Text image: Why do New Year's Resolutions fail?

Why do New Year’s Resolutions fail?

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The first big reason that resolutions fail is that you haven’t chosen a resolution that suits you. Where you are in your life and what you actually want are important things to consider. If you missed it, that was what we talked about last week:

Another reason that resolutions fail is that people expect to use willpower. They expect to force themselves to go through with their goals. Willpower will only take you so far. On days when you’re tired or stressed, willpower isn’t enough. And if you’ve been muscling your way to try to reach your goal thus far, you won’t have built up a habit. There has to be a better way.

text image: Willpower will only take you so far. Habits will take you the rest of the way.

To paraphrase James Clear: You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your habits1. And savouring your practices is one way to cement a habit.

Practicing the foundation of Savour is one way that you can build a better habit and stick to your goals. How? Well, stick around that’s exactly what this post is all about 🙂

What does ‘Savour’ mean anyway?

The word savour brings to mind feelings of peace, calm, and enjoyment. The first two – peace and calm – are things that are missing in our modern world for most of us. Our culture (in North America) prioritizes being ‘busy’. When we are busy, it makes us feel important. But when we are busy we don’t have time for rest, reflection – or that peace and calm. So when we allow ourselves the time and attention to savour an experience, it feels good.

text image: Peace. Calm. Enjoyment. Savour

I’ll give you an example from my own life. One thing I savour is writing. Especially writing with a pen and paper, but even typing on the keyboard (with a mug of tea) is an experience that I savour. My brain slows down a little, and the world makes a little more sense.

So when my brain gets to whirling around a million miles an hour, I crave the feeling of writing. I crave having a pen in my hand and seeing ink flow onto the page. When I savour that physical experience, it sinks in a little deeper. And then when I’m feeling “off”, when I’m busy, when I’m stressed, I want to write more. It’s the opposite of what usually happens with a New Year’s Resolution.

Savouring an experience also makes it more enjoyable. So if you savour a delicious healthy meal, you’re more likely to want to eat healthy again in the future. Not because it’s “healthy” but because it was enjoyable. Just like when you savour a walk or a yoga session, you’re more likely to want to do it again. After a while you stop doing it because it’s your goal, and you start doing it because you want to, you enjoy it, and it has become something you just do. In other words, it becomes a habit.

That’s cool and all but how do I do that?

In awareness meditation, the basic instruction is to focus on your breath and return to it when you get distracted. You aim to drop the judgements about being distracted. You simply begin again each time you notice your mind has gotten carried away following a thought.

text image: Bring your attention to what you want to savour.  Drop the judgements. You will get distracted. Simply begin again.

This same instruction works when we want to savour an experience. Take a deep breath (or two or three) to slow down before you begin. Focus on the positive feelings and sensations that the experience brings up – the calm, peaceful enjoyment of this present moment. Focus on whatever feels good about the activity or experience.

Whenever you get distracted by a random thought, remember your intention to Savour the experience. Bring your attention back. You’re not judging yourself. A thought about work might just pop in your head. Or you might feel frustrated because you aren’t as good as you want to be yet. Simply remember that you want to savour the experience and remember something positive about what you’re doing.

What exactly should I focus on?

Here are a couple examples, but pick whatever seems right at the moment. There’s no wrong answer.

If your New Year’s Resolution is to get fit

If your resolution is to get fit, then your plan is to do some kind of physical activity on a regular basis. First off, I hope you’ve picked an exercise that you like at least a little. There are a ton of different ways to be active so find one that works for your body. What is it that you like about it? If you’re not sure or haven’t thought about it in this way, here’s a few things you might savour while you’re active

  • the fresh air (if you’re outside)
  • the feeling of your body moving after sitting all day at work
  • the feeling of moving and getting the blood flowing first thing in the morning, feeling your energy build for the day
  • feeling strong
  • feeling capable of doing what you set out to do
  • listening to great music or the sounds of nature
  • the rhythm of your feet hitting the ground while you walk or run

If your resolution is to eat better

I’ve talked a before about about what healthy eating looks like so I won’t get into that right now. But even without knowing the specifics of your plan, I’ve got a couple ideas of things you could savour:

  • the tastes and textures of your food (i.e. eating mindfully)
  • the way you feel as you eat and after you’re done
  • the joy of preparing your own food
  • feeling connected to the people you’re eating or cooking with
  • the calm and quiet of cleaning up after you’re done
  • the excitement of trying a new recipe or food

Bottom Line

Savouring the moment is another way of discussing mindfulness. We talked in December about the idea of mindfulness as rest, and we’ve talked about the importance of rest. The basic idea is this: In order to feel our best, do our best, and live the Good Life, we need to balance out doing and resting. It allows us to recover from a long day of work or an emotionally difficult situation. When we savour a moment, we can get a little break in the middle of the doing.

Savouring an aspect of an experience, or the whole thing, is one way to ground yourself in the present moment, and it also helps to cement what you are doing as a habit. It reminds yourself that you actually do like what you’re doing – or at the very least some part of it. You much most likely to do something you enjoy than something you dread – and that difference may be entirely under your control.

Let me know: How are you going to incorporate the idea of Savour into your New Year’s Resolutions?

You are reading this because you are interested in improving your life. That means we have something in common. I’m still working on what the Foundations for the Good Life is all about, and I’d love for you to join me in this journey. I’d love to build a community with you. With people who are trying to figure out what “the good life” means, and how to set up their life to make it possible for them.

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  1. I’ve seen him mention this in a few different blog posts, and it’s a key quote in his most recent book, which I recently started reading. Here’s a tweet he posted recently with the actual quote, which he in turn adapted from the Greek poet Archilochus.

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