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Ten years ago, I began to make a different type of New Year’s resolution.
I resolved to not make any resolutions!
Before then, I made long lists of goals that I wanted to complete in the year ahead. I would start out keen and eager to do whatever it took to be successful. I was determined to be disciplined and make the new year ahead the best yet.
Then, February rolled around. I would review my actions of the past few weeks, and immediately be flooded with shame and regret. What a mess! I could not seem to keep up the momentum of that first week in January. Making a list of resolutions was not working for me.
Then I was introduced to the idea of beginning the new year with a different perspective. I had the privilege of hearing Christine Kane, a well-known coach and author, speak at a conference. I enjoyed her approach to life, and as I read her blogposts, she suggested the concept of choosing a theme word to guide me in the new year. I was puzzled. How could one word make a difference in my life when there were so many things that I needed to improve and change in the year ahead?
I came to realize that my list of resolutions focused on what was wrong with me. My goals were based on fixing the many things I was dissatisfied with. I would compare myself to others, and immediately see how I was lacking. I was filled with self-criticism and felt overwhelmed by the thought of how much I needed to improve.
Choosing a theme word was a revolutionary idea for me. In order to do this, I was invited to think about how I wanted to feel in the year ahead. What emotion would motivate me to move forward? Instead of scolding myself for my deficits, I looked at what was already going well, and what I wanted more of. This was a challenge for someone like me whose worth was measured by how much I could improve in a new year. I was skeptical, and not sure if this would work for me. I told myself I had nothing to lose and I decided to give it a try.
I still remember my first word. It was effortlessness. I picked it out of a list of other words that Christine offered. Somehow it jumped out and I kept coming back to it. Turned out that it was so powerful that I kept it for two years!
What changed for me as I experimented with a new approach to a New Year’s resolution?
I was conscious of thinking about my actions from the lens of “Will this lead to effortlessness in my life?” I paid attention to my body and if I noticed resistance and tightness, I would dig deeper into what was going on and evaluate if this was the right choice at this time. I developed that habit of reflecting on my word before making decisions. I felt more relaxed and at ease with this approach.
I wondered if I would feel lazy or undisciplined without my list of resolutions. Just the opposite happened. My usual pattern in January was to focus on losing weight and getting in shape. As I focused on the word effortlessness, I moved away from pushing myself, and I began seeing myself as devoted to my health (rather than disciplined). I chose physical activities that I wanted to do for fitness and realized that I could be healthy without forcing myself to do exercise that felt like punishment.
The resulting emotional lightness motivated me to keep active. I learned to be gentle with myself and take time to rest and play. I had fun with my family and realized the benefit of not being so hard on myself.
As a new year approaches, I feel a sense of curiosity and excitement. What word will it be this year?
I start thinking about a possible word as the year comes to an end. It could be a concept I read about or hear discussed on a podcast. It may pop into my mind as I am walking in nature or journalling. I find that my intention to have a word guide me in the new year creates the energy for one to show up. I wonder…do I choose a word, or does it find me?
I was walking on the wooded trails this past December and started speaking different words into the frosty air. As I breathed deeply and took in the beauty of a fresh snowfall, I was struck by how much I receive from Mother Nature. I love every season and am nurtured by the beauty around me. I played with the idea of the word receive, and by the time my walk ended, I was pretty sure that this would be my word for 2022.
Here is what I did next. I looked it up in the dictionary. What is the root of the word? What are some synonyms? What is the opposite of the word? I explored the word to see if it resonated with me. There are times a new word will show up, or I become more certain this is the one, which is what happened this year. I had a word of the year!
I wonder what difference this word will make in my life.
Because of my awareness, I am instinctively on the lookout for opportunities to receive. I am already experiencing unexpected gifts of love and affirmation. I shared the news of my word on a video sent to my friends. I was struck by the positive comments and personal messages of appreciation and love, and I practiced receiving graciously.
I also noticed some hesitation on my part. What might keep me from receiving? There are times I feel unworthy of accepting a compliment or kind comment. Here is what I want to do instead: I am choosing to be open to the gifts that come my way and say thank you with a vulnerable heart.
I already know that receiving is tied to giving. There is a magical flow between the giver and the receiver. As I receive, I am giving back to the person who is giving me something.
I wonder if my process of choosing a word for the year may prompt your curiosity and challenge you to ditch your New Year’s resolutions in favour of a word?
I am sending you best wishes for a Happy New Year, no matter what you choose to do!
My view out in Mother Nature: