So another new year has begun. I never really liked New Years’ celebrations. They always felt a bit contrived in their modern day form. But even more than the celebrations, I disliked the notion of making, and keeping, a New Years’ resolution. The promise and anticipation of a swift, successful, life changing commitment seems like a scam to me. We are made to think that by crossing this annual threshold great things, miraculous changes, are obligated to happen. Maybe it is not the idea of a New Years’ resolution that I dislike as much as the notion that if we fail to reach our goals, then we failed and need to wait almost another full year for the same opportunity. Like the day after December 31 holds some portal to a new you that doesn’t exist every other day.
Probably the biggest single resolution made each January 1 is that of the promise to be more fit, active, healthy (stop smoking cigarettes) and to eat better. And these goals, and the way we approach them (think starvation and intense physical workouts, after two weeks of gluttony and lethargy) is like setting out to slay a dragon in your underwear.
Some say telling others of your goals help improve success. Working under that pressure is sure to bring failure. I also think that when we broadcast a resolution, we are unconsciously looking for praise for just making a resolution. I think the true measure of successful change is when people ask you about a change they see several days, weeks or months later, to which you humbly reply with a simple “thank you”. Since it is not about appealing to others, the feeling that recognition brings is superfluous. It is about appealing to yourself in a positive way.
In fact I would argue that before any change or challenge is undertaken, most of us need to eliminate and simplify, that is, make room for change. Trying to squeeze a workout into an already packed day is very stressful. Trying to eat better without the time to prepare a meal equals more take-out.
Real change generally takes time. Something we really have lost a sense of. When anything can be microwaved in seconds and complete homes can be built in the 38.4 minutes of an hour long HGTV episode, we begin to think the same way about personal change. We think that the more we do, or the faster we do it, the more time we will have for the good stuff. It doesn’t make sense to me either, but that seems to be how western culture has taught us to deal with busy schedules.
Change is a great thing, embrace it. “A change is as good as a rest” they say. The key is to choose your change and work it into your life; don’t attach it like an item on a project list, something you need to get to or get done!
Resolve never again to make a New Years’ resolution. Just be your best self. Target those things that you want in your life, be it better health, more control or greater joy and work slowly and make room for each. It is kind of like bicycle touring. There are so many things that get in the way between you and your goal for that day, mechanicals, weather, road construction, and every other imaginable obstacle, that if every setback was named a “failure” you would never reach your goal or the destination. More importantly, the joy of the journey and the little victories would be lost. Focus then not upon the big things but the little things, each pedal stroke, each apple eaten and each moment of joy that comes with just being in the moment.
Happy “Just-another-day-to-enjoy-life”. If you really want change then start by planning and making priorities. Then push off slowly, maintain your balance and feel the excitement of moving faster and farther in the direction of your goals. Off course I had to end with a couple of bicycle metaphors!
Take care, Daryl