New Year New You?

Today is the first ‘proper’ working day of a shiny brand new year. (Apologies to those who’ve been working over the holiday to keep the country running. I salute and thank you.)

Most of us have had a long weekend to mull over what’s going to be different this year. Facebook is awash with posts and images about new pages turned, new resolutions declared, new challenges embarked upon, new diet regimes begun. It’s inspiring and also somewhat exhausting …

And of course experience tells us that less than eight percent of what we plan to change on New Year’s Day ever lasts beyond the end of January.

So what are some different ways to think about starting a new year?

  1. Why not pick a theme, mantra or touchstone for the year? When you lose your way or get ambushed by life, it can really help to have a handy ‘way of being’ to pull out of your back pocket. For me, 2014 was the year of Grace and Ease, 2015 the year of Outrageous Openness. 2016 is set to be the year of Magic and Miracles. I know, I made it all up. And you can too. Because it helps, it really does. Sometimes muttering my little mantra (‘grace and ease, grace and ease …’, ‘outrageous openness, outrageous openness…’) was all that kept me going in the face of the unexpected or the unwanted.
  2. Start from ‘there’s nothing wrong, nothing to fix’. Trying to change anything about yourself because you feel damaged, broken, ineffective or bad and wrong is never really going to do more than stick a plaster on the problem. Despite thinking as a child that the lurid pink sticky stuff had magical properties, I now know that the real healing comes from inside, part of my body’s natural process. Of course all of us (I’m assuming here that you haven’t yet achieved enlightenment either) can grow and develop and learn new stuff. But we are, just as when we were newborn, valuable, precious, whole, complete and perfect. A grubby and torn £50 note has just as much intrinsic value as one fresh off the press.
  3. Forgive yourself for previous failures and omissions. We all have things we started but didn’t finish, things we promised but didn’t fulfil on, things we tried but gave up on because it was too hard, or took too long, or we couldn’t quite cut it. And most of us carry a secret shame or embarrassment, which leads to a reluctance to start again, promise again, try again. In the gorgeous words of Elizabeth Gilbert: ‘Do you think you are out of chances in which to try again? Trust me: You are not out of chances in which to try again. Do you know how many chances you get to try again? All of them. All of the chances. Forever. Today and tomorrow, and this year, and next year, and all the tomorrows to come. The chances never run out, so long as we are still here. So let’s all forgive ourselves and then not be afraid to start over.’
  4. Focus on gratitude for what you already have and think about doing more of what’s already working and already serving you. What is it that you love? What is it that lights you up, brings you joy, makes you smile, recharges your batteries, gives you a sense of purpose and satisfaction? How can you do more of it? Keep doing what works!
  5. Notice what’s not working, what you don’t enjoy, what doesn’t really fulfil you or work in your favour — and maybe do less of that? Let go of stuff that doesn’t serve a useful purpose or that isn’t infused with beauty or joy. Whether it’s things, or people, or stuff that you do, habits or thoughts or ways of being — if it makes you feel bad or doesn’t make you feel good, lose it. Or stop it.
  6. Include some radical self-care. I see so many posts on FB about ‘needing to lose weight’, ‘detox’, ‘cleanse the body’, ‘shed the Christmas blubber’ … Clean healthy eating is a wonderful thing. Having a fit, vibrant, healthy body is also a wonderful thing. But PLEASE — let it be because you LOVE yourself. Not because you’re punishing yourself. If you’re going to be doing anything radical, let it be radical self-care. Pay attention to what makes you feel great about yourself, one meal at a time. Maybe eat a bit less, and walk a bit more. Nap more often and drink more water. And make sure to wear jeans that don’t hurt your thighs or your feelings. To quote Anne Lamott: ‘Wear forgiving pants. The world is too hard as it is, without letting your pants have an opinion on how you are doing.’
  7. Identify your rocks — the most important things in your life, your priorities, the big goals or dreams that give meaning and purpose to your life. And dedicate your most productive time of day to them. Give your energy to what matters most, when you have the most of it.
  8. Think about changing and growing on the inside rather than acquiring shiny new possessions or qualifications on the outside. The value of a life isn’t measured by how many things you own or how much money you have in the bank (nice as that may be). In the words of Jim Rohn, ‘If you want to have more, you have to become more. For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better, you have to get better. For things to improve, you have to improve. If you grow, everything grows for you.’ ‘The true worth of a man is not to be found in man himself, but in the colours and textures that come alive in others,’ said Albert Schweitzer.
  9. Be patient with yourself. Most results don’t show up immediately. One day of wise and moderate eating won’t be reflected on the scales or in your waistband. It’s only at the end of the year that you’ll look back and realise how far you’ve come. Results are what help us to stay motivated, but it’s impossibly hard to quantify those results when they refer to internal mental shifts. Rest assured you are changing, you are growing, you’re just terrible at measuring it. So don’t quit, don’t give up … ever. (And if you do, then re-read point 3, and start all over again with a glad and forgiving heart.)