Emotions and Resolutions

~ by Sherry Jean Olander, DEI Trainer & Consultant ~
photo credit: Heather Giasson

Most people I know don’t even bother to make New Year’s resolutions. Some folks who really want to make lasting changes in their life start out with the best of intentions, but you know the drill – they end up overwhelmed, discouraged, and depressed by the 2nd week of January. Are you one of these people?

If you search “how to set New Year’s Resolutions,” the internet will return a slew of links to tricks and ideas on how to make this year different. So why is the advice that I am about to offer any different? Because the insights I am about to share with you include an outrageously overlooked and neglected resource available to every single person – human emotions. What is the best way to make lasting change in your life? Channel the wisdom and energy of your emotions.

A resolution will not succeed with thoughts alone!

To be sure, if you do not know how to work well with your emotions – or understand the messages and wisdom that they are bringing to you – you will be at a severe disadvantage when making lasting changes in your life.

Here are 5 emotions that are crucial for successful resolutions:

ANXIETY: Now, when most people hear the word anxiety they think of something like a panic attack – heart racing, palms sweating, overwhelm, and lack of ability to do much of anything productive. That’s not the kind of anxiety I am talking about. In DEI, anxiety is one of the 17 emotions, and (as with all emotions) – when it is healthy and free-flowing – it brings you important gifts and skills.

Anxiety is the emotion that gives you the energy and focus you need to: make goals, organize, strategize, motivate, and stay on task to achieve your goals. Anxiety is what steers you back from distraction – as long as you learn how to engage with it. When you’re feeling anxious, ask yourself – “what truly needs to be done?”.

SADNESS: A lot of New Year’s resolutions have to do with letting things go, and that is right in sadness’s wheelhouse. Sadness is the very emotion that helps you let go of things. If there are relationships that just aren’t working, or belief systems, ideas, habits that need to change – the power of sadness will help you move on. You might be uncomfortable welcoming sadness into your life, but when there are things that aren’t working anyway – it’s those things that are the real problem. Sadness comes as gentle waves to help you wash those broken things out of your life.

CONTENTMENT: I would argue that this is one of the most important emotions to consider when working on your resolutions. Contentment, as we define it in DEI, might be better described as satisfaction or pride. Contentment arises when you succeed at goals, or when you are living up to your ideals and working toward being the person you want to be. It’s that burst of feel-good I got this energy – and without that, you will have a very hard time sticking to any goal. Contentment works in partnership with shame to keep you on the path to success!

SHAME: This emotion is highly misunderstood because it will unrelentingly uphold us to whatever messages and contracts we have agreed to, and there are two very different types of messages. One type of message comes from external sources (toxic or inauthentic) and the other kind aligns with your deepest self (authentic). When shame is upholding authentic messages, it may arise to nudge you to go to the gym or study for that test, or steer you away from eating that extra cookie or making that snarky comment to your mother.

The key is to tune in to your authentic messages, and not let the inauthentic messages (such as you have to be perfect to be successful (or loved, etc.) take over and squash out your contentment. Let these two emotions – shame and contentment – work together to keep you on course and allow you to feel good about your journey to reach your goals.

ANGER: This emotion is also misunderstood, because it has nothing to do with violence or fighting. Anger is about boundaries and about being able to separate and distinguish between what belongs to you and what belongs to other people. Anger is the emotion that helps you set boundaries, helps you define who you are, and helps you remember what is important to you. It also is crucial in helping you avoid enmeshment or the blurring between what you want for yourself and what others want for you. When anger arises, asking “what do I value” can help remind you of what is truly important to you.

If understanding emotions in this way is new to you, and you’ve never welcomed your emotions as allies in achieving your goals – why not try it? There are many trainers and consultants licensed in DEI who can help you incorporate this approach into your life. We offer workshops and classes, year-round, online and locally. Make this year different by harnessing the energy of your emotions!

Happy New Year!

May the Wisdom of Your Emotions Guide You to Success!!

2 responses on "Emotions and Resolutions"

  1. Hi Sherry – Thanks so much for writing this article. Over the holidays, I sadly had to let go of someone that I had thought was a friend. And yesterday I set a healthy boundary with a person who now thinks badly of me. Later, after I reread your description of the gifts of anger, I sat down and did some journaling – defining who I am. That really helped put things in perspective. Wishing you a fulfilling 2022 – Gracie

    • Hi Gracie, I’m sorry to hear about the broken friendship; I know that can be so hard. And I also know how disruptive setting boundaries can be in relationships that didn’t have them before. I read a quote somewhere: “Just because someone gets angry that you set a boundary, doesn’t mean you were wrong to set it.” I’ve found that a helpful thing to remember. I’m happy to know the article was supportive for you. Thanks for your comment, and keep up the great work with emotions!

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