It's the New Year...
Out comes the journal, likely new, and oh, of course, the favorite pen – maybe even multiple colored ones.
The heart feels desire. Maybe a desire to be different or better or to do more or to do less. The head spins with ideas of how to accomplish goals and live into values. Ideas flow, words flow, plans are made. And then… the stomach starts to weigh in.
Uh oh - there it is already, that gut feeling that this is already a fail and it hasn’t even begun. UGH, once again the head, the heart and the gut are out of sync. And so it goes year after year, restart after restart.
A Relaxing New Year
One thing we know about change is that it doesn’t come about because we wish it so. We also know turning our sharp, critical, analytic skills on ourselves doesn’t help.
Certainly, research clearly shows that punishing ourselves is the least effective means of changing behavior. And, again year after year, despite the evidence, this is what we do.
When we are trying to change, we find every little thing that we are doing wrong and then, when we find that error or misstep….Zowie…we punish ourselves.
We feel terrible about failing and bruised from our own punishment. We stumble and fall head first into the shame hole. In the shame hole there is darkness and isolation. We haven’t just made a mistake, we are a pariah! Shame convinces us that we are a terrible person and that after all, we don’t deserve to change. And then … the thought that solves everything comes. If I am a pariah, I don’t deserve to change. And then, if I don’t deserve it, it is actually wrong to try! Strange, sad relief washes over and we give in to the hopelessness. Despair, comforting despair. This series of thoughts and choices sadly becomes a shame cycle that drives you further and further away from you. But what if it really could be different this year?
Breathing with ease this New Year
The first thing would be to notice the urge to make resolutions. Nothing wrong with getting out the great journal and pens. But now, before you launch in, take a minute to bring yourself into the moment, find your breath. Once you feel calm and your breathing is even begin by asking yourself three simple questions.
1. How are you doing the best you can do?
Self, how is it that where you are and what you are doing is the best you can do? Oh just then did you notice that critical voice is already poking at you…”there is no way you are doing the best you can.” Just notice that voice and let it go. Of course you are doing the best you can. If you could have done otherwise you would have. Going forward, if you don’t bludgeon yourself you might be able to do differently. As you answer this question what emerges are the barriers that keep you from being where you want to be in your life.
2. What is one thing that is getting in your way?
What is keeping you stuck? It is very important at this point to stick to the facts. Your brain is going to want to blame you, your dog or someone else. Breathe and let go of that. Come back to what is a barrier that you can address? Watch out, your mind will try to pick the hardest one! Bring it back to the possible, what is one barrier you can address? Once you have picked the one, you can ask the third question.
3. How can I remove this one barrier?
From this question comes a plan. It is important to remember that plans are never perfect and are really just experiments. So come up with at least 5 ideas of how you can address this one thing. Then begin experimenting. Each time you experiment you learn something new and can tweak your efforts until it works!
Now you can apply the most effective means of changing behavior – positive reinforcement. Celebrate a little. Do something nice for yourself and create a relaxing new year. And when you are ready, start again with question one. This begins a life cycle that brings you closer and closer to you.
- Kay C. Watt, MAPC, LPC-S, CEDS.