This time of year inspires us to be “out with the old and in with the new.” Is it a healthy path to take or are we caught in the self-improvement vortex?
Perhaps it is our restlessness, our lack of self acceptance and our inability to be with what is that makes this seems like a great opportunity to be better, do better, and have more.
The desire to change can be strong: an urgent craving that fills us with an energy we interpret as our inner voice speaking to us from a deep yearning to make our dreams come true. But is it actually a form of aggression toward ourselves? Perhaps it is an expression of the storyline that there is something wrong with us, something that has to be fixed before we can feel worthwhile and happy.
Does it have to be that way?
There is nothing wrong with New Year’s resolutions. If we want to shift unhealthy habits to healthy ones, New Year’s resolutions can help us take the first step. But I am wondering if we can take our time to slow down and listen mindfully rather than rush forward with grand new plans. Can we sit with the tension of our desire for change with kind awareness until we can connect with what is underneath?
Here are the steps I have been taking over the last few days to examine my own urge to set a clear intention for 2015. It is my daily meditation at this time of year.
- Start from a place of kindness and self acceptance.
- Quiet your body and mind until you feel quite still. A short mindfulness of breath practice is a good start.
- Now ask yourself: What is my intention for 2015? Sit with the question rather than pushing for an answer. Practice patience and trust that the answer will arise with greater authenticity if you allow it to come in its own time. It might take many quiet contemplations or just a few.
Listen to what your intentions are underneath this energy for change and renewal. How are you speaking to yourself about these ideas/ Is it a critical tone? Is it an escapist tone? A restlessness for change based in your deeper values or your more surface cravings? Would you get a “quick hit” from throwing out the new and heralding in the new?
- Translate that intention into wise choices moving forward. If that means change, spell it out specifically and use the following tips to increase the likelihood that you can make it a habit. If you sense that these intentions translate into greater self acceptance instead of change, cultivating mindful self-compassion will help you with that.
- Commit to what will nourish and resource you for the journey. For me that means not only mindfulness and self-compassion but also wise choices like getting enough sleep, exercise and good food. It means making time for family, friends, books and nature — all of which fill me up with gratitude and warmth that help make the challenges of daily life easier.
What will nourish you for your intention?
How to Make it a Habit
- Start small. Willpower is like a muscle and gets worn out if you push it too hard.
- Do it every day. Irregular schedules undermine success. This is another reason to start small. I meditated for only five minutes a day when I was establishing my mindfulness habit.
- Anchor it to another established routine as a trigger or reminder. For instance, put your props out the night before and meditate as soon as your alarm goes off — your alarm is your anchor and reminder.
- Build up slowly once you are confident your first small step is in place. For me, increasing to just 15 minutes was a good second step.
- Break it down into realistic bites: If you want to meditate for 20 minutes, start at two sessions of 10 minutes first.
- Accept slipups with self compassion. Everyone slips up. Don’t criticize yourself, but get back on the horse again as soon as possible. Expect to slip up, but plan for it by having “Plan B” in place for when you will make up the lost time.
- Be patient and stick to a pace you can sustain. Habits are hard to form and following all these tips sets you up for success. Trying to be a hero quickly, though, sets you up to fail.