The history of making New Year’s resolutions dates back to the ancient Babylonians, but it seems that with over 4000 years of practice we still aren’t any better at keeping those resolutions than our ancient predecessors were. The topic has been widely researched, and yet no clear answers have emerged as to why we continue to do the things that we know aren’t good for us, or why we skip the things that we know will bring us immeasurable health, pleasure and joy.
We procrastinate. We date the wrong people. We smoke. We act irresponsibly with our finances. We curse. We skip workouts. We hold on to guilt, grudges, pain, envy and jealousy. We fight unfairly with those we care about. We act inelegantly, ungraciously and without manners. We let fear make our decisions for us. We overindulge in food, wine, work, the internet and shopping. And we do it over and over again.
These things may give us momentary comfort, protection, or even pleasure, but we know they aren’t the way to gain lasting happiness. So why do we do them anyway? Is it that we don’t really want to change? Is it because change is too difficult? Is it because the known is easier than the unknown? Or could it be that we just don’t stop to think about what we’re doing, and the consequences, while we’re doing it? Is the answer to keeping our New Year’s resolutions as simple as just becoming more aware?
There are so many teachings on slowing down, being mindful, savouring the moment, and living life on purpose, that perhaps the same applies to keeping our resolutions in the New Year. We’ve been poked and prodded so often into being religiously goal oriented, squeezing more in, and being more productive that we’ve completely forgotten that life is still a lovely journey. It’s also a journey that we’ll miss if we blink. Life isn’t a race to the finish, life is a meandering path full of individual moments meant to bring us tremendous delight. All that it requires are individual, purposeful actions intended to create the life we want.
Along those lines, I’m proposing a new strategy for resolutions this year. Perhaps if we make being more aware our one and only resolution for 2011, it will help us to make strides in other areas we’re working on, too. If we could practice awareness, then we’d be more mindful of what we’re eating, how we’re speaking to our loved ones and what joy we’re bringing to ourselves and to others each day. To take it a step further, we could focus solely on being more aware for the first 30 days of the New Year, as all new habits take that long to incorporate into our lives, then the next month we could add in something else we’d like to work on. We could then use our new tool of being more aware to help us gain ground in eating more healthfully, or reading to our children each evening, etc. We could add a new resolution each month, making a year of mini resolutions all under the umbrella of our main resolution to be mindful. We’d have a New Year of monthly resolutions put into real practice, rather than one month of many New Year’s resolutions that fall by the wayside, and by the end of the year we can look back on a whole year of lovely.
Also, care should be taken not only to dispense with what we no longer want or need in our lives, but to make sure that we’re adding in the things that we do want to be part of our adventure, too. Otherwise, we’re left with a vacuum, and vacuums are too easily filled with what is comfortable. As an example, what will we do rather than smoke? Perhaps practice French, or take a long bath. What will we do rather than shop too much? Perhaps go on a picnic, or volunteer at a children’s hospital. What will we do rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, or envying others? Perhaps read an inspirational book, or write a list of what we’re grateful for in our journal. We’ll fill our lives with so many brilliant things that there is no longer room for the things that should be left out.
So as we close out this year, and look forward to the next, it’s time for contemplation and reflection, and it’s time for fresh starts and new beginnings. Maybe the perfect fresh start is to simply become more aware, as a way of not only keeping our resolutions, but of also enjoying as much of this wonderful, charming life that we’ve been given as possible.
Who’s in for a whole year of lovely?
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