Hey, it’s September! Time to look back and criticize yourself for which of your January resolutions you haven’t done and make new, more restrictive goals for the rest of the year. Yay you!
Uh, wait a minute…. I don’t know about you but this cycle of “goal making, goal not-reaching, goal re-making because I suck” left me feeling like crap. Add to that, no matter how harsh or restrictive I’d get with myself, it didn’t work. December would arrive and I’d be back in the cycle: looking at which September resolutions I hadn’t followed through on and how I can really double down and ‘get serious’ for the next year. Why did I think if something didn’t work, I needed to do the same thing more intensely for it to work?
How can we stop the “goal setting, goal breaking, goal re-making” cycle?
We have to do something different. We have to interrupt our brain’s regular programming.
Our brains are the most powerful tools on this planet yet we don’t pay attention to what we program our brains to do. (See last week’s blog post for more info on this) Our brains are happy when they’re being efficient. Let me repeat that: Our brains are happy when they’re efficient. That is very different than saying that our brains work efficiently to make us happy. They do not. They are machines and they do what we teach them to do. Over our lives, we’ve programmed them to do things that actually make us very unhappy. When we criticize ourselves for the goals we didn’t achieve, we are focusing on our shortcomings and bringing focus to what doesn’t work. Not only does this erode our confidence, it focuses our brain on what we did wrong, helping to program those behaviors in.
What’s the solution? Two things:
(1) Be nice instead of critical: Ask yourself: “What went well last month?” instead of “What went wrong?” Instead of reflecting on the past 8 months and pointing out everything we did wrong, start by looking at what you did well. What went well? What did you do that brought good results? How would your life change if you did more of that?
(2) Be Curious instead of judgmental: Ask yourself: “What can I learn from this?” instead of “How did I screw that up again?” Our brain will answer the questions we ask it to. If we ask it to find out what we did wrong, it will. If we ask it what we did well, it will find those answers
Put kindness and curiosity together and you get what I call a compassionate observer. When I choose to look back at goals that I’ve set as a compassionate observer, I stop being critical and judgmental. I ask myself questions like: ” What has worked? What has surprised me? What never works?” My intent is to learn from my actions, tweak what I’m doing, and move forward. My intent is no longer to criticize myself, point out my failures, and set new, stricter goals. This has been a life changer.
With KINDNESS — looking back at your day with the mindset “What can I learn from this?” or “What did I do well today”. The big shift is to approach your past with CURIOSITY instead ofJUDGEMENT.
It’s a new month and a great time to reflect back on what we’ve done this past year and where we want to go. Try doing something different this September: Reflect on your year and move forward as a compassionate observer. Why not? Often clients say they have to beat themselves into new behaviors. I ask: How’s that been working for you? Why not try a new way?
As always, let me know! Share your successes and lessons. Contact me for extra assistance or accountability. They do not teach us these things in school (yet!). #6weeks2 Reboot programs start every Monday in September. Why wait to feel better?