Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's An Inside Job

New Year's Resolutions are, in my opinion, a complete waste of time. 

I don't mean to be all bah-humbug-y about trying to improve your life in some way - I'm all for it, but let's be realistic about change. 

Real change?  Major change?   You can't force it, or hop on some New Year's bandwagon with your 'I'm gonna make a new me!' battle cry.    Real change is slow, subtle, and more often than not something in your life has to be so out of balance, painfully out of whack, in order to induce change that will be meaningful.

Think back on last year.  Do you remember your resolutions?   Did you stick with them?   If so, for how long? 

I heard on the radio yesterday that the three most common resolutions are, in reverse order:  3) lose weight   2) spend less money and 1) drink less.

Mostly, New Year's Resolutions are geared towards doing less of something.   We are an indulgent society.  We are programmed to want more, but the things we want more of tend to make us obese, addicted and in debt.

There are lots of things we need more of in our lives:   compassion, down-time, gratitude, peace of mind, kindness, laughter.

Instead of a resolution that revolves around self, try one that revolves around others.   Try complimenting a stranger, calling an old friend, reaching out to someone who needs help.   Donate your time to a charity.   Read an extra book to your kids at night.  

Find at least one thing every day that spreads some love and compassion into the world.   Even when faced with negativity, spread kindness.    Someone cuts you off in line?  A cashier is rude?  The server is late bringing your food?  

You have choices on how you react to things:  indignation and annoyance are the more obvious choices, of course.   Patience and compassion, however, break the cycle of negativity, bring you peace of mind, and are paid forward in beautiful ways.

There is a lovely concept in Buddhism, that every person you meet, every person you know, is a teacher.   Each interaction you have with someone has a ripple effect:  if it's angry or negative, it spreads negativity and anger out into the world.  If it's gentle and compassionate, it spreads peace and compassion into the world.

The people who upset you, treat you poorly or make you angry?  They are teachers, too.   If someone makes you mad, look into yourself:  what is it about what they said or did that resonates so deeply with you?   Did they strike a sensitive chord?  If so, why?   Is there something in your life you have been trying not to see?

If everyone did one compassionate thing every day, for no reason at all, think about how much brighter the world would be.


Now that this blog is a year and a half old, I can look back to see where I was exactly a year ago.    Last year I did a post about how I don't do New Year's Resolutions.    I didn't know it then, but I was four months away from embarking on a weight-loss journey that would change my life.

In that post, I wrote this:

One of the most meaningful things I have learned in recovery is all the promises and resolutions in the world won't help if I'm not being honest with myself. I would focus my resolutions on the simpler stuff, like cutting out sweets, instead of facing my own hard truths.

So instead of resolutions, I take a hard look at myself and ask some honest questions. What is it about myself I don't want to face? What am I trying not to know about myself?
With the benefit of hindsight, I can see what was happening there.   I was in pre-contemplation about losing weight, and I didn't even know it.   There was something about myself that I didn't want to see:  I was overweight.  Significantly overweight.

By resolving to face some inner truths - honestly, but gently - the moment eventually arrived one chilly April morning where I put on my ratty old sweatpants - my stretchy-waisted-fat-pants - and one clear, concise thought popped into my head:   enough

Had I resolved to lose weight for New Year's, I don't think it would have worked.   Without the gift of desperation, once the new-ness of my resolution lost its sheen, I would have gone back to my old habits.   Running around telling people I was going to lose weight would have been all about impressing other people, or trying to get external pressure make me follow up on my goal.    Real change - change born of desperation and a smidgen of self-love - is deeply personal, and it can only come from the inside out.

By turning my eyes gently inward, faced a hard truth about myself - without the pressure of thinking I had to do something about it right then - I gave my mind and spirit time to be ready.   It opened my heart and mind to hearing that one word - enough - when I was finally ready to take action.

Give yourself a gift this New Year's:  look kindly but honestly at yourself.  Is there something you want to change, but fear gets in the way?    Look yourself in the mirror and admit out loud what it is that makes you afraid.   Just say the words.   

You can't program change into the calendar every January 1st.   It comes in its own time.  All you have to do is face the hard truth and then keep your mind and heart open.


  1. Thanks for keeping it honest. I'm going through alot in my life right now and I check in for support and wisdom. You help me keep going and doing the right thing.

  2. I had a friend's sister years ago talk about her friend who gave out cards that said "write a letter to yourself about how your year was and then open it on dec 31" I think that is a great idea for looking inside yourself.

    and hey, that bermuda blue circle over there...GORGEOUS

  3. That's the real challenge about making significant change - it's slow and can feel really unrewarding until a l...o...n...g enough period of time has passed - then you can look back and say "oh yeah, look how far I've come."
    thanks for the reality check :)

  4. Usually, I completely agree with you about New Year's resolutions, and the fact that they rarely work out. In fact, when I started my blog a year ago, I said as much. I do have to say, this year, that I've kept my resolution from last year! I've blogged, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about what makes me happy, and then committing to making changes in my life. It can work, but just as you said, you have to have the uncomfortable conversation with yourself about the fear, the thing that needs to be addressed, the truth you are not mentioning. That may or may not happen at the turn of the year.

  5. Piper @ reviving remnantsDecember 30, 2010 at 10:20 PM

    You seem to have the same opinion of resolutions as I do. I'm doing an experiment this year and made resolutions about making the world a better place, instead of making me into some image I have in my mind. I'd love to hear your opinion on my resolutions!

  6. Linked to you in MY 2011 resolutions post ... loved your take on this!

  7. "Real change - change born of desperation and a smidgen of self-love - is deeply personal, and it can only come from the inside out." I LOVE this! All my changes have come from that same moment of "enough" (in my world, it sounds more like "eff this", but the idea is the same). And that smidgen of self-love is critical. That's what makes changes stick- loving yourself enough to do the hard work of changing your self.

    Beautiful post!