Are New Year’s resolutions good for you?

My intentions for 2016 are to have numerous opportunities for:

– being in the flow and connected to universal spirit

– taking time to appreciate the sunset or the song of a robin

– seeing the best in other people

– sharing fun and laughter with friends and strangers

– feeling the peace of just being in the now

Quick reflection

Rather than making a New Year’s resolution, I prefer to set my intentions for the New Year. This allows for endless exciting possibilities of how it will come about. If I set myself a specific task, I am limiting myself to either success or failure as an outcome. The classic resolution of going to the gym and losing weight often leads to disappointment because it is set in a win or lose context. If I change the resolution into an intention of increasing my health and fitness, I become open to achieving this in many different ways, which may or may not include the gym.

Slow reflection

New Year’s resolutions are strange, aren’t they? We have a tradition of making sincerely-meant resolutions, wanting them to create a fresh start for the New Year. But why are they so difficult to keep? Are we expecting too much of ourselves? I suggest that many resolutions come from the inner critic or inner judge that tells you that you’re not good enough in some way. It whispers that you have something to be ashamed of; something that ought to be changed to make you more acceptable. This might be that you are not fit enough (or qualified/ well-read/ busy/ spiritual/ strong/ successful enough…) Combine this feeling of not being good enough with a tradition that New Year’s resolutions are a good thing, and you might find yourself signing up for the gym.

However, your inner judge is a learned reaction that dates back to your childhood, it is not the totality of who you are. It wants you to be the obedient child doing what you’re told to by your internalised parent or carer. The inner judge only knows how to criticise so even if you do make the changes it demands, it still can’t congratulate you or make you feel good. You could force yourself along this route but there is not much fun in it and you’ll find plenty of reasons to stop.

I began my adult life with a strong work ethic and plenty of internal self-criticism. It has taken a long and interesting journey to discover that I achieve more and feel much happier if I do things that make me feel good rather than following the path of “ought to”. I feel I’ve done well to liberate myself from New Year’s resolutions or any other decision where I’m forcing myself like a square peg into a round hole. Now I simply set my intentions and sit back to see how it plays out. Something will inspire me and it will feel like fun, not effort. I congratulate myself on NOT pushing myself hard.

Finally I can choose an image to diminish and disempower my inner judge. Today I want to imagine it as a black crow, pompously striding about in black robes with its arms clasped behind its back, cawing untunefully. I prefer to love and appreciate the cheerful, bubbling song of a Robin.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *