New Year’s Resolutions
I absolutely love a new year. I love the feeling of starting over, the chance to try again and set out on a new course. While the date is arbitrary, the feeling that we can reset ourselves is a powerful one.
Last year, Bell and I explored the way we do New Year’s resolutions on the podcast. I said I don’t do resolutions as such. Instead, I pick a word of the year. I originally discovered the idea of a guiding word at Christine Kane’s website many years ago. The basic idea is that you choose one word to help guide you through all of life’s decisions that year. If I were X (or did x or believed x), what would I choose in this moment?
Last year’s word, for me, was Permission. Capital-P permission, which turned out to be permission to be a big, ugly mess for most of the year. I had a rough year, emotionally (as did much of the world, it seems). I didn’t know exactly where I was headed with the word permission–I rarely know where the word of the year will take me. It isn’t always how I picture it. I had hoped that permission would help me feel more expansive. The result was that permission helped me feel more everything.
If I had chosen a resolution like “exercise x times” or “read x books” I might have failed. I wasn’t in a place in my life to demand things of myself. I think resolutions can be very damaging when approached this way, from the behavior level. It’s too easy to set ourselves up for failure. There’s a reason we aren’t doing the things we want to, and by demanding we change without examining the root cause of our current behaviors, we’re only setting ourselves up for a cycle of shame as we try and fail over and over.
I love the word concept because it allows me to focus on an intrinsic change rather than an external one. By extension, the external changes happen. I might have said to myself that I wanted to practice mindfulness x times a week or journal to explore my emotions but instead of putting an external requirement, the internal feeling of “permission” turned into just those kind of external behaviors. I needed to be mindful, and do some emotional work, because when I extended myself permission, that’s what happened. Where in the past I might have fought off feelings of anger, sadness, and anxiety, I was using the word “permission” to allow myself to feel things in new ways. Frankly–someone had to tell me it was okay to be a huge mess, because up until now, being a mess was not something I felt comfortable with.
I still don’t feel comfortable with it. I’ve gotten more familiar with it, though. All because of permission.
All of that said, I am going to try some new external behaviors this year. I am nothing if not contrary.
Mainly, I want to focus on keeping a record of my life. I have a terrible memory. I think it’s the curse/blessing of an anxious mind that I’m always looking ahead and never back. I forget so much. I want to have some kind of note that reminds me that I’ve done things every week, I’ve spent time with the people I loved every week, and I’ve taken care of myself every week. I’m going to try to adopt a “weekly review” and a “monthly review” to accomplish this. Nothing fancy, just a list of stuff I remember from that week/month and perhaps a review of what I’d like to do in the upcoming week/month.
The external behavior is one I think might fail, because of everything I’ve already said. It goes hand in hand, however, with my word of the year which is Outreach. I feel that keeping a visual record of what I’ve done (or not done) in terms of reaching out to friends, family and myself might help me stay in touch with the difficult word I’ve chosen for myself.
I’m a shy introvert who does not like to be seen. Reaching out is difficult for me. But hey–what’s a new year without a new challenge, right?
In any case, I wish you all a happy and fresh New Year! May your resolutions or words or plans come about just as they need to.
(image source: http://christmasstockimages.com/free/new_year/slides/2015_new_year.htm licensed under CC BY 3.0)