The New Year.
There’s a Chinese one, a Jewish one, the Hijri one – there are so many “New Years” in the world, but since the main one in the Western world is around the corner, I’m addressing this one in particular. Yes, the one where hundreds of thousands of people stand in freezing cold Times Square to watch a massive ball drop (trust me, tried and true: it’s better enjoyed from the warmth of your home via TV, stampedes and frozen fingers foregone).
With the New Year comes the idea that we might, since the calendar date switches up by a year, wake up a new person. New and improved, the You 6S, the Me 5G. “New Year, New Me” is all too enticing to many of us, and a good way to set some kind of transformative life goals…
… or a recipe for disappointment due to unrealistic expectations.
Guys, let’s be real – just because the New Year is coming does not mean you, your boss, your boyfriend or your parents will miraculously change (I still believe in magic in other scenarios, but this would be too easy). This is where we get to the big word of the New Year:
The resolution to:
- Quit smoking (amazing intention, but then your job gets stressful again mid-January and…)
- Take your partner on a weekend trip every month (very sweet, but easily forgotten once routine takes over)
- Run a marathon (seriously, you people make me doubt why I have knees in the first place)
- Give up sugar (and then that time of month hits, and NUTELLA is your best friend)
- Wake up at 5.30 am every morning and meditate (ok but actually, try to do this one! Except maybe at 6 pm, after work…)
Branching off the last one, my yoga teacher in South India always started his meditation sessions by saying “Resolution… to… meditate”, in his slow, deep voice. The decision to do something and commit to it, is often half the battle. So in short, it is definitely wonderful to make resolutions – it shows you have the will to make a positive change in your life, and that is only commendable.
However, I would like to propose that the fact that the infamous ‘New Year’s Resolution’ is so common and almost expected from each individual, it actually diminishes the seriousness of the resolution made by most of us. Personally, I can’t remember a single New Year’s Resolution I have made, let alone kept, ever.
It’s an inescapable question at every holiday party: “So Bob, what’s your resolution? Oh yeah, I’m trying to learn Russian by February too, spasiba man, let’s do it together!” The intentions are good, but often entirely unrealistic and perhaps not really intrinsically motivated.
Reading an article in Forbes Magazine, I was stunned to learn that only 8% of the population actually achieves their resolution.
According to Forbes, simplicity and tangibility are the key factors determining the success of your resolution.
To that, I would like to add sincerity and urgency.
For instance, the most common type of resolution each year is health-related, usually to lose weight, eat healthier, or exercise more. Now, if for instance you realized you were not in optimal shape in September, the lure of the New Year just gave you 3 more months to eat bacon chocolate, sit on the couch and internally tell yourself it’s ok, mañana, mañana. Come New Year, you may have let yourself go so much that it’s much harder to get motivated, and you don’t even know where to begin. You feel like it’s such a huge task, and the only thing holding you to this loose commitment now is the New Year – not an urgency to feel better, or a true commitment you made to yourself, here and now, independent of any external factors (like the ominous date) or societal expectations (no Bob, I will not learn Russian with you.)
So if you are truly committed to improving your health and felt it was a necessary change to make on September 8th, why not start on September 8th?
The relative proximity of the New Year is often an excuse to continue with certain suboptimal habits because let’s face it, change is hard, video games are more fun than studying for the GMAT, but procrastinating on something too much either means it scares you shitless, or that you are not truly committed to it. If the latter, that’s a personal choice you make, prioritize as you wish.
However, I believe a lot of us actually avoid making changes in the here and now because there is an occasion to stall the daunting jump to do something that is tough, but ultimately worth it.
As we know, most things worth having don’t come too easily.
This is where Mindfulness comes in – the only moment you have is now.
If you think about it, it’s not so different from making your happiness contingent on external factors.
“I would be so happy if only…
- I could sing well
- I were richer
- I were skinnier/taller/stronger
- I had a new partner/dog/car
What we often don’t realize is that this attitude will never lead to happiness or true self-growth. Once you have that extra cash, you will want even more. Your new phone won’t be new for very long. It’s like with plastic surgery: People start with rhinoplasty to “fix” their noses, and once that’s done, they notice their breasts could use some tweaking, or their jawline could be a little sharper…
It’s a vicious cycle of depending on potential future moments and things to feel what we deserve to feel with very little, in our current everyday moments.
The only happiness that can be felt intrinsically, and therefore unfalteringly, is the one that is independent of external factors and conditions that have yet to be fulfilled.
This is not the same as having goals – having goals is great, wonderful. Something to work for and look forward to is, in fact, a key ingredient for most peoples’ happiness. However, instead of being happy only after a certain condition is fulfilled, we can be happy to have the will, resolution, and opportunity to work towards improving our lives, relationships, and careers. We can be fully happy on the journey of fulfilling more goals; no less than once they are fulfilled. The excitement of new possibilities, overcoming challenges and learning from life are only some of the happy thrills of the journey before the finish line.The only difference is the feeling of accomplishment, which definitely gives an extra high. However, the same level of internal happiness can remain with us even before we’ve attained our next big outward achievement.
Now look at resolutions the same way.
Love yourself for having the true desire to grow as a person. I’m rooting for all of us to keep up our self-motivated energy to aspire and inspire.
However, if your desire isn’t really intrinsic, it runs the risk of fizzling out all too fast. There was no foundation – or if there was, there was too easy of an excuse to let it crumble before it could ever become a palace.
The only time is now. Yes, even December 26th is a better time to start than January 1st. Sure, you could get four more days of pushing off your dream, big or small, but why? Will those four days of procrastinating be worth it? Or will starting because you truly want to do something, even a couple of days before the ‘big date’, just give you a little head start that might make all the difference?
Whatever you really want in life is worth starting now.
At 5 pm of the day you decide on it.
The next morning, even if it’s a Tuesday.
On January 15th, April 6th or September 2nd.
Take the New Year as a moment to manifest the good changes you have already committed to.
Smile internally, knowing you are on the right track. It’s the biggest gift you can give yourself.