Reflections, not resolutions, can lead to lasting positive change

Jan Kwiatkowski, LMFT, is a psychotherapist and mental health consultant for Aurora Family Service in Milwaukee, WI.

Jan Kwiatkowski, LMFT, is a psychotherapist and mental health consultant for Aurora Family Service in Milwaukee, WI.

Do you participate in the annual New Year’s ritual of making resolutions?

According to various internet dictionaries, the definition of resolve is: a firm decision to do or not do something. Some years I’ve made resolutions. Some years, not. Some years, I’ve had the energy to keep my resolve and follow though for a few weeks. Some years I’ve even made it a few months.

I had good intentions. The resolutions were intended for positive change. So what stopped me?

Like everyone, I have things to improve, relationships to work on and areas I want to develop. Like many, these seem to be consistent from year to year. I may small progress year by year. When I look back over a lifetime, I realize there has been some substantial change. As I reflect on the year passed and the year to come, I’m thinking not so much about resolution, but more about practice.

As a licensed marriage and family therapist (and human being), my fundamental stance is that every human being is fundamentally good and somewhere inside is the knowledge we need to engage and continue the lifelong process of become the persons we want to become. It’s also really clear that life circumstances can really overwhelm individuals and families.

Making any kind of resolution, much less gathering the energy to turn it into reality, is just not going to happen.

I wondering if our approach to changing something in our lives, whether in the form of a New Year’s resolution or a necessity of life,  is what gets on our way.

Do we desire improvement because we are somehow bad and need to be fixed? Do we take on resolutions knowing that wellness in body, mind and spirit supports the energy we need to work on developing at every stage of our individuals and family life? I suspect many of us are operating under the first assumption, rather than the second, which is strength-based.

As the New Year begins, I offer a different approach. Reflect on your overall growth and development for the past 5-10 years and ask yourself these eight questions about you and your relationships:

  • What do I value most about myself and my relationships?
  • What has brought me joy and sorrow?
  • What was my contribution to that joy or sorrow?
  • What strengths and what areas of growth do I observe?
  • Do I love myself and relationships enough to be glad for and celebrate what is strong?
  • Do I value myself and relationships enough to be honest about what needs to change?
  • Can I be kind to myself with both the  healthy and that which needs growth or healing?
  • What am I willing to practice doing or not doing?

I believe practice is the key word. In reality, we are all practicing at becoming the kind of reason we want to be. My mom used to tell me that “practice makes perfect.” I would modify that by saying “practice is a lifelong process”. None of us is or can be perfect. All of us can practice.

After you reflect on the questions above, decide what you want to practice this year. Decide what supports you need in place to support your practice. It might be a physician, therapist, exercise coach, a family member, more sleep, joining with practicing others of like mind, etc. do what you can to get those supports in place.

Even if we don’t succeed at huge changes, the fact that we are resolute in practice changes us. My suspicion is that if we  trust the “process of practice”, the changes we seek in ourselves and our relationships will evolve and remain over time, because they have become natural part of lifelong practice, rather then enforced admonitions from inside ourselves.

At Aurora Family Service, we are able to help with lifelong practice in almost any area of life. Give us a call at 1-414-345-4560,  so we can assist you developing your practice in the coming year.

Aurora Family Service helps families overcome challenges, changes and crisis to live well again.

We achieve stability and strength for families through counseling, parenting, elder care, financial, career, health and community services.  For more information, visit our website, follow us on Facebook, or call 1-414-342-4560.


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