Why do we want to start over and remake our lives every January 1st? Is it guilt for overindulging over the holidays? Is it disappointment that we haven’t achieved what we imagined to be our true potential? Or self-pity, shame, self-hatred, or doubt about our own self-worth?
When did it start?
Is it all the negative little voices in our heads that point out all our faults? Perhaps in the distant past, long before we were able to form a coherent thought, someone indicated that they didn’t approve of something we’d done – pooping in our diaper or making too much noise crying.
Maybe as we grew older and learned words for the things we did, those disapprovals took on a more comprehensible form – “No, don’t pick your nose,” “No, don’t bite your sister,” “No, don’t throw rocks at other people,” “No, you can’t climb that tree.”
And then, older still, “No, you can’t wear that,” “No, you can’t take the car,” “No, you can’t marry that person.” “No.” “No!” “NO!”
There’s so much pressure to fit in, to be a good member of the herd. Our lives are shaped and moulded by the expectations of those around us. We only feel fully comfortable in familiar surroundings, with people who have similar values, ethics and cultural conditioning.
On the rare occasion when we attempt something new, it fills us with trepidation because deep down, we know it will change us. Perhaps we’ll no longer fit in with our tribe, our herd. What then? What if, as a result, we’re exiled? There’s safety in numbers. Yes, we may gain new knowledge, new confidence, and even become admirable, but is it worth the cost?
New Year’s Resolution – Be a Hero?
We admire our heroes, but do we want to live with them? Heroes are uncomfortable people. They shine a light on the inadequacies of everyone around them. For the majority, their values and integrity are often impossible to emulate or even aspire to. Yes, we admire them, but who’d want to be one?
Which is why, in most cases, New Year’s resolutions fail. We may say we don’t care what people think, but decades of other people’s expectations are hard to ignore when we start something new.
The overwhelming magnitude of these resolutions defeats us at the first hurdle, the first time we run into some glitch or have our first perceived failure. We think, “I knew it. Yet another grand plan that didn’t work. I’m such a loser,” or words to that effect. We give up by January 15th and stay in our comfort zone.
What we’ve forgotten to take into account is all that negative self-talk we’ve accumulated, like icicles, cobwebs, dust or stalactites over a period of years – even decades – one tiny incident at a time. It’s built up a natural barrier of resistance that keeps us stuck. We’ve learned that it’s dangerous to try new things.
It’s not going to go away all at once.
So, on January 1st, forget about those overly ambitious New Year’s resolutions – losing 100 pounds, or getting your pilot’s licence, or writing a New York Times bestseller. Instead, shorten your time-frame. Set easy goals, ones you can achieve in a couple of days or a week. Then do it again. And again.
Accumulate success, one day at a time.
Tell yourself you’ll lose one pound this week. That’s all. Just one. Walk a little more, eat a little more sensibly.
Or maybe you could make one phone call or go online to discover if there’s a flight school in your area. One easy task. No obligation, no pressure.
Or set a timer for no more than five minutes and sit down and write one or two sentences or paragraphs about something you recall or a story you’ve thought about telling. If that’s too intimidating, use the voice recorder on your phone.
Keep those New Year’s Resolutions
To keep the momentum going, create a “streak” calendar, so you build a habit over time – one that gives you a little jolt of pride every time you add another day to your winning streak.
It’s all about the baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither are New Year’s resolutions. Over time, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to change yourself, maybe even become someone others aspire to become – a Hero.