If you’re like most 21st century humans, then you make your resolutions in January.
It never works, but you do it anyway.
Oh, don’t worry. You’re not alone. The failure rate for new year’s resolutions is about 92%.
What if I told you that the problem wasn’t with your willpower, but rather with your timing?
There is a better way to make resolutions — a method based on the wisdom of the ancient Chinese masters who discovered qigong, acupuncture, and feng shui.
If you want to learn about this method, then this article is for you.
What is a Resolution?
First, let’s define “resolution”:
In other words, a resolution is simply a firm decision that leads to action.
Humans are capable of making firm decisions that lead to inspired actions.
Although we normally associate resolutions with the new year, we can make them any time of year.
In fact, January is a terrible time to make a resolution!
This is good news for you! You didn’t fail because you’re broken; you failed because your timing was wrong!
The Ancient Chinese Approach
To better understand our failure with New Year’s Resolutions, let’s look through the lens of an ancient Chinese paradigm called The Five Elements.
Once you look through this lens, you’ll not only understand why you’ve failed in the past, but you’ll immediately understand how to flip your failure into success.
The Theory of The Five Elements is a philosophy that is central to many Chinese arts, including qigong, tai chi chuan, acupuncture, herbal medicine, therapeutic massage, and feng shui.
You’ve already heard of the grandmother of the Five Element Theory.
It looks like this:
That’s the symbol for the Theory of Yin and Yang, and it’s closely tied to the Theory of The Five Elements.
See the colors surrounding the yin-yang symbol above? Those actually represent The Five Elements.
When I was in acupuncture college, we spent months learning about the interrelated theories of Yin and Yang and The Five Elements. These theories form the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine, so they’re super important.
But luckily, you don’t need a deep understanding of The Five Elements in order to benefit from it.
For example, I bet you’ve already gained perspective at least once in your life by viewing things in terms of a balance of yin and yang, right?
Maybe it went something like this:
“My work/life balance is unhealthy. I need to find more of a yin-yang harmony between them.”
“That type of exercise is too yang for me. I need something more yin.”
We’re going to do something similar right now, but using The Five Elements instead.
A Quick History of The Five Elements
First of all, you need to understand that The Five Elements are not really elements. This is not a periodic table containing elements like hydrogen and oxygen.
The ancient Chinese masters didn’t believe that the cosmos was made of only 5 physical elements.
The Chinese term Wu Xing (五行) is actually really hard to translate. Here are a half dozen translations, which I hope will help to give you a broader perspective:
- The Five Elements
- The Five Phases
- The Five Agents
- The Five Movements
- The Five Processes
- The Five Stages
The Chinese masters discovered that a wide variety of phenomena in the universe could be explained by a 5-phase paradigm.
These 5 phases were described using symbols: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood.
You’ll typically see The Five Element chart presented in this order:
If you want to learn more about The Five Elements, then please let me know in the comments section, and I’ll write more about them in future articles.
For the purposes of this article, all you need to know is this:
Each element has an energy to it, and each of those energies is associated with a season.
So for example, the Water Element is associated with an energy that retreats. In the Water Element, we see stillness and storage, like a bear hibernating in the winter.
The Wood Element, on the other hand, is associated with an energy that grows and sprouts. With this Element, we see new vitality and budding life, like flowers beginning to blossom in the spring.
The Wood Element
If you want to start eating healthier, then that’s a new habit that you want to “sprout”. That’s the energy of the Wood Element.
And here’s the crux of this article: New plants don’t sprout in January.
The Wood Element is one of growth, which is ideal for adding new habits. And the season for the Wood Element is springtime, not January.
I bet that you can feel the truth of this.
For example, in Florida, where my wife and I live, spring has already sprung, and it’s something that you can feel all around you.
In other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, spring will come over the next 1-2 months.
(If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, then you’ll have to wait to feel it.)
As spring blossoms, try to feel the energy.
- Do you feel more alive?
- Do you notice the morning air not only filling your lungs, but inspiring you?
- Do you have more energy to do things?
- Is it easier to make decisions?
There’s a reason why houses and desks are more likely to get cleaned out during the spring. Spring cleaning is a perfect example of the energy of the Wood Element!
And THIS is precisely the energy that you want for your resolutions, not the energy of winter and the Water Element.
When to Let Go of A Bad Habit
Notice that I specifically mentioned adding a healthy, new habit, not letting go of a bad one.
The energy of The Wood Element is for new growth, not for letting go.
The energy of letting go belongs to the Metal Element, like trees letting go of their leaves.
If you want to let go of of a bad habit like smoking, then your chances are better if you wait for the energy of the Metal Element in autumn.
The same goes for letting go of bad relationships, or quitting a job that is killing you.
By all means, make a firm decision this spring.
Decision making is associated with your Liver and Gallblader Meridians, both of which are part of the Wood Element.
That’s why it’s easier (but not necessarily easy) to make big decisions in the spring.
But if you want to let go of a bad habit, I strongly recommend that you don’t decide now, and then wait for autumn.
Remember that resolutions are not just about decisions, but about following a decision with action.
Make the decision now to quit that habit in autumn, but take action now — action that will support your habit later.
Why Adding a Habit is Better Than Subtracting
The research on habit-building shows that it’s far easier to add a good habit than to eliminate a bad one.
In other words, even if you decide that you’re going to quit a habit this autumn, you’re going to need all the help you can get.
Why not add a habit this spring that can help you to better let go this autumn?
I truly believe that qigong is one of the best habits that you can add, and that now is the time to do it.
Research is mounting that shows that mindfulness can help you to be more motivated to make big life changes.
And when it comes to mindfulness, it’s hard to beat qigong.
Even just 2 minutes a day of qigong will help you to be better prepared to make other, healthier changes down the road.
So if you want to let go of a bad habit, don’t just wait for autumn, but add a good habit right now.
Make a Smart Decision
Look back, and you’ll see that some of the biggest and best changes in your life came after making a strong, clear decision.
But you also DID something after making that decision. In other words, your decision or resolution was followed by action.
If you’re inspired to make a decision this spring, that’s wonderful! Just be careful not to write a check that you can’t cash.
Here’s an example:
“I read this great article online, and I’m inspired to make changes! I’m resolving to go to the gym 5 days per week, starting tomorrow!”
If you’re already going to the gym 3 days per week, then this is doable.
But chances are, you’re not going 3 days per week, or even 3 days per month.
If haven’t been to the gym since January 4th, then this kind of decision is a mistake.
Decisions can be powerful, but they have to be done right. Don’t just make a decision; make it a smart one.
The Beauty of Tiny Habits
As research grows on habit making, you’ll be hearing more and more a about tiny habits.
I’ve been talking about tiny habits for years, and I’m happy to see that the research is catching up.
In fact, a tiny habit saved my life years ago. That tiny habit was simple: 2 minutes of qigong every day, no matter what.
I recommend that you use the energy of the Wood Element to pick a tiny habit that requires little to no willpower.
There are a bunch of options in that article, but I still recommend that you choose qigong.
Make A Change, Starting Now
If, right now, you decide to practice qigong for 2 minutes per day, and you follow through on that decision — then you will forever alter the rest of your life.
2 minutes isn’t a high enough dosage to give you the amazing results that my students get, but you’ll still get results.
And more importantly, it’s a habit! The #1 reason students fail with qigong is because they fail to make it a daily habit.
So start with 2 minutes.
(If you’ve already got a 2-minute qigong habit, then resolve to do 4 or even 8 minutes per day — no matter what.)
It’s easier if you do this with a friend. Share the free course with them, and then the two of you can be accountability partners.
You don’t need to live near them. Just check in every week and keep each other honest with your tiny habit.
Or you can join our Facebook community and share your wins and struggles there. We’ve got a great group!
But act now. Take the energy of the Wood Element, and use it to sprout a new, healthy habit in your life!
Start now, with a clear conscience. Now that you know that it wasn’t your fault, now that you know your timing was off, you can let go of all your guilt from past failure.
What tiny habit will you add now that your slate is totally clean? Mindfully yours, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen and a board member for the National Qigong Association, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.