Friday, December 30, 2011

Easing into The New Year

We are all about to welcome in a New Year. Many of us will culminate our holiday celebrations with a big bash filled with champagne and resolutions. To most of us there is nothing new to these traditions. Some of us have chosen to downplay the festivities, even foregoing ringing in the New Year entirely. But fewer of us escape the temptation or challenge of making resolutions for the coming year. We frequently feel resolutions will improve our lives usually through deprivation or perhaps some sort of painful new fitness program. It has been a while since I have stayed up to ring in the New Year, but I have always given in to the temptation to set an unattainable goal for the coming year. I am undecided as to why this temptation befalls us and we so easily submit, but for some reason we get some pleasure from this fantasy world, if only for a short while.

Making resolutions can be a wonderful exercise however. It allows us a few minutes to examine our lives and reevaluate our priorities and raise the bar by which we measure our levels of success and happiness. As complicated as this may all sound, I truly believe that many of these seemingly impossible-to-attain goals are well within our reach. And the desired outcome of greater success or happiness can happen.

One of the main reasons we fail to stick to our newly hatched plan is that it’s the middle of winter. This is a time of rest and rejuvenation, not a time for launching new self-improvement schemes. Saving these plans until the spring will likely result in a much higher success rate, plus it satisfies our innate need to procrastinate. Spring will be here soon enough.

I espouse the idea of easing into the New Year. In so doing, we still have an opportunity to examine our lives as far as our priorities are concerned; we can review those times during the past year where we have made a difference in someone else’s life; we can think back with gratitude to the times when our best friends have been available to us in times of need and in times of joy. As important planning for the future is, there is nothing to replace being fully aware of the life we are presently living. Winter is the season when we have the time for this sort of reflection.

A few dos and don’ts for welcoming in the New Year

1. Make is list of all of as many of your short, medium and long-term goals as you can remember. Keep this list handy and revise it as changes occur.

2. Don’t affix arbitrary time lines to these goals. This only produces unnecessary stress. This does not mean accountability is not at play; it is just on an untethered schedule.

3. Make a list of your 2011 accomplishments. Take plenty of time to make this list as complete as possible.

4. Update your address books and contact lists. Make note of those people who have done you a good turn and of those whom you have helped. This list will never be complete because we will never know all the people we have helped if only with a smile.

5. Decide on an organization you will commit time to as a volunteer. Contact them and make a commitment. If you have never done this before, expect some discomfort, but realize that your effort will bring immediate gratification to you and to those people the organization helps. If you have a history of volunteerism in your life, keep it up!

6. Schedule some ‘me’ time. This might include yoga, meditation, time reading a book, time crafting a quilt or creating a painting. Rejuvenation and restoration happens more easily if we can detach from the outside world and enjoy some time alone.

7. Write down one, two, or more potential resolutions. Put this list away for safe keeping until spring arrives. The idea of keeping a resolution through the winter is unrealistic for most of us, so have some compassion for yourself and put this exercise off for a few months. You may be surprised how much easier this plan will be to implement after spring arrives.

Happy New Year everyone. I am looking forward to an exciting 2012. I hope you have good health and happiness. My continued wish is for greater civility and compassion in our families, our communities, and the world in which we live.