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For many of us, the New Year brings a fresh 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 talk about the paradoxical nature of the New Year experience, and how you can make it work for you.

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

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

Year-End Depletion

  • Coming off the holiday season, we are often tired, depleted, and vulnerable to being sold on dramatic solutions and interventions.
  • The media and marketers seize on this opportunity with aggressive campaigns that tap into our feelings of inadequacy and shame.
  • Buying into 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 making sustainable change typically require shifting time and resources away from current outflows and renegotiating current commitments, not just 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 grow as a person?
  • It’s also worth asking, with self-compassion: Why have you not already made or sustained this change? Hint: It’s not lack of willpower.
  • Locate your current position on the Readiness to Change spectrum. Know that it’s normal to repeatedly move back and forth between the stages of contemplation, preparation, and action.

Investigative Insight

  • Rather than making a long list of “shoulds,” consider focusing on one important area and working through a deeper change process (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 the behaviors required of the person we want to be.
  • Consider trying on your chosen capability or habit, even if you don’t feel ready to fully embrace it. Taking a small step or running a small experiment can help you incrementally shift your identity to match that behavior.
  • Finish the sentence “I am a person who . . . ” as though you have already made your chosen change. Notice: How does that feel in your body-mind?
  • Keep in mind that change is inherently disruptive. Short-term chaos is often the first step toward long-term joy.


Pilar suggests:
1) Make an Immunity Map by following the steps in the article “How to Overcome Immunity to Change” (available at “How to Overcome Immunity to Change“).

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

Dallas suggests: Look at the changes you want to make for 2019, and articulate the motivation behind them. Ask yourself: Am I doing this out of fear or out of love? Replace a behavior that has typically been fear-based with one done out of love. It may be the same action, but with a different motivation in play.

Listen and Learn: Check out this and other episodes of The Living Experiment podcast at Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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