An Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions: Four Ways to Plant Seeds of Change

New Year’s Eve passed with all the usual pomp and circumstance and took our 2006 achievements and failures along with it. At midnight, a new year began and with it came a clean slate upon which each of us can write our goals, plans and dreams for the next 12 months.

Those people who actually wrote down their 2007 resolutions should be congratulated. They took the first step toward creating change in their lives this year. However, just a few days later, many of those very same people may find themselves entrenched in the same routines and schedules they experienced in 2006. In fact, they may already feel that change, rather than being inevitable, is impossible to achieve. As a result, they may give up on their New Year’s resolutions before they even get a chance to try and achieve them.

So, how can any of us make 2007 different from last year? How can we actually create the changes we failed to make last year? How do we keep from being one of the four out of five people who make New Year’s resolutions but fail to keep them? We must approach New Year’s resolutions differently than in the past and look at them in a different way. We must see them not as things that must happen immediately but as part of a process of change. Processes take time and often involve more than a simple change in behavior.

Indeed, personal change often requires both an internal process of change as well as an external one. To actually create change, accomplish goals or make our resolutions become realities, we must treat the process of creating change like growing a garden. Indeed, we must ‘plant seeds of change.’ We do this by looking inward at the issues we have that prevent us from creating change. This can be likened to preparing the soil and weeding the garden. Then we must set our intentions for change – plant the seed – and carefully tend the garden by taking actions – sometimes just small steps each day or week – to help nurture the change, to move closer to our goal. We help the plant – the change we desire – to develop deep roots, to grow strong and, eventually to bear fruit.

Anyone can plant seeds of change and then watch them take root, grow and bear fruit. To do so, they need only take the following four steps:

1. Cultivate the soil – This requires doing the inner work necessary to allow change to happen. In this step, we must each look carefully and honestly at what stops us – now and in the past – from achieving our goals. Are we afraid? Does it feel too hard? We must explore these issues and find ways to move through them, thus preparing ourselves to become a fertile growing space for the change we desire. This can involve finding compelling reasons to change, and developing a “burning desire” to change when we know we need to change but don’t necessarily want to change. In addition, at this stage you might want to find a life coach or counselor to help you move through your issues, or to use creative visualization techniques, affirmations or other human potential tools.

2. Planting the seed – This step combines the inner work of step one with the outer work of actually doing something to begin creating the desired change. At this point, we actually plant the seed of change in the soil we have cultivated. We define what it is that we want to create and state our intention in a clear, concise, measurable, and attainable way. This intention becomes the seed we plant and nurture.

3. Fertilizing and watering the seed – This step involves taking action to make the change occur. This represents the time to help that little seed grow strong roots that will hold it up as it sprouts and begins growing strong in the world. We must nurture the seedling with fertilizer to make it strong and to increase the speed of its growth. We must give it the essentials, like water, food and attention, to be sure it’s growth is not impeded or stopped. This means visualize the goal, taking time to focus on the intention and being grateful for each little success along the way. Part of the fertilizing process is doing one thing a day or a week to help us move towards our goal. We must make small changes, take baby steps while always staying focused on the end result we desire and doing something – anything – to help us move in its direction.

4. Harvesting the fruit – Over time, the love, care and attention given to the seed of change causes it to grown into a mature plant that bears tangible fruits. In this final step, it becomes possible to harvest those fruits – change, enjoy them and be grateful. Just as your seed has grown, through the process of planting it and caring for it, we have also grown. We are ready to allow the fruits of our inner and outer labor to become real – to actually experience the change – and to become a part of our life and of who we are at this moment.

Many people give up on their New Year’s resolutions, because they don’t see change happening fast enough. If we let the change we desire grow, like a flower – indeed, if we help it grow by nurturing it and giving it our consistent attention, we will find we have accomplished much by December 31, 2007. By approaching New Year’s resolutions in this manner, change is allowed to happen naturally, organically, without being forced. We may not see our resolutions achieved over night using this process, but we will see them achieved. In addition, by actively engaging in the process of change by planting seeds in fertile ground, nurturing the growing plant and then consciously harvesting the mature, tangible fruits, we gain all the gems of knowledge and experience the process has to offer – which is just as important as reaching your goal.