New Year’s Resolutions: Do They Really Work?
The New Year brings with it a mix of experiences, emotions and excitement. The year 2021 has been a symbol of hope for many who have suffered and barely hung on emotionally in the past year. The combination of the pandemic and unsettling political events have created a heaviness that has affected folks all over the world.
For me, New Year’s brings a mix of expectations. In the past I have felt a pressure to perform, to participate in programs, to ‘perfect’ myself by exercise plans or eating a certain way to find the ‘new me’. I have been tempted to view myself as flawed, not good enough or needing a particular package to help me find the answers to my problems.
I used to have a long list of resolutions each January. Most years I abandoned them by the end of the month. This pattern added to my sense of dread as another New Year approached. Goals that I set became a mockery of dashed dreams, and lofty promises to myself melted away like the snow in a heavy rainfall. I would feel paralyzed and lethargic. Why even bother setting more resolutions when I knew I would not keep them?
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Are you able to relate to any of my feelings and thoughts? I have a sense that I am not the only one who has felt this way!
What other options are there?
I have experimented with another way to view my relationship to the New Year. Perhaps some of my ideas will resonate with you, and encourage you to see yourself as able to move into the New Year with a mindset of anticipation, rather than dread.
I stop and pay attention to the negative messages that my ‘inner critic’ is giving me. It is the voice that shames me and keeps me from dreaming about new possibilities. Rather than ignoring this voice or numbing it with addictive behaviour, I make friends with my inner critic. In my book, ‘Saying Yes to Life: Embracing the Magic and Messiness of the Journey’, I describe how I do this. I have learned that the more we venture out of the safety of our current existence and into living the life that we’re meant to live, the louder the inner critic gets. When I ask my inner critic what she wants to tell me, I hear her say that she wants to keep me safe. I take a deep breath and hear another voice. It is my inner wisdom reminding me that I am loved and cared for and it is okay to move forward, in spite of my fear. I reassure my inner critic that all will be well, and I am able to move forward, take risks and look forward to the new year with joy.
Next, I take a look at what is actually true in my life. Am I really a failure because I procrastinate? Perhaps I am wisely waiting until I am ready and prepared before I take action. Often I see myself as chaotic with all my ideas. However, when I look back over the past year, I see that when I sorted out my ideas, and focused on one concept at a time, the result has been completed projects that have brought me joy and have been helpful to others.
I ask for help from a coach I respect. She offers the reminder to take small steps and be willing to ‘start again’ if I slip into patterns of behaviour that are not life-giving. For most of my life I have been an ‘all or nothing’ type of person. I would set audacious goals for myself, and then when I couldn’t meet them, I called myself a failure. For example, I might say: No cookies for a month! Then my neighbour brings over a plate of freshly baked gingersnaps. How can I resist? I eagerly munch on first one, then two, then three cookies. Then the shame sets in, and I tell myself, ‘well that’s it. You are a totally messed up failure’. From that point on I let go of any attempts at eating less sugar, and I give up on my resolution.
As I have become aware of this tendency, I am making changes in how I start my New Year. I set small realistic goals, and when I ‘eat a cookie’, I show kindness to myself instead of giving up. My heart softens and I give myself permission to reset my resolve.
Instead of a list of resolutions, I have been choosing a Word of the Year. I think about how I want to view the world in the New Year, and what I want to notice more of. It could be an attribute I want to master in my daily life, or a way I want to show up in my relationships and activities.
This is a soulful process, and it means I am willing to be patient and sit with what may come up for me. Meditation, walks in Nature and journalling all help me to feel into what my word will be. There is no right or wrong word and I have found it is best to wait until a word comes to me that is exciting, intriguing or challenging. In the past my words have included Harmony, Acceptance, Play, Lightness and Courage. These concepts have grounded and guided me as I travelled the path of a year filled with new adventures and challenges.
My Word for 2021 is Enchantment. I am curious to discover what this will look like for me as I learn more about its meaning, synonyms and how this word is used in literature. I see it including magic, passion, play and an engagement with beauty. If I am enchanted with a new idea or project, chances are I will be in the flow of creativity and can trust in the outcomes. Who knows what else I will discover?
As you begin this New Year, I offer the resource of my book, ‘Saying Yes to Life: Embracing the Magic and Messiness of the Journey’. It is a loving invitation for people who long to live life more fully. As you read my words, you will discover that you no longer need to depend on external guidance to live a life filled with love and grace. You have the wisdom within you! What better way to begin 2021 than by Saying Yes to Life!