The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions has been around for centuries, beginning with the ancient Babylonians, whose custom of celebrating a new year in March, when crops were planted, focused on a 12 day religious festival. During the celebration, a new king was crowned or loyalty to the reigning king was affirmed and promises to pay debt and return any borrowed items were made. The idea was that if people honoured their resolutions, the gods would smile on them and if not they’d potentially be punished by the same gods.
In the 4,000 years since, as societies have evolved, quite a few things have changed but the idea of making a promise still remains except now it seems we set rather unrealistic goals; in effect we set ourselves up to let ourselves down. I have a few helpful ideas that might feel more resonant in 2020.
A recent New Year’s Eve poll conducted on CTV Ottawa, indicated that 78% of respondents do not make New Year’s resolutions; of the 22% who say they do set resolutions, we can assume that a good percentage of them will fail to reach their goals. Visit your local gym during the first week of January; then during the first week of April and you’ll see evidence of this fascinating human behavior.
So why do we set ourselves up to fail? Wouldn’t it make more sense to set achievable New Year’s resolutions? Instead of committing to losing weight, quitting smoking, eating clean or any of the other predictable and often unrealistic goals we set on the first day of a new year, why not look at the idea of resolutions in a slightly different way. How about shifting habits from the inside out instead of the other way around?
The way we think of New Year’s resolutions is about deferred happiness: I’ll feel better or I’ll be happier with myself when I……..fill in the blank with any number of objectives. If the true goal of a resolution is to improve your life, wouldn’t it be more powerful to focus your thoughts on that improvement? Doesn’t it make more sense to be focused on appreciation for what you already have in your life by listing three to five things you’re grateful for every day instead of admonishing yourself for enjoying a cupcake?
The folks at UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center tell us that focusing on being thankful and expressing appreciation change the molecular structure of the brain and it’s believed that people who experience more positive emotions feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.
I believe that courage is our superpower and yet many of us feel less and less courageous, the longer we’re on earth. Fear is a very powerful force and its job is to keep us safe but it also can prevent us from trying new things or meeting new people. I’m not suggesting you try swimming with great white sharks but what if you called on courage to help you try something you’ve always wanted to like dancing, yoga or learning a new language? What if you called on courage to help you get moving for fifteen minutes a day?
Every time you call on your superpower of courage and take action, you’re sending a message to your brain that you’re safe so fear can take a back seat and you can take a step closer to your goal of feeling better about yourself. After all self-improvement and happiness are nurtured by the small steps we take toward feeling good on the inside, which ultimately shows on the outside.
I encourage you to embrace every new day as the gift that it truly is. Let’s let go of resentments that keep us stuck, disappointment, anger and regret that keep us in the past. Let’s greet every day with gratitude and courage. Let’s open our hearts and open our minds; let’s get on with the business of living well. This is going to be a great day.
Currently a Wellings Ambassador and Living Well Advisor, Kathie was Canada’s broadcasting sweetheart for almost three decades as well as co-host of the beloved television show Regional Contact. Kathie is a gifted storyteller who shone a light on characters and creative types tucked into small towns. Her love of connecting people, caring and sharing is inspiring. Kathie has authored two books with a third on the way; she continues to build on her annual event “Refresh Your Passion” and other workshops. Kathie’s priorities are to love what she does and live well.