This new year, forget “I should” and dream big

As Christmas fades and January looms into view, the old familiar spectre of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ rears its head. Perhaps you’re somebody who loves the idea of turning over a new leaf and attempting to change a habit come January; it’s a convenient way of focusing on the year ahead and forgetting our Christmas excesses.

But we’ve actually got the whole idea of new year’s resolutions wrong.

We tend to focus on what we think we ‘should’ be doing – going to the gym, eating more healthily, working harder, getting round to avoided chores. And these are obviously admirable aims with the best of intentions.

But how many of us stick successfully to an ‘I should’ resolution’? They’re not really that inspiring; they involve making ourselves do things we don’t really like doing (otherwise we’d already be achieving them and they wouldn’t be on a list on 1st January!) and have usually been kicked into the long grass by March.

‘I should’ resolutions originate from the primitive parts of our brains…

 They’re products of the ancient areas of our grey matter designed to keep our caveman selves safe from danger by embedding habits (like ‘run fast when you hear a mammoth’, or ‘don’t eat something with flies on it’) as neural connections, making them automated, unconscious responses. ‘Should’ habits are also influenced by our childhoods, the behaviours our parents taught us and the ‘right and wrong’ view of the world we had as kids.

‘Should’s help you survive; they keep you healthy and safe, but they don’t often make you happier or more fulfilled. We are no longer hunter-gatherer cave-dwellers at risk of being eaten, so we can afford the luxury of setting our goals and resolutions on a higher plane than basic survival.

Imagine what it would be like to forget the ‘should’s and focus on what you really want from life in 2020 and beyond. Imagine setting goals that will make you feel happier and more fulfilled long-term, not relatively smug for two months before the inevitable feeling of failure.

Don’t be afraid to dream big!

New year’s resolutions should actually be about what matters most to you in life. So if an exercise routine or signing up to a marathon would genuinely form the basis of your hopes and dreams then go for it. But most of us dream of more…if anyone ever asked us.

The problem is we’ve never been taught or encouraged to dream. Dreams are seen as fanciful or far-fetched, an alternative ‘in another life I might have…’ fantasy. But in fact, visualisation of your dreams is a proven technique in achieving them. Forming a mental picture of an event or goal – going over its minute details and repeating the exercise regularly – stimulates the creative subconscious, which in turn generates ideas, attracts people and resources, and encourages internal motivation. It’s even been proven to boost Olympic performance, so it’s surely worth a go.

Start by asking yourself some of these questions…

  • What does my ideal day look like?
  • If I could wave a magic wand what would my future look like?
  • Imagine it’s the end of 2020 and everything has gone to plan. What does life look like now?
  • Now look back over 2020, what did it take to get where you are?

Basing your new year’s resolutions on your dreams rather than your bad habits starts the year off in a positive fashion, with belief and excitement about what might be achieved rather than a personal telling-off that we’re not up to standard.

So give your big dreams the attention they’re due this January, and who knows where you might find yourself this time next year…

Dream Big