Jan 7, 2014

What To Do When You Break Your New Year's Resolution

After yesterday's post about my goals for 2014, I thought it would be a good time to think about what to do when we (inevitably) start slipping in our resolutions. My friend Lacy is the perfect person to talk about this. Her new book, Pilgrim Principles: Journeying with Intention in Everyday Life is about living each day intentionally, which is something I know most of us would like to accomplish this year. Take it away, Lacy!



 It’s All About the “Why”: For When You’ve Already Broken Your Resolution

Since we’re already a week into 2014, I’d like to make a new resolution, one that starts with the why instead of the what. Don’t know what a what resolution is? For an example, let’s go with the archetype of all New Year’s resolutions: you join a gym. You commit to work out everyday, but then one morning your 6am alarm seemed particularly early, and before you know it - you've rolled over and pressed snooze. This is a what resolution, a fleeting intention that dies quickly once you become distracted. It’s focused on doing, and once the doing ends, the resolution often ends with it. It’s not that it wasn’t good resolution; it just didn’t give you the grace and guidance you needed to really make a change. My theory? It’s because we often start with the what instead of the why.

When we start with the why, our resolutions are less guidelines (I’m going to do this! Every day! For a year!), and more guideposts. They help us get back on track when we’ve lost our way. The whys happen to be far more meaningful, too. While the what of your resolution might have been to go to the gym everyday, the why might be, “I want to have more energy.” And so when your alarm goes off at 6am and you’re wondering why on earth you’re getting up when it’s still dark outside, instead of cursing the what (“Ugh! Why do I have to do this?”), you remember the why (“Man. I don’t want to get out of bed! But I want—and downright need—more energy.”).

But what about those mornings when your why isn’t too convincing? Then it’s time to ask another why: “Why is this not working?” Maybe you need to go to bed earlier or try working out in the evenings instead. Or maybe you just capital-H Hate the gym and are more suited to a yoga studio, or would be better off with a walk around your neighborhood to clear your mind, or time on an elliptical machine at home while you watch the morning news or catch up on your favorite comedies (See? Netflix can be a part of your New Year’s resolutions). 

When your resolution starts with a why instead of a what, your intentions aren’t based on doing something (which typically makes us feel like we’ve failed), but on feeling something (true inspiration for transformation). They are less mandates and more practices. And practices give us the grace and the space to start over again and again, because they are something we can return to day after day, no matter yesterday’s outcome. 

“Always, we begin again,” St. Benedict famously said, and returning to the why of our resolutions instead of the what allows us to do so. We might like the idea of making New Year’s resolutions because a new year seems like a new beginning, but with each weekend comes a new week; with each day, a fresh start; and with each moment, an opportunity to “begin again”—to remember our why, and to then determine the what.

*** 
Learn more about daily practices and intentional living in Lacy’s new book, Pilgrim Principles: Journeying with Intention in Everyday Life, available in print at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com and also available for Kindle.



Lacy Clark Ellman is a lover of food, books, spirituality, growing and making things, far off places, and lovely spaces. She writes about intentional travel and living and shares stories of other pilgrim’s journeys at
asacredjourney.net.






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What to do when you break your new year's resolutions 

15 comments:

  1. I love this guest post and her book sounds amazing! Talking about the "why" makes so much sense and def makes me reconsider how I think about the things I want to make long term resolutions. I just found your blog recently and I love it already! Thank for helping those of us who always end up falling off the resolution wagon :)
    -Samantha

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    1. Glad it's helpful, Samantha! It's definitely something I have to return to everyday, especially when I'm getting onto myself for not following through on my "what." Thanks for sharing!

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  2. i love this, i think i could gain so much from her book! one of my why's for maintaining an exercise regime in 2014 is so i can fit into my clothes better. it definitely gives me encouragement when i step on the treadmill because i know i am one step closer to that than if i would have said, "i'll just exercise tomorrow."

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    1. Sounds like a great "why," Heidi! I love that thought — "...because I know I am one step closer...."

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  3. I try to live by the why rather than the what. For many years I have been picking a theme. This year is freedom and restoration. 2013 was a difficult year. So I want to be restored this year. This includes through healthy living and being more present. First step was deactivating Facebook!

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    1. I love the idea of picking a theme! This year I did something similar, and have a word for 2014: "sink in" (okay, two words). I'll be sharing about it tomorrow on my blog, asacredjourney.net if you'd like to know more about it. Like your themes, I'm hoping that remembering to "sink in" helps me to stay more present. And I know what you mean about Facebook! While it can be fun at times, it's amazing just how much it can suck us in, sometimes bringing more bad than good!

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  4. My "why" is that I need my mind and body to be healthy - that's why I'm striving to be intentional and simplify this year!

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    1. Such a good "why," Susannah! And I love the "what" that it inspires, too. I'm always trying to simplify. I'm not sure if the process ever ends!

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  5. I want to be more intentional about prayer this year... that's why I made prayer cards, and I'm hoping I can stick with it all year! :)

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    1. That's such a great idea, Amanda. Are you writing out prayers on your cards, or prompts or requests? I'd love to know more. I was thinking just this morning about being more intentional about prayer this year, too.

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  6. Didn't make any resolutions this year because I feel like I have failed the last few years. This book sounds like a good read.

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  7. I loved your focus on St. Benedict's "Always, we begin again." Focusing on the why not the what of the changes we want is so much more helpful and hopeful! This is the best post on resolutions I've read in a long time. Thanks for sharing your words and wisdom with us!

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  8. My main goal is to lose weight. Why? Because I need to become healthier and look and feel better!
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

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