How to Keep Your Resolutions: Using the Power of Choose

New Year’s Resolutions. We all make them – clean out the garage, exercise more. We’ve been told making resolutions will make us happier. Making them isn’t the key to happiness. Keeping them is. Keeping them relies on how we approach our resolutions.

One important approach is to examine the words you use to describe your resolutions. The words we use are as powerful as the clutter in our garage or extra pounds on our hips. They can weigh you down or lift you up, because your words construct how you feel about yourself and your world. If you use negative words to describe how you will tackle your resolutions, you feel heavier, unempowered. If you use positive words, your resolutions seem more achievable.

I call the negative words ‘victim creating’, because they lock us into being a victim of our resolutions. This reduces the chance of our success.

What are the top two ‘victim creating words’? Have to. Should.

Have To

Saying ‘have to’ as you describe your New Year’s resolutions takes all the happiness out of creating a new way of being. ‘I have to exercise more.’ ‘I have to clean out the garage.’ The resolution becomes a burden because you’ve closed off all other options. There is only one path forward and it looks dreary and hard, or you would have done it sooner. You’ve told yourself you have to do the task, no matter what. You are victims of your own resolution.

Try saying out loud: “I have to exercise more”. Did your shoulders slump, did you feel weights on your feet? Now try saying: “I’m choosing to exercise more.” Can you feel the difference? The weights seem to lift and your shoulders straighten. You might even be smiling a little at the thought of a more vital you. Side note – sometimes you might experience what I call a ‘brain jangle’ when you say this. You think, “What? I’m choosing to take daily walks!? No way!” Here’s the good news. Once you realize you are choosing to exercise more, your brain searches for solutions to support your choice. Does it seem overwhelming? Call a friend and ask them to walk with you. Pick a destination to walk to, so it’s no longer a ‘one-mile-marathon’ but an adventure-walk to your favorite coffee shop. Just make sure you don’t order a half-dozen pastries when you get there! Sign up for dance lessons or a martial arts class. Are you a senior? Check out your local Silver Sneakers program. Exercising more can change from being a burden to something you look forward to. You see, choosing to do a resolution rather than having to do it will allow your creative imagination to come up with options to help you succeed.


The second victim word? Should.

We’ve all said it a thousand times. “I should do this,” or “I should do that”. It seems like a harmless word, as in ‘I should clean out my garage’.  How is this a problem when getting rid of broken tools and trash is a good thing? When you use the word should, all you’ve done is – well, say the phrase should on yourself three times really fast. See what I mean? You’ve dumped a load of should on your head. You’ve created shame, guilt, and discouragement about keeping your resolution to clean your garage.

What’s the way around shoulding on yourself? You guessed it – using the word choose. Pause and ask yourself why you used should. Is it because you think a clean garage is important? If the answer is yes, then creating an action plan will get it done. “I should clean out my garage,” becomes “I choose to schedule this Saturday morning to clean the garage.” You put it on your calendar. You set up four bins – Save, Trash, Donate, Recycle, ready to use on Saturday. When Saturday comes, you choose to take a cup of coffee out to the garage and start clearing.

Or, if you discover a clean garage isn’t a priority right now, then the should becomes, “I choose to schedule my garage cleaning later”. Again, block out a time on your calendar for a month or so from now.

You can treat the garage cleaning like a party. Send invites to your friends asking for their help, with the promise of snacks — snacks are always good.

Scheduling it now, or a month from now, tells your brain a clean garage is a priority you have chosen to accomplish. You will be amazed at the creative solutions your brain will come up with to make sure you keep your chosen resolution.

Decluttering your have-to’s and shoulds and replacing them with choose will empower you as you tackle your resolutions for 2019.

Terry Turner
As a military brat, Terry’s early life was spent enjoying other countries and cultures. Add to this her forty years of teaching Communication Skills in both aerospace and education, and she has many ideas to share and stories to tell. Now happily retired and living in Northern California, she spends her time writing and enjoying life.
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    I choose to thank you for this column. Clutter, here I come!

  2. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    I should stay up past midnight on New Years because I have to see the fireworks. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

  3. Good timing, Terry. Just yesterday I was standing in my train-wreck of a garage and telling myself that I should clean it. I’m the queen of shoulds, and of feeling crappy when I fall short.

    I needed this.

    Thank you.

    • Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

      It’s my pleasure! It’s so darn easy to “should on ourselves”. It’s good to have choices. 🙂