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Stuck with the Same New Year’s Resolution Year After Year? Try This. {Worksheet Inside}

Stuck with the Same New Year’s Resolution Year After Year? Try This. {Worksheet Inside}

Before the holidays, I attended a Yoga for Dietitians class put on by my friend and colleague, Casey Berglund of Worthy and Well. (She teaches Yoga for Mindful Eating and Wellness for non-dietitians too! She will be leading two sessions here in Calgary later this month – one at Yoga Passage and one at Journey Yoga.) One of the exercises that we did in the class had a lot to do with figuring out why there are goals or new year’s resolutions that never seem to stick, and she has graciously allowed me to share the exercise with you here.

Break Through Your Internal Barriers

This exercise combines concepts from How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, and The Work of Byron Katie.

Part 1: Identify Your Barriers

Grab a pen and piece of paper (or follow along with this Break Through Your Internal Barriers printable worksheet) and write down your goal at the top of the page. For the purposes of this blog post, let’s go with “quitting sugar”.

Next, divide your piece of paper into four columns.

Column 1: Finish this sentence: “I’m committed to the value or importance of…”

In the first column, list all the reasons that your goal is important to you. For example, quitting sugar might be important to you because you want to be healthy, lose weight, or stop spending money on stuff you don’t need.

Column 2: Ask yourself, “What am I doing/not doing that prevents my commitment from being fully realized?”

Be honest with yourself and list the things that might be getting in the way of achieving your goal. In the case of quitting sugar, it might be the fact that you just can’t fathom having black coffee, that you always have sweets at work or at home, that you can’t say no to birthday cake or other treats that are offered to you, that you’re always “duped” by hidden sugar in the foods that you buy, or that you’re just in a habit of ending your day with dessert.

Column 3: Finish this sentence: “I may also be committed to…”

Actions speak louder than words. When you look at Column 2, what are your actions saying to you about your other values?

For example, if you just can’t fathom having black coffee, perhaps that’s saying that you value food that tastes good. If you don’t read ingredient lists to find hidden sugar, maybe that’s saying you value buying foods that you and your family enjoy, or you value your time, so you want to spend less of it fighting the crowds at the grocery store.

Column 4: Fill in the blanks: I assume that if __________, then __________.

Here is where we face your internal barriers dead on. Essentially the assumption that you are making is that if you achieve your goal, then your competing commitment will suffer. So in the first blank, after “if”, you put in your goal, and in the second blank, after “then”, you put in the “negative” version of what you wrote in Column 3. In our case for example, we could say “I assume that if I quit adding sugar to my coffee, then it won’t taste good.” or “I assume that if I quit sugar, then grocery shopping will take more time because I have to read ingredient lists.”

I also invite you to see what happens when you fill in the second blank with your answers in Column 1. For example, you might say “I assume that if I quit sugar, then I will be healthy.” or “I assume that if I quit sugar, then I will lose weight.” By doing this, you put your initial values/beliefs into question, not just the competing ones that have popped up throughout the exercise.

Your paper may look something like this:

Completed Part 1

Part 2: Question Your Barriers

Now that you’ve identified some of your barriers, the following questions will challenge you to sit with them a little bit, so that you can figure out what is it about them that keeps them in your way, or whether the fact that they are a barrier is actually serving you by quietly nudging you to pursue something else. If you’d like to dig a little deeper into this part of the exercise, I suggest downloading the Instructions from the original source, The Work of Byron Katie.

1. Is it true?

Choose a statement from your list of assumptions (Part 1, Column 4) and simply ask yourself this yes/no question: “Is it true?”

Sometimes when you see the statement written out in the “I assume that…” format, you can instantly tell that it’s not true, like “If I quit sugar, then food won’t taste good.” or “If I quit sugar, then I won’t know how to cope with stress.” If that’s the case, say “No, it’s not true.” and move onto question 3.

More often, this is a belief you’ve been holding on to for a long time and you can’t imagine anything else, like “If I don’t add sugar to my coffee, then I won’t drink it.” So then you say, “Yes, it is true.” and read on.

2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

Dig deep. Perhaps you remember that one time that you were in such a rush that you forgot to add sugar to your coffee but you drank it anyway because you needed that caffeine.

Perhaps your statement involves other people, and in reality, you don’t absolutely know how your family would react if you stopped buying food with sugar in it, or how your friend would react if you said you didn’t want a piece of birthday cake.

Or perhaps you steadfastly believe that if you quit sugar, you will lose weight and be healthy, and we should stop this line of questioning already.

3. How do you react/what happens when you believe that thought?

From the first two questions, you probably have established that your assumption is not absolutely true. So, let’s travel back to a few minutes ago, when you still (subconsciously) believed that thought was true. What happens? Part 1, Column 2 tells us some of the things that we did. How did you feel?

Perhaps when you have sugar in your coffee, you feel doubly energized from the sugar and caffeine (and the fact that you will actually drink the stuff). Or perhaps when you believe that quitting sugar will make you healthy, you feel guilty and unhealthy when you do eat sugar.

4. Who would you be without the thought?

When you let go of this thought that is not absolutely true, who would you be without it?

For example, if you let go of the idea that quitting sugar means that food won’t taste good, perhaps you will be the type of person who allows themself to enjoy foods that don’t have sugar. If you let go of the idea that quitting sugar will make you healthy, perhaps you will be the type of person who focuses on other healthy habits, and gives themselves permission to eat sugar in a way that still feels healthy and good.

Doesn’t that feel nice?

5. Turn the thought around.

Since you know that the original thought is not true, turn it around so that it can become true. Byron Katie’s work often revolves around relationships, so her statements usually involve other people. She suggests that a thought can be turned around to the self, the other, and to the opposite, but in the case of food and eating, you might find fewer turnarounds.

For example, “If I stopped buying foods with sugar, then my family won’t be happy.” can be turned around to:

  • “If I stopped buying foods with sugar, then I won’t be happy.” (to the self)
  • “If my family stopped buying foods with sugar, then I won’t be happy.” (to the other)
  • “If I stopped buying foods with sugar, then my family will be happy.” (Opposite #1)
  • “If I kept buying foods with sugar, then my family won’t be happy.” (Opposite #2)

“If I quit sugar, then I will be healthy.” can be turned around to:

  • “If I quit sugar, then I won’t be healthy.” (Opposite #1)
  • “If I don’t quit sugar, then I will be healthy.” (Opposite #2)

Sit with these turnarounds for a moment. They might sound like they don’t make sense, but that’s because you’ve held on to your original assumption as truth for so long. What happens when you carry this new thought with you?

Now What?

This exercise was all about identifying some of the limiting beliefs that may be getting in the way from achieving your goals. By questioning some of these beliefs, you may discover alternative strategies. For example, by saying, “If I stopped buying foods with sugar, then my family will be happy,” you may realize that perhaps your family wouldn’t notice if you bought foods with no sugar, or that if you discussed this with them, they would be supportive.

You may also discover through this activity that you might want to let go of some of your goals, because they actually don’t serve you. For example, by saying “If I quit sugar, then I won’t be healthy.” It may help you realize that avoiding all foods with sugar will limit the foods that you can eat, or worse, spiral into an unhealthy obsession with food, which could outweigh any potential physical benefits.

Liked this Activity? You’ll LOVE the
4-3-2-1 Countdown to Wellness Challenge

This FREE 10-day challenge is chock full of fun little exercises to help you tune out the diet BS and tune in to your inner wisdom, so that you can fuel your body, nourish your mind and excite your tastebuds in a way that is uniquely YOU.

Are You Ready to Stop Dieting and Start Living? Join Us!


The challenge kicks off LIVE on January 16!

2 Comments

  • Casey Berglund on Jan 07, 2017 Reply

    Hi Vincci! Thanks for getting this important work out into the world. I have really found that it has helped me and my clients. Was so glad to have such an amazing individual in the course and that you are using some of what we went through in your own work and sharing it with others. Keep it up! you’re awesome!

    • Vincci Tsui on Jan 08, 2017 Reply

      Thanks for your kind words, Casey, and thank you for sharing your work with me and with the world.

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