What do these failed resolutions have to teach us about cultivating a psychology of wealth?
The other day we were talking about New Years resolutions and why I reckon they’re a bit of a trap.
Most people make resolutions that are too pie-in-the-sky. And that’s fine, great even, if all you want to do is a bit of day-dreaming about having six-pack abs or owning a boat.
But if you want to start a process of calling down positive change, it’s no substitute for setting some realistic, achievable goals, and working out a bit of a game plan for yourself.
But there’s a lot to be learned from this resolution–renege–repent–stuff your head in a cheesecake cycle – especially if you want to be rich.
The first thing is to remember where this resolution tradition comes from. Like pretty much everything else in Australia, it’s a northern hemisphere, European type thing.
Way, way back in the day, and I mean way back, the New Year traditions were associated with the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year.
It was a day that represented the final death of the year. After that, the days would get longer and warmer, the sun would reverse it’s slow decline into the winter sky, and the earth let us know that it had kept it’s promise to eventually bring life back into frozen forests.
It was the dark before the dawn.
And so it was a time to reflect and decide what it was that you wanted to ‘let die’ and not take with you into the New Year. Like a tree shedding leaves, you were encouraged to reflect on what it was that no longer served you, and let it go.
And this was a process best done in quiet contemplation with you own heart, watching the fire, or pondering snow drops falling from the sky, like the gentle tears of angels.
Not stuck in a Westfields car park on a 40 degree day, or drunk as a skunk and clinging to an inflatable esky by the pool.
Fast forward a few thousand years, and New Years is the LAST place you’d want to try and find a moment of quiet contemplation. It’s hard enough getting the dunny to yourself for 5 minutes.
It’s also an incredibly busy, boozy, puddingy, kids shouting at you from on top of the roof type time.
Is it really the best time to try and give up the grog, or cut back on sweets? Resolutions to lose weight at a time when you’re stuffing yourself stupid seem destined to fail – as do decisions to get your finances in order when the purse strings are at their most open.
Because when you make these kind of life changes, especially the ones you know are going to be difficult, you need everything to be pulling together.
And you can’t make changes like this in isolation. You got to think about your life holistically.
I mean, a commitment to cut back a few kilo’s is great, but if the reason you eat take-out so often is because you work so much you never have time to shop or cook, then you can’t think about your belly independently of your job.
All the more so if you eat because you’re tired, guilty, or rewarding yourself with a treat in an otherwise punishing life.
This is why we need the quiet of peaceful reflection to make these changes. We need to stop and get a step back on our own lives – get a fresh perspective on it. From there, we can see a new vision for ourselves, and start aligning our life, ALL of our life, around it.
It’s something that most successful people I know do – at some point, and probably not at new years. A lot of their passion and energy comes from having a clear vision of their life’s mission – and how it all fits together.
So it’s a case of if you’re going to do something, do it well. If you’re going to make a few changes in your life, give the exercise the time it needs, and step back and try and get a holistic picture of where you’re at and where you want to be.
The other trap to watch out for with New Year’s resolutions – or any attempt to shift your life – is that you don’t just give yourself another stick to beat yourself up with.
Imagine your kid is trying to cook an omelet. He’s not doing a very good job. Do you:
- A) – use a stern and angry voice, and let them feel how disappointed you are in them… again; or
- B) – use some kind of bright, get-‘em-next-time-tiger type stuff, and let them know you believe in them?
If you answered A, then you really do need to take yourself off to the forest and have a good hard look at yourself. But of course you answered B.
Now what if you replaced that child with yourself, and omelet with some sort of New Years Resolution. You’re not alone if you answered A (or maybe all of the above.)
We often let ourselves berate ourselves with a ferocity we would never inflict on others. Especially about those things we don’t like in ourselves and are trying to change.
But we know that it doesn’t work. It wouldn’t work for the kid, so why do we think it would work for us?
And I think this is what brings a lot of New Year’s resolutions undone. They’re poorly specified and difficult to achieve, set out without enough thought and in the middle of a crazy time, and then backed up the angry and worst of ourselves.
No wonder the kid in us just says stuff it. I’m sticking my head in a cheesecake and I’m not going to think about it.
Not until next year.
This is fundamental. The ability to set goals, develop strategies, and to gently coach yourself through the tough times is perhaps one of the most important skills we can learn. It’s as true of fattening up our wallets as it is off fattening down our hips.
Something to think about, next time your sitting quietly in the snow somewhere.