“Sacrifice is the let go of something inferior to get something of a higher order, sacrilege is the let go something of a higher order to get something of a lower”
…rather choose who you want to become.
In a recent survey by the University of Scranton, published in Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 45% of american adults usually make New Year’s resolutions and only 8% are successful in achieving them. Making -meaning writing- them is easy. Being successful is a different story. We all have had our share of failing to what we desire for the new year. Weight loss, financial stability, fall in love, quit smoking, better life quality are amongst the more frequent resolutions we make. Even though lightly written, these could become life changing goals. People who have lived with overweight or financial instability and achieve a healthy body or personal finance mastery see their lives completely change to the better, also impacting positively those close to them.
So why, if we crave, year after year for a better life, we continue to fail? One answer is precisely, that we learn to fail on what we desire. Our consciousness is limited by our cognitive development, which empirically demonstrates, that although we would love to loose weight, we know that we fail over and over again. “People don’t change” is a common used phrase, we hear -and even repeat, as we get older. No wonder that out of the 8% who are successful, only 14% make it at age fifty.
However, we also have experienced and seen people make it. In fact, if I think of many of my close ones, friends, associates and family, I witnessed some major transformations during this past 2013. From people finally engaging into a healthy practice and transforming their bodies, to actual financial balance turn-arounds or establishing meaningful relationships. For all of them, this year will be in their own history books as a stepping stone in conquering a higher level of development, and as they shared with me, “my life changed for the better”. I salute them with respect, as they all went through really challenging times to keep up and achieve; they all transformed and flourished…and in turn inspired me and many more. So yes, we can make it and yes we can, again, fail.
In my work and in my life, I have accompanied many individuals in their quest to accomplish what they want, and by being with them, and also learning from my own experience I conclude that change is possible, although far from the new age 80’s approach a la The Secret where its enough to “write and declare for the universe that I will find love this year”. That is a wish, and anything that matters that I have accomplished has come with a lot of effort and sacrifice. Anything that doesn’t require these components, is luck -or the universe, or god, or whatever- and relies strictly on not acting with responsibility, unconditional responsibility that is.
So let’s change the question. Rather than “Why do we continue to fail on that thing we need to accomplish”, let’s ask ourselves “What is more important for my life, than the goal itself, that by accomplishing the goal I will get”. For instance. If I desire weight loss -or a better more healthy body- what is it that I will be getting should I be able to loose weight? In other words, what is my higher purpose than just loosing weight? The answer for some could be, “feel more confident in intimacy” or “be seen and liked in social groups, because I want to find a partner to share my life”. Whatever the higher purpose is, the required energy to endure challenges to come in my journey to accomplish my resolution, is abundant at the purpose, not at the task. Run 3 times a week is a narrow and limited way to express, “I want to live healthy until 80” !
In their excellent work, Immunity to Change, authors Robert Keagen and Lisa Lahey explore why we tend no to change. Their latest work on leadership development, which evolves from the thesis that the way we talk -the way we understand and relate to experience- defines our ability to change, introduces the idea of “anxiety and the big assumption” as our immune system to change. From their vast field experience, they conclude that the idea of changing, for example, being fit or financially independent, has an underlying assumption that produces anxiety. Following the same example, if I desire to be financially stable, when imagining that I actually am financially stable I also experience some anxiety coming from an underlying assumption, in this case something like “if I am financially stable and be without every month’s end meet pressure, what would my family admire and support me for”? I know this sounds even ridiculous for some one who is not me -or the person trying to change- and that is precisely what makes it relevant, since cognitively speaking, I can only understand that what I already know. For the rest of us, seeing a loved one struggle with overweight or poor financial conditions might seem simple to solve: diet and exercise, spend less and earn more. How ever, for the individual in turn, discovering -an learning- that it is precisely what he or she assumes will happen by accomplishing, that produces anxiety can open a powerful source for change. “I want to become financially stable, and I fear that in doing so I will loose love and care from my family…and therefore to become financially stable, I will spend less and earn more, and I will commit to experiencing different ways of love and care from my family”. Or to put it in a more conscious way “This year I will express and experience better care and love for and from my family by achieving financial stability. To achieve this I will spend less and earn more.” Hence I want to become a financially stable loved one for my family”. This statement will drive me through the rough times to come: scarifying holidays or new things to buy, providing less confort to my loved ones, etc”. It is my quest to transforming myself and my family what drives me, not money in the bank.
So this year, forget the easy resolutions list and choose one thing, that you know that should you accomplish it, your life will move one stage up, and ask yourself the question of purpose “what is it that is more important than the goal itself, that if I can accomplish is worth every effort”? And then write what you need to do. Then practice. Practice. Practice. If it is loosing weight, connect to that higher purpose, find what underlying assumptions produce anxiety, and choose who you want to become, then focus on practice -ej diet and exercise- not because doing is the goal, but rather, because doing, just for the sake of doing is the only way to connect and achieve with what really matters most. This is why, during 2013 I witnessed people run every day, rain or shine, save and sacrifice, rise early to practice. This is what drives this individuals that accomplish, not what they desire to get, but who the want to become. I have mine, and I’ll share december 30th 2014 my story.Happy new year!