For many of us, the New Year brings a brand new start — an opportunity to get a new outlook on life. But it also brings a predictable flood of warmed-over media messages and “no-fail” plans that fail to deliver.

So in this installment of The Living Experiment, we discuss the paradoxical nature of the Year experience, and how you can make it work for you.

Whether it’s opting out of dietary fads and workouts or embracing the long-standing tradition of reflecting on your right-now priorities, we encourage you to definitely investigate your desires for change and also the motivations behind them.

We share expert theories about why our goals tend to elude us and offer experiments that will help you identify and embrace the New Year adjustments that matter to you.

Year-End Depletion

  • Coming from the holiday season, we are often tired, depleted, and susceptible to being sold on dramatic solutions and interventions.
  • The media and marketers seize on this opportunity with aggressive campaigns that make use of our feelings of inadequacy and shame.
  • Buying in to the constant exhortations to have “your best year ever!” or “your best body ever!” can backfire, fueling magical thinking — or cynicism and apathy.
  • The biggest challenges to creating sustainable change typically require shifting resources and time away from current outflows and renegotiating current commitments, not only pushing yourself harder.

The Value of Preparation

  • Seasonally speaking, the dead of winter is a great time for contemplation, reflection, review, and planning, but not necessarily the best time to spring into action.
  • Consider, without jumping to solutions or resolutions: What parts of your life are calling for change, and where are you being invited to develop as a person?
  • It’s also worth asking, with self-compassion: Why perhaps you have not already made or sustained this change? Hint: It’s not insufficient willpower.
  • Locate your current position around the Readiness to Change spectrum. Realize that it’s normal to repeatedly move backwards and forwards between the stages of contemplation, preparation, and action.

Investigative Insight

  • Rather than creating a long list of “shoulds,” consider focusing on one important area and working through a deeper change process (begin to see the experiments below).
  • Can you reframe your perceived problems (e.g., weight, debt, bad habits) as symptoms of underlying challenges? Often, these come down to excess stress, competing values or commitments, vague boundaries, or unaddressed psycho-emotional issues.
  • Self-sabotage of our goals is often based on dissonance between our current identity and also the behaviors required of the person you want to be.
  • Consider trying on your chosen capability or habit, even though you don’t feel ready to fully embrace it. Going for a small step or running a small experiment can help you incrementally shift your identity to complement that behavior.
  • Finish the sentence “I'm a person who . . . ” as though you have already made your chosen change. Notice: How does that feel inside your body-mind?
  • Keep in mind that change is inherently disruptive. Short-term chaos is truly the first step toward long-term joy.


Pilar suggests:
1) Make an Immunity Map by using the steps in the article “Dealing with Immunity to Change” (available at “Dealing with Immunity to Change“).

2) Create a Goal Flower while using “Cultivate Your Goals” section of Pilar’s Refine Your Life workbook (offered at ­

Dallas suggests: Look at the changes you want to make for 2021, and articulate the motivation in it. Ask yourself: Am I doing this from fear or out of love? Replace a behavior which has typically been fear-based with one done from love. It may be the same action, however with a different motivation in play.

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