Are you with the 42% that makes promises?
Or the 8% that fulfills them?
After the gifts, the choices, the paper tearing, the movie marathons, and the shopping eating drinking frenzies that are the holidays, you’ll get another chance to start fresh.
There’ll be this magical door closing behind you.
And another one will simultaneously open into an unknown, impossibly exciting future.
Despite the obstacles, you’ll sit there reflecting on what you learned in the past year. You’ll think about what you can do better this next time around the sun. Who you’ll be. And how you’ll turn into that person.
Like the time I made the resolution to figure out if I was a writer or not. I wrote on and off all my life, had a few publications, etc. But I never considered myself a writer. And here’s the kicker: I never even wanted to be. Being a writer felt like more of a suspicion than a fact. And over the years, I began wondering about that suspicion. Eventually, I found myself wanting to test it. But I had a problem.
I was scared.
The One Shift That Changed Everything
I started looking at writing as a verb, not a noun.
Was I a writer? Calling myself one, especially before I felt as if I’d earned it, felt scary.
The good news is that it wasn’t a decision to make, a “yes” or “no” question. It was a process based on a series of habits and nothing more. I had to make it simple. Achievable. So I focused on the verb. I defined being a writer simply, as someone who writes regularly and with serious intent.
The verb “to write” had to be present before the noun, writer, could emerge.
What I really wanted to do was start a new habit and let it transform my identity. This let me off the hook because I didn’t transform myself as much as the actions I took did.
Resolve is a Word of Power
I like to remember that the word “resolve” is also a noun and a verb, too. It can refer to the action of making a firm decision or finding a solution. It can also refer to the state of being firmly decided towards a course of action.
I did both. I decided to figure something out, and then I made a commitment to the process it would take to figure it out.
But I didn’t do this unsupported. I had a toolkit, and an organic, hobbled-together set of principles I’ve used over the past six years to support my resolutions.
The Basics for Making a Resolution Real:
- Start a Journal and Don’t Stop. Writers and artists who journal have a much higher chance at succeeding in their goals (i.e. not quitting) than those who don’t. And the connection between journalling, achievement and healing is well known and well researched. I started this blog as a way to journal about my resolution, and I can say without hesitation that it helped motivate me more than anything else.
- Write Your Resolution Down and Have Tea with It (often).There are so many awesome planning tools out there. You can use your journal, but I need more structure and guidance. My favorites are Leonie Dawson’s Business Planner and Life Planner. I’ve used them for years and love the “BIG 100 THINGS TO DO” section. No, I never get to all one hundred. Especially when they involve living wills and weekly bookkeeping. But I have noticed that this list is an amazing little engine that moves me forward throughout an entire year.
- Find Books and Other Resources that Help. I don’t know about you but what often compels me to change is the feeling that I’m officially sick and tired of myself. So the process of change usually begins in difficulty. And it often remains difficult. But it’s also exhilarating when I use support to help me succeed.
- Do the Eff-ing Work.
- Celebrate Your Successes Along the Way. Build forts, eat ice cream sundaes, drink whisky sours. Do whatever leans in and whispers life is sweet! on any given day. The case for pleasure and play is a strong one. But ultimately I believe I don’t need a reason to do something that feels good. Mama Gena’s School for Womanly Arts is an excellent place to start when you need some “bliss over busy.”
- Take the Results Day By Day. My friend just got her first poem accepted by Poetry Magazine. She’s already published two books, has two on the way, is an editor for one of the most prominent U.S. literary journals, and has won numerous awards. She was just in Oxford giving a special week long lecture. True, all she could talk about was how Harry Potter was filmed in the Bodleian Library, but whatever. She’s obviously successful and better yet, doesn’t take herself terribly seriously. And she’s been submitting to Poetry Magazine for 15 years!!! When I fear rejection, or the results feel agonizingly slow, I study up on the rejection and “making-it” experiences of successful writers. I suddenly find yourself in fantastic company!