We traditionally associate the New Year with a fresh start. Many of us have bad habits we want to reform, or changes we found difficult to make in the normal course of our days. In media, the emphasis is so often put on resolutions of a more guilt-ridden nature: diet, fitness and financial reform. They tend not to emphasize the personal and interpersonal things we might also take time to reflect on... not just how to look better, but how to become a better person, a happier person.
Often, we think that the superficial stuff is what's holding ourselves back from a joyous life. "If only I could lose that last 10 pounds," "If only I could squeeze into my skinny jeans." In the past, I've fallen into that trap too. Don't get me wrong, I STILL want to fit into my skinny jeans! But I'm realizing that those things are not the problem, but a symptom. When I'm happy and living a "good life" -- balanced, healthy and loving -- a lot of that smaller stuff seems to take care of itself.
So, my own resolutions this year aren't about eating more protein or taking more spinning classes, they're about nurturing my very soul and being, and about creating a state of mind where I'll make better choices about everything, including -- but not limited to -- diet and exercise. Here are my 2013 resolutions:
(1) Stay true to my expression
The best thing you can bring to ANY relationship is honesty. If you say, sincerely, openly and kindly, what you mean then you give the other person an opportunity to respond to the REAL you. We often wish people would just understand what we want, as if they could read minds, or read between the lines of what we say. It's a lot to ask. And we often feel anxiety and stress when we walk away from situations knowing we didn't say what we really wanted to.
This year, I'm committing to really trying to communicate what it is I think and feel. I hope it will deepen my relationships on both sides.
(2) Understand that happiness is a choice
Last year, my resolutions were very focused on being brave and feeling gratitude every day. 2012 was an interesting year for me... much was in flux, definitely a year of growth and change, which left me sometimes feeling unsure of my feelings, so a boost of courage was very much required. But also, I wanted to remember that even as I was experiencing some "key learnings" I have much to be grateful for.
This year, I feel like I can progress from that and realize that happiness is my own autonomous choice. I believe that applies to all of us... happiness isn't something that happens to a lucky few and not to others. It's something you too deserve. And it's something you can decide you want to embody and to multiply in your life.
Let yourself choose to be happy, even when you feel challenged, even when you're 10 pounds heavier than you want to be, even when other people let you down. Let it be something you give to yourself, not rely on other people for. Understanding that this is a decision YOU control and making that decision can be one of the most liberating and illuminating lessons you can ever learn and the greatest gift you can give yourself.
(3) Feel and receive unconditional love
Unconditional love is a kind of old-fashioned notion that seems to have lost some of its beauty. I think for women especially, the idea of loving unconditionally is easily equated with being a pushover or compromising on things you want. It doesn't have to be that way. You can assert your own needs and wants but still love unconditionally. Not every little unhappiness means that love should be second-guessed.
I think we understand unconditional love better when it comes to children and even our animal friends than we do with adult friends and romantic partners. But I really believe it's a beautiful outlook to have in a friendship or relationship. It doesn't mean that the relationship will be immune to hurt or difficulty, but that you're committing to something bigger, to a love that transcends all of that. I want to give unconditional love in 2013.
(4) Reframe situations
I believe that another source of unhappiness and confusion in our lives is when we fail to empathize with those around us. We tend to feel alienated and alone when the actions of others are a mystery to us. How often do you wonder "what must he/she be thinking?" about your partner, or friend, or coworker? But, do you really try to understand what/why they are thinking and feeling?
Learning to step outside of your own wants and needs and reframe the situation from another person's perspective will help you become more empathetic and understanding. But it will also change your own reality, because once you've seen something from another's perspective you might learn something new or reconsider your own course of action. If you learn to do this pre-emptively you may find you have fewer arguments, become a better communicator and develop a greater love for those around you.
(5) Smile everyday
Perhaps this is the simplest resolution of all, but also the most transformative: I noticed over the holidays that people tend to smile at each other a lot more... just passing on the street or at the coffee shop or grocery store. It made such a difference, those little exchanges with strangers, with coworkers, clients and loved ones. It's something I want to carry forward into my New Year.
But smiling isn't just about making other people feel good. It definitely changes our own mood too. A real smile creeps up into your eyes and alters your brain chemistry, lingers on your face long afterwards. It's so much nicer when you're going about your normal routine but find you're doing it with a smile on your face rather than walking with your head down or, worse, a frown. Let's all turn those frowns upside down and smile, giggle and laugh our way into 2013.
So, together, let's try to be more honest with ourselves and others, give unconditional love, choose to be happy, think outside our own perspective and smile every day. Perhaps then we won't sweat the smaller things. If we work on these resolutions I believe lots of other things will find their right place.
Happy New Year! I wish wonderful things for each and every one of you in 2013.
I would love to know what your new years resolutions are?