Now is the time of year when people all over the world engage in the same, age-old activity — conjure up all the things you despise about yourself and vow to anyone who will listen, to never, ever do those things again. You know, stop yelling at your children, quit eating out for lunch every day, stop dipping into your savings account, and Lord, have mercy, do whatever it takes to deflate the spare tire that’s currently hanging over your belt buckle.
Well, I for one will not be partaking this year. Not because I believe I’m perfect (I have plenty of proof that I’m not), but because I finally feel with every bone in my body that my life, my decisions, and my actions are good enough.
Do I partake in self-reflection this time of year? Absolutely. I’d have to be living in a cave if I didn’t with all those gyms, car dealerships, and calendar planning companies blanketing the airways and interwebs with “New Year. New You.” messages which send all of us reeling into the pastime of documenting the things we dislike about ourselves.
Could I stand to tighten my ever-expanding waistline? Yes, and I’m interested in doing so, but I’m not going to back myself into a corner with a weight-limit ultimatum that says I’m a loser if I don’t. I’m not a high school wrestler trying to make the weigh-in for my next match. I’m a hardworking mother with a lot going on and a genuine need to rest and recover when I’m not leaning into the point that I’m almost tipping over.
Would I like to write more handwritten love notes, cook more homemade meals, and see more movies in the theater? Yes, I would. But, I’ll get to those things over time, they don’t all have to be done before the snow melts this winter. And if one or two of these ambitions fall off my list of priorities, that’s OK too. Something more important might replace them.
Because self-help is a marathon, not a sprint.
For many years, my list of New Year’s resolutions was so long that I couldn’t even figure out where to start deploying my Mrs. Fix-It skills. Should I focus on the extra weight I put on over the holidays, the fact that I travel entirely too much for my job, or figure out how to stop yelling at my husband when he does nothing wrong? So little time and so many terrible habits to choose from!
Well, this year, I’m not doing it.
In my mind, personal growth and development is an always-on motor, not something you crank up with all your might the morning of January 1st, only to wear yourself out and collapse in a pile of defeat before Valentine’s Day arrives. As many of you know, I went through a very intense two-year self-help journey to turn my self-doubt into self-love.
There’s no way I could have fit these life-changing perspectives and practices (to stop putting my job before my family, to value what I think of myself more than what other people think of me, and learn to love myself again) into a few hard-nosed New Year’s resolutions with deadlines, deliverables, and disgust if I didn’t achieve them.
Self-help doesn’t work that way.
I took my time, I did my homework, and baby step by baby step over two years, I course-corrected my life, priorities, and perception of myself. And now I’ve arrived at a place in my life that’s no longer defined by perfection, but by contentment. Shakespeare once said, “My crown is contentment” and I couldn’t agree more. While I want to improve my workout regimen, my correspondence with friends, and my popcorn eating skills at the theater, the truth is, I’ll still be content with myself if I don’t accomplish those things.
I have come to believe that being happy leads to being healthy, not the other way around. So, take on the hard work and the homework to figure out what makes you happy, and I promise you that contemplating your New Year’s resolutions will become an entirely different ballgame.
You’ll learn that resolutions don’t have to appear and disappear from your life in such dramatic fashion. Slowly and surely over time, you can tweak and change things about your life, decisions, and perspective, until you reach the point that setting sanity-threatening resolutions feels like you’re just digging around in your bag of tricks for things to fix.
This morning, when I arrived at my office, I found a card from a friend that read, “It’s a new year. Celebrate a little every day.” Now, that’s a resolution I can get behind! Today I will celebrate how far I’ve come, how content I finally feel, and if I make it to the gym this afternoon, that’s a bonus celebration. If not, I won’t beat myself up.
After all, it’s a snow day today and my closest friends are going to be drinking at the local bar this afternoon, and that sounds like a lot of fun too.