I hate New Years resolutions . After the overindulgence and general chaos leading up to, and during, the holiday season I can understand the desire to “wipe the slate clean” with a grand proclamation for a fresh new year. And, if I am honest, I too have fallen victim to the New Years resolution scam. Did I carry through on any of my past resolutions? To lose weight, be less judgemental, to stick to a budget or, my favourite, to stop procrastinating! What makes the flipping over of a calendar page the catalyst for grand proclamations? Announcements that are destined to start flagging or outright fail before the grey and gloomy days of February arrive. Only about 8% of resolutions stick (according to google) but hey if it making resolutions helps reduce the guilt of a December filled with debauchery who am I to judge? After all I did resolve to be less judgemental.
For many, January and the start of a new year, signals a time for fresh starts but for me, September was always the month that felt like the beginning of a new year. Summers in our veterinary practice were always hectic. Dealing with staff holidays, daycare closures and the increase in pet emergencies over the summer left me dreading those supposedly carefree summer days. By the time September rolled I around I was ready to get organized and get everyone back into a routine again. September was the time for resolutions and hatching new plans. January was a time for reflection, to consider the previous year and all that happened, before flipping over that calendar page.
So in a word, what was the underlying theme of 2017? Letting go. Okay that is two words…how about change. Stepping away from our veterinary practice and making the decision to sell it was big. Saying goodbye to my daughter and trusting she was ready to leave home to study at the United World College in Mostar was bigger. Giving my son the space he needed and accepting that I couldn’t change or control the things that life would deal out, was huge. Your perspective determines how you view the overriding themes in your life. Positive or negative, your choice. Change can be terrifying and human nature is to choose the safety of what is familiar. Letting go, especially of my children, goes against my nature which is to hold them tight and keep them safe. 2017 forced me to embrace change and many times throughout this year I had to ignore that pessimistic voice inside my head and believe all this change would be good.
We have friends who instead of making New Years resolutions, pick a word that they envision will embody the year ahead. Over the years they have picked words like “health” or “family” to help them visualize what they want to focus on in the upcoming year. Rather that make a resolution, which I know is destined to fail, I like this idea of thinking about what I want to work on in the year ahead. Being driven and goal oriented has gotten me where I am today but at times it has also left me feeling like I missed out on the now. I was so busy multitasking for today and planning for tomorrow that I missed the here and now. I suspect I am not alone in this regret, as the pace of modern life and our quest to “have it all” sets us up to be less mindful. So in 2018 I want to focus on being present, enjoying the moment, becoming more mindful.
When I make lofty statements of what I want to do, Rob will say “that sounds like a great idea, what’s your plan?” Being me, I assume shear stubbornness and will is all I need to get to where I want to be. But I have to admit he is right, you need a plan. What are the actual steps or things you are going to do, to get there? Yes I did just admit my husband is right, in case any of you missed this! This lack of a plan or concrete steps to reach your goal, is why so many New Years resolutions fail. Saying I want to complete my first triathlon is great but what do you need to do to achieve this?
Life unfolds in the present and I want to be more present. How will I do this? Here is my plan or the actual things I am going to work on in my attempt to become more mindful.
- Stop multitasking. Do one thing at a time. This is going to be hard for me but I want to try.
- Stop worrying about the future. Focus on today and enjoy the present.
- Pay attention to people and really listen. Shut up and focusing on what they are saying instead of what I want to say.
- Stop beating myself up if I don’t complete everything on my huge to do list. Slow down, do less and enjoy the things I do more fully.
- Take 5 minutes a day to do nothing and just breathe.
Wow, this actually sounds like I’ve made a resolution doesn’t it? Thank goodness for #4 above, if I do not succeed in my efforts to become more mindful, I will stop beating myself up and move on to #5.