I went to a training and learned the simple yet powerful phrase, “Whatever you resist, persists.” That training was thirty years ago, yet the idea and understanding in that pithy phrase never left me. I have thought of it many times and it has helped me greatly. In my last blog post: “New Year’s Resolutions that Really Work: How do you do a don’t?” I talked about positive, proactive solutions you can engage in to modify troubling behaviors. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want to do in your life, you generate ideas around what you do want to do instead.
When I learned “What you resist persists,” I began to observe the behaviors in myself that I wanted to change, rather than judge those behaviors negatively and try to control them. I began to consciously engage in the behaviors and “wear them out” rather than try to “give them up.” This requires a very different mindset. I did this by watching myself decide to do something, then really paying attention to what that experience was like, and then tuning into how I felt afterward.
Rather than beating myself up when I made choices that didn’t reflect or support my overall goals, I learned to ask myself gently, “What need did that behavior meet?” (and as things evolved and I was more proactive in changing my behaviors, “What need will this behavior meet?”), and, “What is another way I can meet that need in a way which doesn’t result in me feeling anxious, or guilty, or angry — or in despair that things will never change?”
In that way I was able to free myself from “addictive” behaviors.
Jiddu Krishnamurti summarized it nicely with this phrase, “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” This is how to make New Year’s resolutions that really work.