It's that time of year where social media abounds with posts about new year resolutions and I was reflecting on the realisation that I no longer set new year resolutions, and haven't for a while now, because I've moved from using resolutions as a "stick" to create what I want, to being in flow and in the now to generate natural motivation through joy and pleasure.
Do I set goals in general?
Not in the sense of having a list of specific major outcomes that I need happen within specific timeframes, no.
That is not to say that I don't have important things in my life that I want, or would like changed, different or better. I definitely do!
So how do I create change and growth in my life if I don't set goals or resolutions?
Redefining what I really want.
I discovered that most of the goals and resolutions I set myself over the years weren't even what I really wanted. It took a long time to realise that most were ideas, mostly absorbed from culture, of what I thought I needed to get what I really wanted: Feeling good, about my self and my life.
Today, I believe what we truly seek through goal and resolution setting are feelings. Meaning, we want to feel good in some way about something. Usually about ourselves and our lives here on Earth.
I think we mostly don't realise this and hence we think we want or need things to feel good. Most importantly, we usually do not believe feeling good is possible in the present, especially without said things.
It is these things that we call goals.
Goals contain the feelings we want.
I see goals like containers. It's like we lock the feelings we want away in this container, put it far away in the future, then we tell ourselves that we need to acquire this container so we can feel the feelings we want.
Generally speaking, it results in the idea that we cannot feel the feelings we want now, because either we have something or we don't have something—Ergo, dissatisfaction.
Most goal setting is born from and focuses on this sense of dissatisfaction, with supporting narratives such as, "I need X, or I cannot feel good," or "I need to get rid of X, or I cannot feel good."
Most goals come from not feeling good.
I know that sounds counterintuitive because it's supposed to make sense, right? After all, isn't that what goal and resolution setting is all about? Not feeling good?
But that is precisely the problem.
Feelings can be nourishing and empowering (what we want), or they can be enervating and disempowering (what we don't want).
Whenever we set goals or try to effect change from a space that is focused on not wanting unwanted feelings, we, well, duh, focus on said unwanted feelings and from there, generate the feeling space from which we make decisions and take actions.
It's not a very comfortable, much less joyful, motivating or supportive, space to be in for a long time, which is usually counterproductive to sustaining long-term effort.
Do we have to feel bad in order to feel good? Does that even make sense? Is it a compassionate and self-loving way to live?
I definitely do not think it is a compassionate or even reasonable way to change or grow. It never made sense to me. I bought into the idea like most everyone else because that was all I had for a long time, until I discovered differently and I never looked back.
Using goals as signposts instead.
Today, I use the idea of goals as signposts to help me identify what I want—What is it that I really want to feel?
As mentioned above, goals are like containers. They contain within them the feelings, and often values, we want to feel.
So I used the goals that popped into my head as clues to help me reverse engineer, and discover, the feelings I really wanted to feel, deep within.
Then I did the inner work necessary to help me feel them—Right here, right now.
Free to feel what I want, in the now.
This was a game changer for me.
Being free to feel what I want to feel—right here, right now—transformed the tension I used to experience, between "where I am now" and "where I want to be", from chronic dissatisfaction and impatience, to appreciation and serenity.
"I am feeling good now, and from this space of already feeling good, I am free to explore and discover all sorts of different ways I can feel more of this!"
It's not that the concept of goals is unhelpful. Neither is it inherently harmful to need and want things. It is how we relate to, approach and interact with both that determine if we will be bring them into our lives as helpful or harmful additions.
I have personally found that it is far more helpful and productive to approach change and growth from a space of joyful fulfilment and playful curiosity.
In addition to practicing feeling what I want here and now, I also practice making decisions and taking actions, as much as possible, from within this space of feeling good now.
It has become a completely different way to live, create and work.
Cultivating a different relationship with past, present and future.
Many new year resolutions are not grounded in the now. Many are complex, tangle-balls of mental and emotional energies and threads—Focused on the future, but often driven by unhealed woundings from the past.
I did a lot of inner work over the years to transform my relationships with my past, present and future. Today, I practice feeling:
- Compassion for the impacts of the past;
- Appreciation for the support I have received and work I have invested to help create where I am today;
- Trust in my present self to create a future I will appreciate even more.
This was another factor that helped transform the tension I used to experience between "where I am now" versus "where I want to be".
Having compassion and appreciation for past events and actions helped me to no longer feel resentful, impatient or "less than" for "where I am now" not being "where I want to be" yet.
Releasing these judgements and dissatisfactions about past and future also helped me shift my perspective of time and achievement, specifically about creating the future.
Grounding the creation of the future in the present.
Being free to feel good now, and also being able to appreciate "where I am now" as it is, helped me to see the future as simply being part of a long game that is in progress now.
Rather than "a thing that is not here yet", the future thus becomes "a thing I am creating now". So it no longer feels "far away". It is already here, merely in a different form.
By grounding my daily practice in compassion and appreciation, I am better able to resonate with and be joyful about where I am now, which creates a far more conducive space in which to create my present—From which my future is born.
Having a different sense of time also allows me to place and value daily decisions and actions in alignment and flow with the broader field that I can sense emerging. In doing so, I can appreciate every decision and action as being both tangible and intangible investments towards creating what I want, here and now.
Our future is born from our present, hence our practical focus always need only be here-now.
Past and future are instructive, not creative spaces.
Cultivating a different approach to change and growth.
A final contributing reason as to why I no longer set resolutions is that I've shifted my approach to change and growth.
I have had clients express concern that if they don't set resolutions or goals, they won't feel the motivation to change and grow.
The impulse to grow is our birthright.
We are alive. We grow because life grows. It's actually much harder to stop growing. Do you know how much energy goes into blocking ourselves? It is like trying to dam a massive river.
Rather than be concerned about lacking motivation, I have found it is more instructive and constructive to be curious about why I experience lack of motivation.
Release and integrate blocks to tap into life force.
When we understand, release or integrate the blocks that are damming our natural flow of life force, we are free to step and tap into that wellspring of energy, guidance and motivation that is our birthright.
When we are free to flow all the time, goals and resolutions aren't really needed because life is a self-organising energy.
Focusing on releasing and integrating blocks, rather than trying to work around them and generate motivation through contrived means like goal setting, so that I can flow in alignment with what wants to be created from within me has been an indescribable experience.
It feels pleasurable, even as I am aware of all the things that need doing. It feels affirming, even when I can see I am not where I want to be just yet.
Most paradoxically I have found, the act of surrender into this powerful flowing force was what taught me to trust myself to get things done, without obsessing about getting things done, even during difficult times.
Yet it is not a comfort zone, for there are many days when I feel this flow of life force encouraging and challenging me to stretch, grow and to do things I have never done before. All without having to explicitly set resolutions or goals.
Growth, therefore, is an opportunity to grow in pleasure, even when the process itself is challenging. Hence, motivation is never a problem.
In alignment to everything I discussed above, I want to "get there" because it already feels good now. Imagine what it's going to feel like "there" then? Woot!
When you feel harmony with where you are now, resolutions aren't so necessary or important.
As mentioned earlier, goal and resolution setting aren't, on their own, necessarily harmful or unhelpful practices. What matters is how you feel now. It is totally possible to set goals and resolutions from a joyful space!