There is something so expansive and enlivening about the start of a new year. The “clean slate” of a calendar not yet crammed with activities and obligations is a reminder that this is a fresh moment for new beginnings. Or old beginnings, started anew.
You may be scratching your head at the phrase, “old beginnings.” Let me explain.
We all know it’s ridiculously common for people to set goals or make resolutions for the new year, only to abandon them a few weeks or months later. At that point a common response is to judge themselves for not following through, acknowledge wearily that the whole enterprise is just too hard or that they don’t have what it takes, and move on with their lives. Then when January 1st rolls around the following year, they make the same resolutions again. And abandon them again. And judge themselves again.
And so the story goes.
But we can rewrite that story, and the first thing we have to edit – to simply eliminate – is the self-judgment. As I’ve said repeatedly, and will no doubt continue to say, self-judgment will never, ever get you where you want to go. And let me be clear that eliminating self-judgment is not the same thing as defending choices we’re making, or habits that we have, that we know don’t serve us. It is simply, and powerfully, deciding that we are worthy of supporting ourselves lovingly in making the changes we want to make.
The second element of this rewrite is to recognize that our repeated attempts to make a shift are not evidence of failure, but of commitment. Isn’t it a beautiful reflection of the resilience of the human spirit that, even after having experienced setbacks or breakdowns, our longings for growth and health and happiness keep calling us forward?
There are times, of course, when our failure to follow through on a resolution is actually a form of guidance, nudging us to let it go (possibly because we thought it was something we “should” do rather than something we genuinely wanted to take on). But many of our resolutions reflect our deeply felt desires to grow and evolve, to create and to share, to be as vibrant and generous and fulfilled as we can possibly be. Which is why it’s wonderful that we keep them at the top of our minds – and our resolution lists – year after year.
That brings us to the third element of the rewrite, which is a natural outgrowth of the previous two: we can choose to elevate our resolutions to a whole new status. Rather than taking them on with a mindset of self-improvement, we can choose to see them instead as a means through which we grow into the fullness of who we are, and we can choose to love ourselves each step along the way. You might say it’s a paradigm shift from self-improvement to self-love.
You might also say it’s a recognition that any commitment we make to become healthier and happier is, in essence, a journey of awakening. Talk about elevation! Whether you want to find work you love, reach a healthy weight, start your own business, change your spending and saving habits, plan a family vacation, make time for volunteering – whatever really matters to you – you can choose to see it and experience it as an expanding expression of your highest self. There’s nothing wrong with you that needs to be fixed. There’s a treasure trove of passion and talent within you that wants to be expressed.
So rather than making a list of resolutions, ask yourself, “What elements of my true Self am I now willing and ready to express (or express differently, or expand) this year? What old habits or expressions am I now willing to let go?”
Taking the time to feel into your willingness is essential to this paradigm shift. Growth doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it happen in all areas of your life at the same time. Listening inward to discern where you’re genuinely willing to grow, right now, is an act of self-love. And self-love will always move you in the direction you want to go.
If you choose to grow in an area where you’ve made resolutions in the past but didn’t “succeed,” ask yourself some questions to shift your focus away from “failure” and toward growth and possibility:
- In what ways am I more ready than I’ve ever been to make this shift?
- What have I learned about what works for me and what doesn’t?
- How might I support myself, or get support, to do this in a way that suits me better?
- What are all the reasons why I want to make this shift? How might I keep these reasons front and center in my awareness?
- If I look at this as a journey of awakening and expressing more of my greatness, how might that change the way I approach it?
What are all the inner and outer resources I already have in place to make this easy and fun?
Slowing down to consider these questions with an open mind and an open heart will go a long way toward shifting you to a brand-new starting point. When you start from a new place, a whole new world of possibility opens up.
And if you find yourself backsliding a bit, a few weeks or a few months down the road? Pause. Suspend all judgment. Do something that makes you feel good about yourself, and then check in to see if you still want to keep growing in this area. And if you do, dare to declare a fresh start right then and there. Don’t wait for January 1, 2016. If this is something you want, it matters because you matter.
Just begin again.