With the best of intentions, many of us begin a reinvention dance in January, the symbolic "do-over" month, hoping against hope that this time will be different. Sadly, the dance itself is often flawed, with unclear steps and discordant notes, and by the time the snow melts we are right back where we were, and now carrying the added shame of failure.

When resolutions come from a place of personal dissatisfaction, they often fail. The three most common New Year's resolutions (lose weight, exercise regularly and quit smoking) are cloaked in a context of wellness, but often experienced as a message of reproach, for not being thin enough, fit enough or health-conscious enough. The process is disheartening, because we frame it as a battle of will and character, and we don't measure up.

I believe that real, sustained change starts with a reconnection, not reinvention. It begins with listening to an inner voice, understanding and valuing oneself and committing to authentic action. I've had many wise guides along my own path, offering insight, support and a safe space for exploration.

Change is holistic
Like many women, I developed a comfortable disconnect between mind and body. I believed I could think my way into and out of behaviors. To get past this, I explored activities that blended mind and body, like yoga. Yoga poses embody key elements of change, and for me awaken a deep reality. For instance, mountain pose, standing firmly on the ground with feet slightly apart, balanced between left and right, front and back, is a compelling reminder of the strength that comes from being centered. Warrior II pose, with one leg lunging forward, back straight, arms extended front to back, embodies strength, solidness and clear direction.

Community is vital
It's so important to have support as we embark on a change journey. Kindred spirits light the way, speak the truth and give us courage. We learn from their stories, and get support to experiment with new ways of being. Poet Denise Bissonnette reminds us that, "...each of us must travel the uncharted seas of our lives, alone. Yet, blessedly, together, side by side."

Practice is essential
It takes repetition and practice to develop a new behavior. Research suggests it takes at least 21 days of practice to form a new habit. Change starts with the small decisions we make. As Julia Cameron puts it, "Choice by choice, moment by moment, I build the necklace of my day, stringing together the choices that form artful living."

By developing inner clarity and finding an authentic voice, we create the possibility of change. Realizing and sustaining change takes practice, integration and support.

Kate Schaefers, Ph.D., LP is founder of Encore Life Planning and co-founder of Authentic Renewal. 

What's on your bookshelf?
Send us 450 words about your booklife, plus your list of four to five related books by women authors, to editor@womenspress.com.

Kate Schaefers recommends these books for a January 
The Wholehearted Journey: Bringing Qualities of Soul to Everyday Life and Work by Denise Bissonnette
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
Wisdom Circles: A Guide to Self-discovery and Community Building in Small Groups by Charles Garfield, Cindy Spring and Sedonia Cahill
Who Am I ... Now That I'm Not Who I Was? by Connie Goldman
Body Odyssey: Lessons from the Bones and Belly by Pat Samples