My inbox is cluttered with emails full of “start over” commandments for the New Year – from goal setting advice to new workout wardrobes and even dictates on how to think now that it’s 2016. I certainly won’t deny that the dawn of a new year is an exciting time and can provide impetus to try harder to be “the best we can be”.
But it can also lead to unrealistic expectations that, when that clock chimes midnight, just like Cinderella, we’ll morph into the ideal version of ourselves. Often this ideal version has become more and more elaborately planned throughout December as self-sabotage starts to run riot, frequently peaking at near self-annihilation levels by Hogmanay (okay I was brought up in Scotland so maybe this is not quite so true for those south of the border!).
My start to 2016 was definitely not ideal; perennial promises to reduce my caffeine consumption were almost immediately broken – by 10am I’d already exceeded my self-imposed upper limit of the strong black stuff. Furthermore, navigating crowded airports and motorway services, crammed with ill-looking people, left me feeling irritable and flustered.
But, my sense of perspective/humour was restored when amongst some Facebook posts I found an Ab-Fab quote “I was fabulous last year so, of course, I’ll be fabulous this year! The quote really resonated with me even though such a self-assured mantra might not be completely my style!
However, appreciating the positives of each previous year helps me to stay grounded and avoid getting swept along in a frenzied self-improvement stampede. Don’t get me wrong, I feel passionately about living my life to its fullest potential but, for me, self-improvement comes on a double-edged sword; too much emphasis on improving can lead to increased feelings of self-dissatisfaction.
These days I try to resist the temptation of compiling a list of New Year resolutions because in the past this list has ended up more of a failure writ, ensuring that January becomes a miserable month full of insecurities. Furthermore it fuels a belief that new beginnings happen in the future thereby denying the possibility of staying in the present and starting NOW.
If ever I was in any doubt, re-reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”, has reaffirmed my commitment to staying in the present. This means accepting the mistakes I make today and losing no time in redressing the balance without blaming either myself or anyone else. And, as George Elliot once pointed “It’s never too late to be what you might have been”!
My resolve to nourish my body and my mind is a constant. Eat “clean” and when hungry so as to avoid eating too much or too little. Keeping a healthy mind is also crucial if we are to stay on track and achieve our dreams and goals so this year I am strengthening my resolve to quickly “switch the channel” if my inner talk becomes self-critical. I accept this takes work but there was one triumph for me on January 1st – I did drink 2 double espressos by mid-morning and couldn’t “un-drink them” but I did not drink anymore coffee that day!
I also think that before rushing headlong into a punishing self-improvement regime it is worth appraising what already works well and resist the temptation to “ditch the baby with the bathwater” just because a new year has dawned.
So this year I’m going to make sure I find time to celebrate successes and use less of the “stick” and more of the “carrot” to spur me on and stay happy and focussed.
ps. These sheep have the right idea and are not wasting time pondering “new ewe” – they’ve found a diet that works and they’re sticking to it!