Is it over yet?
Have you lost all that turn-of-the-year resolve and broken your new year’s resolutions? Or are you still holding strong?
Or maybe you’re like me–the type who doesn’t bother. If you’re not ready to make a change come January 1, you know you’re likely to let yourself down before long. Besides, any day is a good day to start a healthy habit, break a destructive one, or name a new intention.
One of the reasons new year’s resolutions are so often broken is because they tend to focus almost exclusively on behavior. And when behavior is isolated from its supporting cast–cousins like beliefs, attitudes, values, thoughts, and emotions–it’s pretty tough for us to change.
Here’s the thing: behavior is an outcome. It does not happen in isolation, nor does it spontaneously emerge from the oven, baked and ready to enjoy. It’s a recipe of many ingredients, mixed and heated in our inner worlds, and we have the ability to control and change most of them.
It’s natural for us to believe our behaviors are caused by our circumstances, and our thoughts and feelings are too. But, as cognitive-behavioral counseling and coaching will teach you, they are all caused by one another–and by how we choose to respond to our circumstances. Our first responses are usually in our thoughts–whether or not we are aware of those thoughts–and those thoughts produce our feelings and our behaviors.
For example, you may feel dejected after a difficult day at work. The day didn’t go as planned. You became frustrated or you suspected you were overlooked or undervalued. It’s easy to link your despondent feelings to the circumstances. But you will miss something very important if you fail to consider your thoughts. Maybe you’re thinking, “This job isn’t working.” “I’m a failure.” “I looked like an idiot.” Whatever your thoughts, your emotions are reacting to them.
It’s even more powerful to recognize that you could feel differently if you were to change your thoughts, even if your circumstances didn’t change at all. For example, it’s going to be more productive to choose thoughts like “This job is challenging,” “I learned something important today,” and “I have more to learn.” And when you make that choice, you’ll feel differently–even though you’re in the same job.
So how do we begin to change our thoughts? First of all, we ask God transform us through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Then we intentionally turn some attention to our thoughts and notice what’s going through our heads, examining it for truth. Finally, we reconsider our beliefs, attitudes, and values. And during this whole process, it can be very helpful to enlist the support of someone like a counselor or a coach.
It’s also important to realize that while our thoughts are powerful, they are subject to these much more powerful forces: the things we believe, the things we treasure, and our orientation toward life. These are what determine the direction our thoughts will take. If our thoughts and feelings are self-destructive, it’s wise to take a look at what we truly believe about ourselves, about God, and about the people around us. If we find ourselves repeating thought patterns over and over, it’s a great idea to address the attitude we carry with us into life’s circumstances. And if we find ourselves frequently at odds with the people and events around us, it’s a signal to consider what we value.
All three are worth working on. But beliefs and values are big ships–they turn slowly. If you want to see immediate results, your attitude is more like a speedboat. It’s the most fluid, the one most subject to change, and the one you can access most readily. Changing the way you walk into a room can immediately determine your experience (and everyone else’s) in that room. And this will ultimately affect your behavior.
So if you’re resolved to make a change, try starting with your attitude. And if you want some coaching to support your transformation, remember I can help with that: http://amysimpsoncoaching.com/.
© 2019 Amy Simpson.