Resolve to be yourself.

Via on Dec 27, 2010

New Years resolutions — an opportunity to better yourself or a setup for failure and disappointment?

I don’t know too many people who can manage to keep their New Year’s resolutions for a solid year. Most of us base our annual goals on a vision we have of the person we want to be, not the person we actually are. And while I believe that most resolutions do come from a good place in the heart, they can so often be misguided and, frankly, unrealistic. And then when we don’t meet our own lofty goals, we feel like failures. No bueno.

Willpower has never been one of my stronger character traits and so I have traditionally not had a lot of luck with New Year’s resolutions. But a few years ago I made a shift in the way I resolve. I decided to start basing my New Year’s resolutions on a metta practice of kindness and self-love. How? By committing only to do things I am naturally inclined to do anyway. You might say that my resolutions are more like things I let myself get away with. But, with the proper spin, they seem like examples of betterment.

That first year, I decided that instead of pressuring myself to read yoga classics and self-help books (this was during my yoga teaching era) I would, for twelve whole months, read only gratuitous fiction. The truth is, I love to read, but, like most people, I can’t get through a book if it’s not compelling for me. And I am entertained by novels—not instructional manuals.

For that lovely year, I didn’t even consider dipping into anything but pure, raw, gratuitous fiction, no matter who tried to sell me on the new Deepak Chopra, the old Rumi, or the latest pivotal must-have self-actualization masterpiece. And I had a built-in excuse to say, “Wow, I really wish I could read that, but unfortunately I made a New Year’s Resolution… Maybe next year.” For one year, I had the time of my life reading completely made-up stories. And guess what? It was the first year I ever kept my New Year’s Resolution.

This shift was a eureka moment for my self-esteem. By committing to do something I really secretly wanted to do anyway, I exponentially increased my chances of sticking to the plan. And it worked! Since then, I have carried this philosophy of self-acceptance into other areas of my life. I’ve never been a big fan of manifestation and the Law of Attraction, but I am a huge advocate of acceptance: of self and others.

Here’s what I resolved last year:

Not to try one single dietary program or cleanse or what-have-you just because someone else advocated that it would be “good for me.” I did not do the Master Cleanse; I did not become a raw a foodist; I did not embrace veganism; I did not cut out gluten; I did not make sugar my enemy; and I did not put wheatgrass in any of my orifices at all. (Mind you, I have tried each of these things at some point in the past.)

I did, on the other hand, eat mindfully and according to what felt right for me at any given moment — even those moments when peanut butter cookies felt right. (Admittedly, there were a lot of those, and this might not have been my skinniest year ever, but it was one of my most nurturing, as least as far as food was concerned.)

The verdict?

These last few rounds of resolutions have worked so well for me that I’ve actually adopted them into my life as permanent (so far) practices. I still read primarily novels—although I occasionally make exceptions for a really riveting “good for me” enlightener—and I still listen to myself first when it comes to making food choices. (Albeit while staying as informed as possible — in fact, one of the last non-novels I read was the brilliant Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. Great book. Of course, he’s a novelist, so his tome on the factory farming industry reads like a story.)

The nice thing about choosing to make New Year’s resolutions from a place of surrender is that you greatly decrease your chances of failure (and its kissing cousin, shame).

About Joslyn Hamilton

Joslyn Hamilton is a freelance writer living in beautiful Marin County, California. She is one of the co-founders of Recovering Yogi and also launched Creative Truth or Dare. Joslyn has an imaginary spice + skincare line called SimpleBasic. She is a functioning craftaholic and counts hiking, cooking, reading and rabid tweeting among her many chaste vices. Reach her directly at joslyn@recoveringyogi.com

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18 Responses to “Resolve to be yourself.”

  1. Wonderful, Joslyn. I think you should start a new self-help method based on this revolutionary new theory. Then you can write a book about it that people will feel guilty about not reading!

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  2. LOVE! This is so fabulous. I was recently reading a book (Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon) about how the vast majority of people who lose weight on a diet end up gaining it back–and then some. The author said that since most people end up the same size anyway, wouldn't you rather be one of the ones who didn't torture themselves over a diet? My answer (to myself, since no one was technically asking) was hell to the yes. Hello, mindful health. Goodbye, dietary programs that try to force me to live my life according to their rules. (I was never really good at rules, anyway.)

  3. Yogini33# says:

    I agree with you Anna. The pull of vigorous yoga is so strong, but I will continue to stay jumped-of-the-tracks with a more compassionate, slower-paced and mindful style of that yoga. And if my eating follows suit? Which it can and does! I'd never done so well going to sleep hungry at night and expecting to give a full day's work at my job the next day, anyway. That was gratuitous, and not in keeping with aparigraha.

  4. Aaryn says:

    so true! now, let's see your new hair color!

  5. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    As an inveterate resolver and serial failer, I love this. And as a matter of fact, I recently had a similar bit of advice from Krishna Das's memoir, in which he suggested "just singing" as a spiritual practice. He said that since he loved doing it anyway, why not make it his practice? And because I'm inclined to assume that if I love something, it can't possibly be good for me, I have spent untold hours forcing myself to fulfill the various requirements I've set before myself, always with mixed results and only occasionally with joy. Now, I leaven my practice by sitting down and singing every day, and not only do I love it, but I find that it sticks with me throughout the day in a way that other things often do not. At the very least, I always enjoy myself, and the time always flies. So I think I'll follow your advice, and resolve to do more often what feels good and makes me happy.

  6. Benjamin Riggs BenRiggs says:

    I really liked this post…As usual!
    I too feel like we spend way too much time figuring out what we don't like about ourselves or what we would rather be. I like the idea of people making resolutions on the basis of who they truly are and what they truly want, instead of making a resolution to look more like more like somebody else!

  7. Lasara Allen LasaraAllen says:

    BEAUTIFUL!

    My thoughts in addition – would love to see what everyone thinks! http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/12/a-new—or

  8. Emily Perry Emily Perry says:

    i like the idea of choosing a work for the year, and allowing that to inform my year:: this year my word is energy~ having more energy, clearer energy, looking at the energy i consume, that i manifest, the prana in my body, the energy i put into my personal practice and teaching, etc etc. Great piece~ thanks!

  9. First St. Annie says:

    Being yourself is so hard. We are all defined by what we think we should be, what others want us to be. Even when I am sitting reading a book I love the call of "must dos" and should do's. is so strong that I will stop and attend to these things. I fail at dieting because I need something that food is providing. If I could just be me, I would be slimmer, healthier and much happier.

  10. Jen says:

    Luckily I have a really short memory so I forget whatever resolution of good or bad that I was planning on doing by mid January! There is always next year!

  11. tamingauthor says:

    "Be yourself." Okay, but maybe it is better to just be. A little shorter and without all the pre-conditions.

  12. Joe Mohr says:

    Great post! Resolutions are for chumps. Being is for champs.

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