It's a new new year. A time for new beginnings, fresh starts, and resolutions. I've never really liked the general notion of New Years Resolutions. They always felt gimmicky and rarely seemed to come from a place of compassion. They felt restrictive and judgemental and like just another way for people to consider what is "wrong" with them. On the other hand, it can feel incredibly inspiring, especially en masse, to commit to changes you want in your life. So how do we move into resolution season in a compassionate and inspiring way that is actually sustainable for the year?
Start With the Tone
I think my biggest problem with new year's resolutions is that they are often from the negative perspective. "I'm not eating right so I better cut out chocolate", "I'm fat so I better get to the gym", "I'm supposed to be ___ so I better stop ___".
While, obviously, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be healthier, are any of those resolutions very inspiring? Do you really think it will help you to go the entire year without eating chocolate? Does thinking you're fat or weak or unattractive really make you want to go to the gym? Personally, that just makes me want to eat more chocolate.
My point is, there is another way to say all these things. Want to eat healthier? Great! Why not simply make a resolution to figure out what that means for you? Why not say, "This year, I resolve to be more aware of what foods I eat and how they make me feel." Or, "This year, I commit to physical activities that make me happy, healthy, and strong." Try saying these different versions out loud to yourself and notice how they make you feel. Now, think about your own resolution(s). What tone do they speak to you in and how does it make you feel? Write them down and, if it seems right, adjust the tone. How does that feel? Is that something you can actually practice for the entire year? Which brings me to my next point...
Make It Manageable
Another issue I think we all have with making resolutions is we get a little too big for our britches. Of course, it would be great for me to practice yoga 90 minutes every single day but, come on, how long is that going to last? I think it's very human to want to be be grandeous but, the more I live, the more I realize success comes from the little things. The every day, tedious, small choices we make to keep going. So, let's break it down.
Using the yoga example, let's say you want to commit to a daily practice. Ok, so maybe 90 minutes every day is too much to ask of yourself (or not, I mean, all power to you). What about 10? Or 5? Or maybe it's easier to think in terms of what you want to do. Maybe there's a particular flow or posture(s) that you absolutely love and you can build a daily practice around that. Or, perhaps, you want to commit to going to class more often. Yeah, it'd be great to go to class 3 or 4 or 5 times a week but what works with you? If 3 classes a week is sustainable for your life, awesome. But, if it's not, find what is. Maybe it's a class a week or a class a month. Why not make it work for you?
If healthy eating is part of your resolution, instead of focusing on what you "should" cut out, why not focus on what you can bring in? Whatever healthy means in your body (I think it's different for all of us), focus on eating more of that. Focus on what foods make you feel good. After all, couldn't that be the point? To feel good rather than fit someone else's idea of what healthy looks like or weighs or fits into? But I digress. If eating healthier is new, maybe pick a day or a meal to focus on and slowly build up as that becomes habitual. From that perspective, you aren't taking anything away from yourself, you are giving to yourself. And, when you do eat that chocolate, there's nothing to feel guilty about.
You Can Always Adjust
While of course we are practicing self-discipline with a year long resolution, we also have no idea what the year will bring. Everything is always changing and so our resolutions may need to adjust along with it. Maybe you commited to 3 yoga classes a week but you get a new full time job and that simply doesn't work for your schedule. Play around to see what new commitment you can make that keeps you practicing without stressing you out. Maybe the treadmill at the gym was something you really enjoyed in January but, come June, you find you really enjoy swimming.
I'd be willing to bet that most of our new years resolutions connect to a deeper desire in us. I know for me, my resolutions this year have less to do with the more superficial goal and much more to do with finding my own personal strength, meeting my fears, feeling better about the person I am. This is not really that dependant on whether or not I do a particular action but whether I am showing up for myself. So, I'm giving you (and myself) permission to play and explore and to know as long as we are showing up, we have the freedom to adjust if we need to. And also...
You Can Always Begin Again
I think it's important to just get this out there. We are going to mess up. We are, after all, human and there is most likely going to be a day or a week or a month where it all goes to hell. That daily yoga practice gets completely derailed by illness or a vacation (rightly, in my humble opinion) gets in the way of healthy eating. For me, in the past, this would've simply meant I failed, I suck, better luck next year. And yet, every moment is an opportunity to begin again. Every breath, every blink, is a new beginning and a new chance to make different choices. Best of all, these moments are available to us without needed to punish, chastise, or judge ourselves. We don't need to be mean or yell at ourselves, we can simply say "whoops, fell off the wagon a bit there, let's get back on shall we?". Give yourself a hug, a pat on the back, a cookie, and begin again.
Who Has an Accountabili-buddy?
This is a really tough thing for me personally but I think it's super important. Having people around who will support you, be kind to you, and help get you back on track makes such a world of difference. This is, in fact, part of my resolutions in general because I have a habit of keeping myself to myself. It's an old habit of not wanting to be a bother or get in the way that is so beyond not serving me anymore. It's also a way, for me, to not be held accountable for the commitments I make. However, having a person or a group that you can not only be supported by but also help support makes everything so much more fulfilling. We are, after all, social creatures who fundamentally need each other (sorry, but it is true). Find a friend, family member, Facebook group (shoutout to Yogi Resolutions 2016!), whatever floats your boat. Whatever truly supports you.
So what are your resolutions? What are your intentions for the coming year? I would like to share mine with you here and feel free to share yours. Let's be accountabilibuddies.
First, I commit to a daily yoga practice. At the moment, this is three conscious breaths, followed by at least one sun salutation. This is three minutes of sacred time every single day. If my body is not up to the sun salutation for any reason, modify the flow or simply practice pranayam for the same time frame. I feel incredibly disconnected from this practice that is my job and I look forward to getting back in touch!
I also commit to creating more roots in my yoga business. I am going to create one yoga video a month with a newsletter for at least three months and see how that fits and feels. I have so far allowed the tides of inspiration to guide me and, while I still enjoy diving in fully when those moments hit, I also need a framework for the less inspired times.
This is the year of tapas, or self-discipline. When that voice inevitably comes saying I can skip today or put off a commitment I have made, I commit to stop, feel it, give it a hug, and practice continuing on anyway.
This last one is the one bringing up the most fear and resistance. I commit to getting a passport. I have always liked the idea of traveling but I notice I've been waiting around for someone to lead me. While that would still be nice, life is short and I would love to be comfortable standing tall on my own. By the end of the year, I will have a passport and, if not a trip already under my belt, a plan for one. Eeep!
I would love to hear your resolutions and, if there's interest, perhaps we can all find a place to connect, check in, and support ourselves and each other in the new year. I love you all and I hope to connect with you soon!