Resolutions: Saying No to make room for Yes…

Pencil drawing by Diane Mottl (

Pencil drawing by Diane Mottl (

I just read a statistic saying that of the 45% of Americans who make New Year’s Resolutions, only 8% will achieve them.1

Why is that?

It’s not like there isn’t enough information out there about goal setting and achieving dreams. A few keystrokes and Google has reams of articles on how to set (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely), the , and how to use . Five minutes of digging can uncover tonnes of motivational, instructional and theoretical words to help us make the changes we know we should be making.

Know we should be making.

Maybe that’s one of the biggies getting in the way. What is our motivation – really? Not the superficial, quick answer but the deep-down-I-have-given-this-significant-thought answer. It is easy to say “I will do this…” but hard to put into practice if we have not looked deep enough to uncover the pushes and pulls within us.

Most of us start off with good intentions, but when we stumble and tumble (which inevitably happens to all of us) it’s those pushes and pulls that play a big part in what happens next. Are we quick to punish ourselves? “I guess I’m just not motivated enough…I can’t seem to follow through on anything…I don’t have the will power…Too much is going on right now for me to do this…”

Reaching a goal is a complicated mix of old and new. To say yes to something new, we have to say no to something old, no to something familiar, no to a habit, no to an old pattern, no to an old belief…

Without saying no, have we really created the space for the yes of something new?

“The mental and physical space we create by letting go of things that belong in our past gives us…the option to fill the space with something new.” – Susan Fay West

How many times do we jump in all gung-ho, committed to the new yes (diet, exercise, or some other self-improvement goal) only to find ourselves struggling to follow through once the initial blast of energy starts to fade away and real life begins to intrude again? When the alarm clock goes off at 5:00 a.m., we roll-over and say to ourselves that sleep is more important and we will exercise tomorrow. Did we say no to the routines that kept us up late the night before? Likely not. Most of us just add more to the list, rather than taking something off to make room for the new yes to grow.

How many times do we carry past “failures” with us, so when we stumble our first thoughts are “See, I can’t do it. I tried again, but I can’t do it”? Saying yes to believing we can do it, also takes saying no to the little voice that says we cannot. It means saying no to self-judgement and saying yes to self-love.

For the yes to stick, we need to honor it by clearing the way. The more in tune we are with ourselves — what motivates us, what trips us up, what we may need to let go of — the more light there is on the path. It will not stop us from tripping, but it will set the stage for us to be kinder and more patient with ourselves when we do. And each time we let go of the bits and pieces that hold us back, the more we make room for the yeses.

“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.” – Brooks Atkinson

“The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” – Edith Lovejoy Pierce

“To let go is to release the images and emotions, the grudges and fears, the clingings and disappointments of the past that bind our spirit.” – Jack Kornfield

“Around here, we don’t look backwards for very long…We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

“In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.” – Deepak Chopra

“I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s.” – Henry Moore

1 University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology. Published 12.13.2012 ().

One Response to “Resolutions: Saying No to make room for Yes…”

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  1. Brenda says:

    I am one who doesn’t ever make resolutions for New Year’s, nor any other time, really. Rather, I find that setting a goal whenever that goal comes to mind and then making the necessary changes to attain that goal leads to less self-defeating results. Henry Moore has it right.

    Every action has an opposite and equal reaction: basic physics. It applies to making changes to one’s life, too. Each habit needs another habit (a good habit!) to replace it, so that the good habit eventually pushes the bad habit out of reach. I don’t think bad habits ever go away — they are ingrained behaviour, for sure — but I do think that they can be replaced. Your statement about “needing to clear the way” is so very true!