Every year, on the first day of the new year, we are encouraged to follow the tradition of making a new year’s resolution. Many of us will decide that we’d like to lose some weight, or we will join a gym – and perhaps stay for more than a few weeks. Others will try to stay sober for a month, with varying degrees of success.
Some of us will decide that it is time to stop smoking, or that it is time we took up a sport or a new hobby or start a new class. No matter what changes we decide to make as our new years resolution, there is usually an expectation that making these changes will make our lives infinitely better.
When we make our resolutions at the beginning of the year, it’s at a time when we might be caught up in the excitement and the frenzy that is the festive period – whether this is real or manufactured. And if we are not personally caught up, then we are almost certain to be surrounded by others who are. And so, while we are caught up in all the euphoria, we make our capital N – New, Capital Y – Year’s resolutions.
Although we might start off with the best of intentions, a lot of us will falter and give up very quickly. It’s as though we make our resolutions with no real intention of carrying them through. Perhaps deep down we know that it isn’t really about making big changes to the outside things that are obvious to everyone; that maybe it’s about making smaller more subtle changes to how we see ourselves and how we react to our environment. It could be that the enormity of the changes we want to bring about feel overwhelming or out of our reach.
Many of us have an expectation that when we decide to make changes in our lives, this will happen straight away, we can then tick this off our to-do list and perhaps we can move on to the next item on the list. In reality, the kinds of changes we are talking about here happen gradually. Even if a huge change happens, like a sudden reversal of circumstance, we still need time to be able to adjust to how different things are for us now. If we suddenly have greater choices, or our choices have unexpectedly become much more limited, there is an adjustment that needs to be made. We tend to fall into habits when it comes to making decisions in our everyday life. Imagine we have a job that pays a regular, fixed salary. We will have become used to how we spend that salary; how much we will pay for household bills, food, travel and leisure etc. Now imagine that we lost that job, OR we get a large financial windfall. We might still have the same bills to pay but our choices of how and when these get paid are now changed. It can be quite overwhelming - in either scenario - as we now rethink the everyday choices we make.
One of the reasons it might be difficult to stick to the resolutions we make, especially when we’ve made them out of choice, is that we have an unconscious belief that we need to change because we are somehow flawed. We believe that change is necessary to make us better, happier or more successful. We might also believe that the change needs to start from outside. Today’s society encourages us to believe, through societal conditioning and through the media, that unless we look a certain way, behave a certain way, go to the “right” places, have a certain lifestyle or have similar aspirations to those around us, or even to so-called celebrities, then we are not worthy. The pressure, both from outside and from within each of us, to be “perfect” or to conform to these ideals can be enormous.
Bringing about any change, whether out of choice or necessity could be made easier by looking at it from a different perspective. Instead of thinking that we need to make changes because something about us is flawed, we could decide that we would like to make changes in order to become a better version of the person we already are. In this way it is easier to grasp the idea that we are in control of the changes we decide to make. If we want to make changes in our lives, whether large or small ones, it is infinitely easier to manage change by taking things one step at a time so that we don’t become overwhelmed.
Before making any changes to our habits or routines it’s a good idea to look at why we want to make the change. Is it something we have decided for ourselves or have we been influenced by an idea of who or what either society or someone else thinks we should be? Secondly, have we attempted to make changes to this aspect of life previously? If so, how can we do things differently this time, to bring about a more satisfactory result? Finally, how will life be impacted by changes we make, are we being realistic and are we ready for change?
Sometimes when we decide to introduce changes, we are restricted by fear. We can be fearful of change because we are taking ourselves out of our comfort zone. Coming out of our comfort zones, doing things slightly differently, taking a slightly different route can lead to new discoveries, new outlooks and new experiences. Being open to new experiences can make us feel quite vulnerable, and that vulnerability can lead us to discovering more about ourselves.
The people around us can find it difficult to respond to changes they see in us and can sometimes, either consciously or consciously, seek to sabotage us. A lot of us find change difficult, especially changes that are out of our control. If the people around us start behaving differently, it forces us to look at our own habits and behaviours, and this can feel very uncomfortable. To manage the discomfort, we need them to go back to their old ways so that we can feel better about ourselves. If we understand these factors about ourselves and about the people in our lives, we can gently steer ourselves away from sabotage, whether it’s our own or other people’s, and towards the changes that we are trying to make.
When we decide to make changes, it can be frustrating if we don’t see immediate results. The fact is, even making the decision to make the change is progress and should be recognised as such. If we have setbacks, this can be disheartening but instead of looking at any setbacks as an indication that we have failed, we could try seeing these as reminders of what can trip us up on our journey to making improvements to our lives so that we can learn from them and/or avoid them. Sometimes change can happen without us realising it, so it might be a good idea to stay mindful of our inner processes and alert to the changes we see in ourselves. If the people around us mention the changes they see in us, or we notice that they have negative reactions or feedback for us, then this means that they have become aware of changes too.
Remember to celebrate each and every victory, no matter how small, as each and every tiny change or slight shift will lead us to becoming the best version of ourselves that we can imagine, and to being at peace with who we are. As for being perfect, could it be that we are already perfect as we are, imperfections and all?