I don't mean to be all bah-humbug-y about trying to improve your life in some way - I'm all for it, but let's be realistic about change.
Real change? Major change? You can't force it, or hop on some New Year's bandwagon with your 'I'm gonna make a new me!' battle cry. Real change is slow, subtle, and more often than not something in your life has to be so out of balance, painfully out of whack, in order to induce change that will be meaningful.
Think back on last year. Do you remember your resolutions? Did you stick with them? If so, for how long?
I heard on the radio yesterday that the three most common resolutions are, in reverse order: 3) lose weight 2) spend less money and 1) drink less.
Mostly, New Year's Resolutions are geared towards doing less of something. We are an indulgent society. We are programmed to want more, but the things we want more of tend to make us obese, addicted and in debt.
There are lots of things we need more of in our lives: compassion, down-time, gratitude, peace of mind, kindness, laughter.
Find at least one thing every day that spreads some love and compassion into the world. Even when faced with negativity, spread kindness. Someone cuts you off in line? A cashier is rude? The server is late bringing your food?
You have choices on how you react to things: indignation and annoyance are the more obvious choices, of course. Patience and compassion, however, break the cycle of negativity, bring you peace of mind, and are paid forward in beautiful ways.
There is a lovely concept in Buddhism, that every person you meet, every person you know, is a teacher. Each interaction you have with someone has a ripple effect: if it's angry or negative, it spreads negativity and anger out into the world. If it's gentle and compassionate, it spreads peace and compassion into the world.
The people who upset you, treat you poorly or make you angry? They are teachers, too. If someone makes you mad, look into yourself: what is it about what they said or did that resonates so deeply with you? Did they strike a sensitive chord? If so, why? Is there something in your life you have been trying not to see?
If everyone did one compassionate thing every day, for no reason at all, think about how much brighter the world would be.
Now that this blog is a year and a half old, I can look back to see where I was exactly a year ago. Last year I did a post about how I don't do New Year's Resolutions. I didn't know it then, but I was four months away from embarking on a weight-loss journey that would change my life.
In that post, I wrote this:
So instead of resolutions, I take a hard look at myself and ask some honest questions. What is it about myself I don't want to face? What am I trying not to know about myself?
By resolving to face some inner truths - honestly, but gently - the moment eventually arrived one chilly April morning where I put on my ratty old sweatpants - my stretchy-waisted-fat-pants - and one clear, concise thought popped into my head: enough.
By turning my eyes gently inward, faced a hard truth about myself - without the pressure of thinking I had to do something about it right then - I gave my mind and spirit time to be ready. It opened my heart and mind to hearing that one word - enough - when I was finally ready to take action.
Give yourself a gift this New Year's: look kindly but honestly at yourself. Is there something you want to change, but fear gets in the way? Look yourself in the mirror and admit out loud what it is that makes you afraid. Just say the words.
You can't program change into the calendar every January 1st. It comes in its own time. All you have to do is face the hard truth and then keep your mind and heart open.