The countdown to the New Year is almost here!
We are just days away from opening the door to new beginnings. But how satisfied are you with how this year went? Was it all that you wished for, or do you feel disappointed because this was yet another year that you were not able to meet the goals you set for yourself? Or perhaps you met your goals but feel frustrated because they did not bring you fulfillment?
I have a little secret to tell you.
If your efforts did not bring you satisfaction this year, there is a good chance that your energy was misdirected.
Where you invested your time, attention, and resources is not what has the power to bring you fulfillment.
As an Integrative Wellness practitioner and the poster child of the cost of success without fulfillment, I want to share with you a life construction framework that can help you design your new year to be the beginning of a truly satisfying life.
The truth about New Year’s resolutions
During this time of the year, most of us take the time to reflect on what went well, what did not, and what we would like to do differently in the new year.
“A New Year’s resolution is a tradition in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life.” – Wikipedia
But why do New Year’s resolutions have such a high failure rate?
By January 7, a quarter of us give up on our new year’s resolutions, and a mere month later more than 60% of us will give up on them as well. What is the real barrier to lasting change in life improvement endeavors?
New Year’s resolutions’ blindspots.
Broadly speaking, our definition of success, which gives birth to our life strategies and new year’s resolutions, comes from our family, society, educational system, and culture.
It is an external view of success created by others and is problematic in the following ways:
1. This view of success focuses predominantly on material accomplishments, such as the size of our bank account, house, or job title.
2. It impacts only the physical aspect of our being while overlooking the other dimensions of our being, which are just as important:
· Our mental dimension, which includes our thought patterns, self-perception, beliefs, and how we view the world.
· Our emotional dimension, which includes our feelings and the relationships we have with ourselves and with others.
· Our spiritual dimension, which includes our true self, our personal development, our connection to community and the world, and our connection to a higher power, whatever that definition is for you.
3. Directing our energy to meet status quo expectations does not provide us with the motivation we need to fuel the transformations we want to accomplish. When our efforts are supporting someone else’s vision, and lack emotional, spiritual, and mental rewards, we lose steam quickly.
4. Living someone else’s vision negatively impacts important areas of our life.
For example, one may unconsciously sacrifice their primary relationship or deep connection to their children for a leadership promotion or a higher paycheck. Or one can have an incredible career at the expense of the health of their body.
I know all too well the cost of not nurturing all aspects of ourselves and how they affect one another!
As a young immigrant chasing the “American Dream,” I placed too much emphasis on climbing the corporate ladder at the expense of my emotional, mental, and spiritual health. The imbalance in the neglected parts eventually resulted in the collapse of every part of me, including my spine. Living with a severe spinal condition is not easy. But it was my awakening to understanding why Integrative Medicine is the biggest trend in Wellness.
“Integrative medicine embodies the original, but often-forgotten, model of health and wellness: It focuses on a whole-person approach equally addressing the patient’s mind, body, community and spirit as the means to reach optimal health.”-Dr. De Mello
I personally may never be able to restore my physical health to its beautiful original state. But today I am living my life’s purpose: To inspire and empower my fellow human beings embrace the transformative power of holistic (integrative) wellness.
I wrote this article to share with you a step by step path to bring holistic wellness home. If your current life planning method has left you feeling unfulfilled, I invite you to try planning your new year using an approach that works. The holistic life model has allowed me and my clients to break through conditioned ways of being and live a healthier, balanced life we enjoy. And you can too!
A new approach—The Holistic Life Model
At no point in our life do we get educated on the importance of caring for our entire being. A robust body of scientific evidence however, indicates that the most effective path to well-being is possible when we consider and care for the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Our mind, body, and spirit are not only interconnected with one another, but also have a significant impact on all important areas of our life: health, career and finances, family and relationships, and spirituality and self-development.
You can bring the Holistic Life Model home this year by creating a life plan (and new years resolutions), that involves caring for and nurturing all of you—the WHOLE person. Do you typically try to address a physical problem by taking actions to bring well-being into that physical area alone? Instead, you can begin to address the physical problem by including actions to bring or increase well-being into all four areas of self: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.
For example, you probably will not be able to experience lasting positive change in weight loss endeavors if you only focus on creating new eating habits. Weight loss is most successful when we combine addressing core issues that perhaps lead to emotional eating in combination with new eating habits. Which area of your life is causing you stress that you attempt to soothe through food? Is it your primary relationship, the one you have with your manager, or your difficult sister? Improving the quality of that relationship will help address the cause of emotional eating and increase your chance of accomplishing your weight goal.
Here are the steps you can use to plan a Holistic, Fulfilling, Happy New Year:
Step 1: Clearly define your vision.
If you had a blank canvas, what kind of masterpiece would you dare to create for your life?
Allow yourself the freedom and the space to dream for a minute.
Write down the elements of what you would define as a fulfilling life of health and balance if you paid attention to your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual self in all important areas of your life: health, career and finances, family and relationships, spirituality and self-development. Don’t limit your self by one-dimensional visions, like “becoming a millionaire.” Envision what kind of parent, or partner you want to be, how would you make a change in your community? In your vision, what do your daily rituals look like? What are your spiritual practices?
Don’t limit yourself by focusing on what you don’t want, like dropping an extra ten pounds. Dare to dream about what excites you. In your ideal life, would you be in the best shape of your life? Would you challenge yourself to win a dance competition?
By taking the time to create your life vision, circumstances will no longer drive your life. A strong vision will allow you to bring intentionality to all that you do to support you in becoming who you want to be.
Step 2: Identify the area currently in need of the most improvement.
This step can be a tricky one. Often times, an imbalance in one area is the root cause of what we experience as a problem in another. The experience I shared earlier—of trying to lose weight by dieting, when the root cause of your weight gain is emotional eating to deal with stress from a toxic relationship—is an example of this.
You are the expert in determining which part of your life needs your attention today to provide you with the highest return on your investment in improving your life experience as a whole.
Maybe you have accomplished much success in your career, but your primary relationship suffers. Maybe you have worked your way into great physical fitness, but your finances are in disarray. Maybe you have a great home, but you feel lonely. Or perhaps you have a good job and are financially comfortable, but you don’t feel fired up because your company’s vision is not congruent with yours. The clarity that comes with recognizing your biggest area of struggle will allow you to take the small, bite-size steps that will positively impact every aspect of your life.
Step 3: Determine the actions within your control that contributed to your problem.
The conventional way of thinking leads us to an automatic path of blaming external circumstances for our problems. However, this approach deprives us of the power to change the trajectory of our life story.
How did you contribute to what has become a challenging area of your life?
Maybe you can see how a person you chose to keep in your life did not honor your personal values or boundaries. Perhaps you kept one eye closed because you were afraid of being alone.
Maybe you followed a career path that is not meaningful to you for the high paycheck or because you believed it would enhance your sense of self-worth.
Or perhaps you played small and sacrificed your full potential because you were afraid of failure.
Becoming crystal clear about which of your actions created a problem in any aspect of your life may seem hard, but it is so worth the effort.
By recognizing your power to create your reality, you open the door to endless opportunities to make the necessary changes in the new year that will help you change your problem area into a break-through.
Step 4: Identify the small steps you can take today that will move you toward your vision.
We often get overwhelmed by choosing goals that are too elusive, like “being a millionaire,” meeting “the one,” “driving a Tesla,” or “living in a beach house.”
At the end of the day we all just want to be happy. Yet we forget that happiness is a state that we are in control of defining as we grow, learn, and do.
Perhaps going to happy hour was once your definition of what fulfilling social time looks like.
However, if your new vision is to live a life of service in the best shape of your life, maybe starting a hiking meet-up group for working moms is the action that will give you happiness now.
Happiness emerges when we choose all the little actions we can feasibly do every day that support and nurture our life vision.
When looking at the area you chose to prioritize as needing the greatest amount of improvement, what small actions can you take every day mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically to support this new life vision? If your vision is to be in the best shape of your life this new year, you can start small. For example, you can commit to daily 15-minute walk after dinner each night; Establish a fitness buddy to share fitness rituals with; Make a healthy vegetable soup for the week.
By taking small steps everyday that help us live our goals, as opposed to waiting for the day when they come to life, we can reset the tone for new happiness.
As one year is coming to an end and a new one is about to begin we take the time to reflect on what has worked for us and what we plan to change to be happier.
Yet it appears that the compass of our traditional new years’ resolutions is societal expectations that misdirect our energy and leave us feeling drained, unfulfilled, and stuck at the end of the year.
It is clear that the traditional model of building a fulfilling life does not provide us with the framework to bring wholeness to our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual dimensions.
There is a different way to approach life that puts us back in the driver’s seat—the Holistic Life Model.
This model requires that we are brave enough to step outside the orbit of status quo expectations and clearly define our authentic life vision.
Rather than only focusing on the size of our bank account, it involves deciding what kind of partner, parent, or community member we want to be.
This compelling vision then generates the unfathomable motivation that helps us align our daily actions to support it.
When we choose to live a conscious, holistic life, we end every year fulfilled because we experience satisfaction in the present moment, as opposed to waiting for an elusive goal to become a reality.
So why wait for January 1? You can choose this moment to begin your new, holistic life.
If you need help to do this, I am here for you. It is my mission as a certified Integrative Wellness coach to support you in changing anything that is not working for you by focusing on what you can control.
Because I can tell you one thing with certainty. Despite all the amazing adventures of my life, achieving goals and experiencing life in three different countries, nothing—no money, no job titles, no awards—can top how amazing it feels to take back control of your life.