What makes the New Year so special? It's the only time of the year when people around the globe are united in celebration. Marked by an outpouring of good cheer, revelry, and connection, we feel connected in a joyous celebration. In fact, no holiday celebrates the joy of connection more than the New Year.
Individually, the New Year is inevitably marked by the sense of being able to start over. It is a fresh start and even an invitation to reinvent ourselves. Buoyed by the infectious optimism of others performing the same actions, we feel strengthened in making commitments that we call resolutions. A key ingredient of the resolution is self-forgiveness for behaviors we feel we have failed at. We are able to at least temporarily discharge the shame and disappointment of having not lived up to our own ideals for ourselves.
Yet, we know from statistics and our own experiences, nearly every resolution results in failure. This year will be no different. What can be different is to accept that we are going to fail but not see ourselves as failures. Rather, failures are an expected outcome of any new resolution. Resolutions require change. If they were easy, we’d already have conquered them.
"Self-discipline is not defined by strict adherence to our resolutions every day. Let’s redefine self-discipline as the practice of self-love, forgiving ourselves for slipping up in order to return to the goal when we have fallen off track."
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it is not only the psychological reward of returning to a practice, but the neurological one as well. Dopamine is released in the accomplishment of small steps toward a bigger goal. One of those steps is simply returning to the pursuit of the goal. It is the immediate reward for summoning the courage and fortitude to get back on the path. Rather than loathing yourself for failing, you can congratulate yourself for returning to the path.
This is not as easy as it sounds. Here are five steps to take in preparing for your journey in 2021.
- Accept that your brain will pull you toward escape from difficult tasks no matter how hard your conscious mind wants to try.
- Predict ahead of time that you will fail and will feel like a failure at what you’ve resolved to do.
- Practice self-awareness at all times. Are the choices you make leading you into self-destruction or self-care.
- Talk to yourself with the compassion that you would have if you were talking to your best friend.
- Make the choice that shows the greatest caring in that moment. This is the practice of self-love.
Finally, think about this. Self-discipline is not defined as perfection at holding onto your resolution. Rather, self-discipline is the practice of self-love to return to your goal when you have slipped up in its pursuit.
Happy New Year. I wish you health and growth in 2021. As always, we're here for you.