Two themes get promoted as a New Year begins. One is the usual – “what are your New Year’s resolutions” followed by all the energy, focus, money and pressure it takes to immediately snap to some drastic change like joining a gym, starting a diet or getting to some project we’ve been avoiding or meaning to get back to. The other theme, a newer one I’ve seen popping up in the last few years on social media and in mainstream outlets like TV advertising, is a kind of “anti-New Year’s resolutions” – a backlash to the pressure resolutions create and to the businesses that ramp up their services to take advantage of people who suddenly are coming to attention. Now, with the anti-new-years marketing, people are encouraged not to feel guilty if they don’t have some grand new plan for their lives, or may not be ready to immediately implement big changes. It’s now ‘ok’ to not do anything or become motivated for a fresh start.
Here’s my take —
As my practice denotes, l i f e – i s – c h a n g e. It really is an illusion to think that things are standing still at any time. Humans use all kinds of mental constructs to find ways to compartmentalize aspects of their lives so they can focus on something in their lives they want to address. It’s a technique all of us can do at any time, any day, any month. When we flip the calendar to start a new year on January 1st, this is a prompt for a lot of people at the same time worldwide to create that compartmentalization.
For those who use this time and the prompt of a calendar new year as a way to set intentions, or re-focus on something(s) that they’ve been wanting to get at in their lives, there is no harm. The key is to not create pressure, obligation or a situation where if you don’t quickly do everything you intended, or stick to every possible change you want to establish anew, you make yourself feel bad. Don’t make it in all-or-nothing proposition, or compare yourself to others or compare yourself to unrealistic expectations you create for yourself.
What is important is to take note of what you care about. How you want to direct change in your life. Check in with yourself. And so as you go slowly or quickly, gently or with an extreme gesture – focus on the why and if you stumble or lose focus as many people do after grand plans with the New Year, stay connected to what matters. That way, any day can be “January 1st”.
Often times, the focus makes this new moment, this day to which we assign so much import a burden and distances us from realistic expectations. We wake up on Jan 1st, and there we are. It’s not always easy to just flip-the-switch in some major area. So go gently. If you want to join a gym or take more walks or try yoga, you can. If you want to drink less or eat less, give yourself permission to get there incrementally.
Cold turkey or grand gestures don’t work for everyone. The key is not to make the goal too big or try to get there too fast. Ask yourself what it is you really want from consciously directing change. It’s always an ebb and flow motion in life. Change is the constant.
It’s great to set intentions or do a hard stop if that can work for you. But when you focus your attention on your larger goals, what you really want is to be able to measure movement over time toward those goals. You are relieved from having to make radical grand gestures or Day 1, 2, or 3, and you don’t have to opt-into the ‘anti-new-year’s resolution’ either. You don’t have to be limited or pressured by anyone or anything in the culture around you – no guilt.
You can pick any day – Jan 1st or Jan 18th or March 23rd – to gain clarity and make a conscious choice to change in a way that benefits you or helps you move toward something you are aiming at.