New Year/New Process
At this time of having a year anew we often decide to have resolutions. I want to share two concepts with you that every person should keep in mind as they develop resolutions. The first is focusing on the process and not the outcome, the second is developing healthy living skills.
Process not Outcome
When we think of resolutions we think of overarching abstract goals for what we want in the New Year, like, “I want to spend more time with family”, or “I want to lose weight”, or “I will be a better father/mother”, etc. These ideas while good are not specific enough to be of service in the day to day living that we are engaged in. These statements are all outcome statements, while you want a specific outcome the abstract outcome is neither specific nor is it enough to sustain change in the moment.
Instead, focus on process. Process is to change the outcomes to specific behaviors I will engage in on a routine (daily, weekly, biweekly, etc.) basis.
Instead of “I want to spend more time with family” because it is too vague you would develop a set of habits that will increase the likelihood of spending more time with family. Some ideas include: “I will go to work a half hour early every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday so I can come home a half hour early to play a game with my children”, “I will turn off my cellphone and my computer while at home”, and “Every day will begin and end with family prayer”.
These are just three ideas of process, your process goals should be things you can maintain and be built upon with increased goals. Notice I said a half hour early not an hour or two early and only three days a week not every day.
The idea is to begin with something attainable that you can feel good about as you achieve the process goals and then over time you can increase those goals. Each individual will have different process goals to work toward attaining their desired outcome. Imbedded in process is the belief that you do not need to be PERFECT, you focus on IMPROVEMENT. Even having family prayer in the morning and night one day is better than not at all and it begins the process of having prayer every morning and night, it may not be every day at the beginning but it will come as you PRACTICE.
Healthy Living Skills
As you plan your resolutions you can focus on developing skills of healthy living. Healthy Living Skills are contained in the five categories of living: Emotional, Mental, Relational, Financial and Spiritual. You must first take stock of where you are and then plan a program of improvement where your goal is to improve yourself in each of the five categories with plans for ways you can grow little by little.
Within the Emotional category you might resolve to attend a yoga class to increase your ability to relax and not get overstressed, or you can resolve to spend fifteen minutes a day engaged in meditation practices.
In the Mental category you will want to set a goal for improving your knowledge or mental abilities. One goal can be to take one college course or to memorize a scripture a week.
The Relational category can be focused on improving an individual relationship, like having a fifteen minute conversation with my wife every night to discuss her feelings or improving a relationship skill, like practicing “active listening skills” once a day.
Financial resolutions should be something small, not “pay off all my debts” but something similar to “track my income and expenditures”. The tracking can build into paying off debts little by little or increasing savings at an achievable rate.
Spiritual growth should be a focus of every person no matter what level of spirituality they are currently. These can be as simple as writing a daily gratitude journal and use those entries in my morning and night prayers, or just setting a goal to pray first thing in the morning.
The goal is to improve yourself in each of the five areas, and bringing in the process not outcome concept you will begin with an activity that is achievable and can help you grow. Choose to only do one thing better in each category, do not get overzealous and set high expectations of change.
So, as you plan for your new year, develop process oriented healthy living goals. As you do, you will find your resolutions are both easier to maintain and they can grow all year long. These goals then become habits and you can find yourself not failing at a huge resolution but overtime growing and becoming better.