’t gotten to the root of the problem, which is that I’m not happy with myself.
We move, adjust, play and rearrange external conditions in hopes that the thorny ground will disappear.
Fix yourself first.
When contemplating change, it’s easy to think, I want to lose 10 pounds, make more money or buy a nicer house this year. Though these are great goals to strive for, please understand that they're not the key to your happiness.
Examine the changes you wish to make: What are you trying to change? Is it a lasting change that will benefit you? Will you ever be satisfied with what you're trying to change? (Once you make an extra $10,000 per year will you be satisfied? Or will you desire to make an extra $20,000 per year?)
In order to change ourselves, we need to change our minds. This is the secret to long-lasting change.
By changing your mind you can throw those resolutions out the window, because unlocking your mind will result in an entire lifestyle shift. Beneficial change will ripple naturally.
How do we change our minds?
This is the hard part, and it will take a bit of work. Look at your mind; see the way you interact with, perceive, and react to the world. After having a look and taking note of a few patterns, you can redesign mental habits.
Examine what you're thinking when you open the fridge. Are you hungry, emotional, bored or sad? If you pick a fight with your partner, watch your mind. Step above the situation and look down; are you annoyed, angry or lonely? Is your wife/husband a terrible person? Maybe they didn’t wipe the counter properly, but is this worth the effort and strain?
At work, bring awareness to your body, breath and mental thoughts. During exercise, bring awareness to your bodily sensations and your heart beating in your chest. Bring awareness to the present moment, whatever you're doing. Take a nonjudgmental approach to your inner experience.
We call this mindfulness, and mindfulness is the key to beneficial and long lasting change. Mindfulness is a lifestyle; it’s not a fad diet or get-rich-quick scheme. It is a way of living.
Through mindfulness and meditation change naturally unfolds. Benefits arise, like improved health, reduced stress, richer relationships and happiness.
We learn that having the newest gadget isn’t the key to happiness, but rather spending an afternoon at the park is. The warm sun on your face, pausing to breathe in fresh air and listening to the laughter of the children — this is what happiness truly is.
Present, calm, peaceful, nonjudgmental. Stop trying to change the entire world, stop trying to change others and stop fighting against what is. Change your mind, and you will change your life.