Why do so many people join fitness clubs, stop smoking, and begin diets on New Year’s Day?
Because the energy of the new year awakens us to the opportunity for new beginnings. In the light of this hope, we begin to see through our excuses, our challenges appear surmountable and our abilities suddenly feel sharpened and sufficient. We sense like at no other time the possibility that we could fulfill our deepest yearnings.
The hope that leads to new year’s resolutions resembles that of romantic love: each moves us to make long-term commitments and eventually tends to fade. For our hopes to reach fulfillment we absolutely must know how to nourish and protect them, because when our optimism and faith diminish we can see the results in our behavior. Our diet becomes too difficult; chocolate becomes irresistible; we can’t find the time to workout; our life becomes encumbered with difficulties and complications.
These are all symptoms of a deficiency of hope.
Within it, we can find the power to start over. Ask yourself, “Where do I want to begin anew?” For starters, how about our beloved bodies? Are we sick, overweight, in pain, fatigued or unhappy? Are we addicted to substances, medicines, sickness, conflict, worry, spending, TV or sex? What would we give to be free of our addictions?
How can we overcome the greatest challenge of the new year, and keep our hope alive and strong?
Many of us have experienced that when our hope weakens, we lose the inner strength that keeps us moving toward our dreams. So how do we sustain inspiration and commitment?
We do this by exercising our hope, like any other muscle or habit.
We begin by being honest with ourselves about what we want. Imagine God was looking us in the eye right now, and lovingly asking: “Tell me, what is it that you sincerely want?” What would it take to give ourselves fully to yearning for that? To hope for it fervently, even passionately?
If we do pursue our longings, we align with the power of the universe, which then allows us to grow our hopes into passionate prayers. We call out to God to come inhabit our body and mind and turn our hopes into wholesome action. We take the first steps toward that action by consistently hoping⏤hope is the first manifestation and awakening of our action. We yearn and beg and pray to become the person we long to be. We strive to deeply feel the genuine faith and conviction that our good intentions will unfailingly triumph.
Next, we descend into hell. We invite into our hopeful prayer what we most fear and hate and are ashamed of about ourselves. Why are we not living our dreams? What are our weaknesses? What are we ashamed of? Where do we repeatedly fail? What do we know we should be doing but don’t and vice versa? How have we let ourselves down in the last year? How are we contributing to our own sickness, obesity, lonesomeness, unsatisfying work and marital problems?
Without indulging these negative feelings and wallowing in suffering, we allow ourselves to feel them fully. To deeply comprehend the pain of not caring for ourselves. We cringe in revulsion and disgust at the ways we repeatedly let ourselves down. We look at how we refuse to give ourselves to what we know to be good and right. We acknowledge the ways we habitually, compulsively poison, injure and deprive ourselves. We feel how deeply we do not believe in our own greatness and therefore keep ourselves small. This is not fun. But it is necessary.
We observe how our cowardice and fear of failure prevent us from admitting even to ourselves the things we most want and fear. We acknowledge the areas in which we are convinced that we are hopelessly inept, incapable and unworthy. This is not easy work. Yet we can only descend into the hell of our fears and faults to the degree we are passionate about reclaiming our lives. And when we’ve listed our grievances against ourselves in full disclosure, we begin to experience a new hope. A hope born from all the pain we’ve caused ourselves by not earning what we really want in life.
Hope is founded upon trust. If we have a record of self-betrayal (and we all do), how can we trust ourselves? Looking this square in the eyes requires a level of self-honesty that most people aren’t willing to engage themselves with. No wonder then, that most people fail to uphold their new year’s resolutions.
There is a saying in AA that penetrates straight to the heart of self-trust:
“If you can do it, then do it.
If you can’t, admit it and get help.”
If we can stop eating sweets, exercise, save the money, stop criticizing our spouse, make business calls—we should do it. But if we can’t (or won’t) do it, then we need to admit it and get help. This last step is perhaps the most essential of all. If our hope is genuine it will impel us to seek the help we require, to get the real support and accountability that we need to succeed.
When we clarify what we really want, nurture it into prayer, descend into our self-doubt, and then transcend our pride by seeking assistance, we can transform our hope into reality.
However, none of this requires waiting one week until the new year. Why would we wait for this type of change? Why would we wait, when we can begin anew in each moment. Right. Now.
Author: Charley Cropley
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock