I have a love/hate relationship with new year’s traditions.
I love the imagery of leaving the old behind and planning for the new.
I hate the idea of “resolutions,” for I know that resolve is never an effective strategy for change.
I love the reflection and looking back to put the past year in perspective.
I hate the hype around becoming a “new you” and all the exhortations to be skinner, more fit, more successful, more affluent, more organized, or more of what someone else thinks you should be.
Here’s my rationale:
- New Year’s Day is really only an arbitrary construct. In reality, we could choose any minute, any hour, or day – to choose to make a fresh start.
- Resolutions rely on resolve, which is a terribly ineffective way to build new habits. Resolve takes work and grit, and persistence. This is exactly why resolutions rarely last for more than a few fleeting days.
- A commercial undertone exhorts us to be more of what we are not and be more like some “cultural ideal.” Most of these traditional exhortations require spending money on something.
My reservations mostly stem from the messages that we are not enough and need to recreate ourselves in someone else’s version. In reality – wherever we go, there we are. We bring into the new year ourselves – which are perfectly unique with both brilliance and flaws.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge advocate for learning, growing, improving, stepping more and more into your own brilliance. I’m terribly resistant to chasing after “the perfect life, body, relationship, or career.” We far too often strive to be what others expect rather than who we truly are. When we strive to be something someone else wants us to be, we are on a fool’s errand.
Most times, others, especially someone who has some economic interest, tell us we need something they are selling; if we buy their product, there is hope that we might finally have that flawless skin, be a certain weight, wear the “right” clothes, or be that perfect person.
The truth is that perfect is a trap. An unachievable attainment. A tenuous place where no amount of effort produces satisfaction, for there is always someone that is “more.”
What if we resolved not to try to be something we are not, but instead resolved to be more of what we are this year? To step into our gifts and talents? To acknowledge and manage our shortcomings; rather than attempting to banish them? To be our own, one of a kind, unique, quirky, wonderful human?
But that takes knowing who we are. What we do well. What we are truly passionate about. It can be both terrifying and liberating to do this.
Striving to be ourselves, while not a fool’s errand, is no easy path either! The journey of self-discovery is most often a lifelong one. An unfolding. A deep reflection. A series of gradual insights that gradually leads us back home to who we are meant to be and have been all along.
We’ve spent far too much time and energy studying others and trying to force ourselves to be “that person” rather than putting the work into developing a deep self-awareness and allowing ourselves to steer into our deeply held values, use our unique strengths and abilities and honor our passions.
There are many paths to deepening your self-awareness and then garnering the courage to fully step into your talents and gifts. We are complex enough as humans that piecing together who we are, what our purpose in life is, where our treasure lies, and where our booby traps are – that it is like assembling a 1000 piece puzzle.
Yet with patience, piecing yourself together, a piece at a time, is a worthwhile endeavor. As the pieces come together, clarity emerges. You have the feeling of “coming home.” The gifts only you can offer enrich you and those around you. You come to a place of inner calm and happiness; one that is not bought or manufactured or someone else’s, but yours alone.
So if you want to resolve something, commit to re-solving the question of who you are and what gifts you have to offer the world. Renew your commitment to your core values and to living into them, as best you can, day by day. Release any notions that you need to be any more than what you are and re-embrace your own talents, gifts, and passions.
Happy New Year!