Why? It’s a small word, but a mighty question, especially when it comes to setting a New Year’s resolution.
Some of the common turn-of-the-year goals are weight loss, financial fitness, and relationships. To resolve to improve or change something can be a positive pursuit. However, the desire to change—or even preparing an action plan to get there—isn’t always enough to make something stick.
Before you choose a resolution, understand why you want to slim down, save more money, or do whatever it is you strive to do. A purpose-driven resolution will help keep up your motivation come February 1, when the New Year’s hype has dwindled from your yoga teacher’s pre-class mantras and your social media feeds.
Here are five additional benefits of connecting with the why behind the resolution you set this New Year.
1. Forces You to Find Clarity
Getting from hazy to clear isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it. That clarity acts as your built-in accountability guide.
Take weight loss as a goal, for example. Today’s body-obsessed culture promotes being thinner and more toned at any cost, and oftentimes without regard to a specific health or other reason.
However, let’s say you identified family as the most important thing in your life. And your health care practitioner told you that the extra 20 pounds you carry in your mid-section puts 80 pounds of additional pressure on your joints. That pressure is what causes your arthritis and the pain in your knees every time you run, which keeps you from playing soccer with your son—something you love. Your why is now clear: In order to participate in this important time with your son, you need to hit the trail for a brisk, hour-long walk five days a week to slim down.
2. Helps You Find Your Flow
On January 1, you set a goal to go to one social event a week to try and meet new friends. But a few months in, you skip events for Netflix at home.
Is the acquisition of large numbers of friends the goal? Or is the goal to meet a person or a few people with whom you develop a deep connection and share common interests? Neither option is right or wrong, but it’s up to you to dig beyond simply meeting people and understand why you want to flow through the process to add more people into your life.
If you seek to add deeper connections, maybe it’s not about the number of events you go to. Rather, allowing yourself to attend events centered on topics of interest where you may meet like-minded people could be more important than the frequency.
3. Allows for Grace
You want to feel better overall. To achieve this, you set a goal to reduce how much sugar you consume each day as part of a healthy lifestyle. During the holidays, you had your fill of apple pie and gingersnaps so you find it easy to not eat sweets for two to three weeks.
However, your best friend’s birthday is the last week of January, and you know there’s going to be a dark chocolate cake there because that’s her favorite. Remember the goal you set for yourself: To reduce the amount of sugar you eat daily to feel better overall—not to cut it out completely.
There is nothing to feel guilty about. You haven’t failed. Plan to eat a piece of cake and celebrate your friend’s special day. And remind yourself that even sweet treats in moderation can have some health benefits. Dark chocolate, in particular, is known to help increase focus, according to a 2015 Northern Arizona University study.
4. Makes It More Fun
When you’re motivated by a thoughtful purpose, it’s easier to lighten up and have fun. Take budgeting, for example. The word “budget” can drum up a feeling of restriction. However, let’s say you want to get out of debt so you can then save enough money to take a two-week vacation in Costa Rica.
Saving seems impossible because you already feel stretched thin. However, you’re motivated.
You cut out all restaurant meals, scour the internet for cheap and healthy recipes you can cook at home, and bike or use public transit to get to and from work. The momentum excites you. Now it’s almost like a game. You slash and burn expenses from every column in your budget as you imagine yourself debt-free and on a surfboard in Tamarindo.
5. Encourages You to Trust Yourself
Is it as simple as an hour-long walk in nature alone a few times a week because the trees, birds, rocks, and dirt makes you feel more connected to every living and non-living thing in the universe, which in turn allows you to feel more purposeful? Fantastic, then look no further. There’s your why.
The why of your resolutions will help you clarify what it is you need and want. With refined goals and plans, you’ll be clear about your desires and that much closer to success.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.