New Year’s resolutions? I’m against them. Why would a creativity coach be against something so apparently helpful? Because I don’t think New Year’s resolutions are helpful. Most of them are chosen randomly—losing weight, being nicer to co-workers, being more thoughtful in traffic. Many are vague (all three of the above are) and most are geared to work against the resolution-maker.
Setting a goal brings with it the bothersome work of self-motivation, accountability, and self-judgment. None of that sounds intriguing, much less fun. It sounds like something to do until we get bored—on January 3.
When my clients charge into the New Year, fueled with determination to root out their bad habits, I suggest that bad habits are generally nothing more than good habits dialed up too far. Generosity, certainly a good habit, can be dialed up until it becomes the bad habit of overspending or buying someone else’s affection. Judging others sounds like a bad habit until we realize that explaining morality, ethics and response to bullying to our children involves judging in a good way.
A better way to tackle resolutions is not to dig out the bad habits—pulling out the roots of good behavior at the same time. Instead, resolve to increase things you do well. That nice feeling you get helping others? Get more of it. Let that car in the other lane get in front of you. Get out of line in the grocery store to pick up the item you forgot, instead of leaving your cart in line, forcing people to wait for your return. Smile while you do this.
Are you a good friend? When you hear that juicy bit of gossip, break eye contact, look down, then look the gossiper straight in they eye and change the subject. Refuse to pass on gossip, snarky remarks or that embarrassing email someone sent you.
Because you are already good at these tasks, finding more ways to put them into action won’t be hard. You are following your inclination to make the most of your talents, rather than working against yourself rooting out a bad habit.
And you’ll find yourself still doing well in July, instead of feeling guilty by the second week of January. It’s a great feeling.
–Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach. She writes Imagination Works, a newsletter that supports creativity. (c) 2008 All rights reserved.