How to Look at New Years Resolutions Through a Different Lens | By Inga Michaelsen

Client considering New Year's Resolutions through a new lens

The tradition of New Year's resolutions goes back over 4000 years. Babylonians made promises and offerings to their gods at the beginning of the New Year, so the gods might bestow their grace upon them. During Caesar's time in ancient Rome, the first month of the year was named after the god Janus, a two faced god who looked backward into the old year and forward into the New Year. Resolutions were usually of a moral flavor—to be good to each other, to think of others etc.

In one form or another, the tradition of making New Year's Resolutions continues. Indeed, making New Years resolutions centered on the concept of self-improvement is still common. However, without fearing the gods any longer, most of us fail to follow through with what we resolve to do.

In fact, the failure rate of those who come up with goals for the New Year is 88% (2007, Richard Wisemann, University of Bristol), even though 52% of those who set out on New Years Resolutions feel confident they will succeed.

Let's explore why most people lose their motivation to reach their goals after only a short period of time.

Sadly, Resolutions are usually based on "Shoulds"

The way we approach New Year's Resolutions and goal setting is flawed as we most often come from a place of fear. Our inner critic makes us believe that what we did previously was not enough. So we create a "To do" list which is based on things we SHOULD be doing to correct the parts we like least about ourselves—what a "good" person would do.

Obviously, these goals come from a place that sabotages our resolve. They are stressful to pursue, often uninspiring, and drain our motivation.

But look closer...

If you observe closely beneath the surface, goals are always about creating a change in how we want to feel.

This year I want to invite you to clarify how you'd like to feel in the year ahead. Once clear on those feelings, you can envision those accomplishments and experiences that could make you feel that way.

Let's explore an example

One of my coaching clients struggles with obesity. Her goal is to lose weight by doing her exercise program regularly and not eating junk food.

When she explored the feelings she actually desired—the feelings that lay underneath this goal—this is what came up for her: she wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, to feel self-respect and love. She wanted to feel the joy she gets walking her dogs without being out of breath; she wanted to feel freedom. Not only did she become clear on how she wanted to feel, she also started to come up with different pathways to reach those desired feelings. And those pathways were no longer limited to her original goal.

She could take the dogs for a walk making the round a little longer everyday. She could stand in front of the mirror and feel grateful for who she was. Create a support group that will exercise two days a week with her. Celebrate small accomplishments. Make a weekly meal plan. Keep envisioning how she wanted to feel (feel it, smell it, taste it).

So, focus on feelings instead of specific goals

You see, if we attach ourselves to a very particular goal—we can get stuck. However, once you focus on your desired feeling you'll always find there's an abundance of paths to create what you want in your life. Your list of possible "to dos" becomes meaningful.

And you can start right NOW.

Here's a process to create powerful resolutions and goals

1) Look at your goals or resolutions list and ask yourself:

  • Why is that goal on there?
  • What's the desired feeling underneath that goal?

2) Then question yourself further:

  • What can I do today that gets me into this feeling?
  • What do I need to stop doing to get me into this feeling?
  • What new thoughts would get me into this feeling?
  • What thoughts get in the way of feeling this way?


When you get clear on how you want to feel, your action choices are informed by the heart of the matter. You start to see that life is full of opportunities to feel exactly the way you want to feel!

A great book to learn more on this topic is the "Desire Map" by Danielle LaPorte. She is a modern day goddess with tones of inspirational wisdom.

May your year ahead be blessed with infinite possibilities, a healthy mind, body and spirit and far exceed your expectations!

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Contributing Author:

Inga Michaelsen, CPCC, ACC purpose-driven leaders and their dispersed teams unlock their potential through Mental Fitness and customized virtual coaching programs. Check out her website and say hello on LinkedIn or Facebook.

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