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What a New Year means to me

used to make New Year’s resolutions.

Mostly, they were all the same.  I was going to set a new physical goal, learn a new skill, tick another destination off the list, grow my business, spend more time with my friends, and to live life to the fullest. You know, the same old life changing assertions that half of the population make.   

 But what does the start of the year mean to you ;- New Year’s Day provides us the chance to celebrate having made it through another 365 days, the unit of time by which we keep chronological score of our lives. Phew! Another year over, and here we still are! Time to raise our glasses and toast our survival. (The flip side of this is represented by the year-end obituary summaries of those who didn’t make it, reassuring those of us who did.)

But what about those resolutions? Aren’t they about survival, too—living healthier, better, longer? New Year’s resolutions are examples of the universal human desire to have some control over what lies ahead, because the future is unsettlingly unknowable. Not knowing what’s to come means we don’t know what we need to know to keep ourselves safe. To counter that worrisome powerlessness, we do things to take control. We resolve to diet and exercise, to quit smoking, and to start saving. It doesn’t even matter whether we hold our resolve and make good on these promises. Committing to them, at least for a moment, gives us a feeling of more control over the uncertain days to come.

One of my favorite parts of New Years is throwing away the old calendar and getting to start anew.  All the hopes, dreams, and fantasies of a new life seem so tangible at New Years, don’t they? 

Well, have I got news for you. 

According to a survey  only a  measly 3% of people actually follow through with their big New Year’s resolutions.   And psychologists believe that this failure to follow through on bold and brilliant New Year’s resolutions by 97% of us can actually lead to diminished self esteem and lack of motivation in the months to come. 

Does this mean that the remaining 97% of us who threw ideas in the till for positive change are all losers who cannot commit to anything? Absolutely not! 

One of the reasons I ceased making resolutions is quite simply because I don’t believe that there is one specific day so enlightened that you can change your entire world in the blink of an eye.  I don’t believe that putting all your eggs in the New Year’s basket is necessarily the best way to make changes in your life. Truth is, you can blow in the winds of change any day of week, any month of the year, any hour of the day – if you so choose.   

I DO believe that New Years should be a time of reflection.  What was the last year like for me?  What are the things I did right?  What are the things I did wrong?  Where is there room for improvement and positive change?  What are some of the things I would like to continue to do?  What am I proud of, and what do I wish I could change?  Am I living the best life possible, and if not – what are three simple changes I could make to head in that direction?

To me, New Years is about taking inventory and making a plan.  Not just a firm resolution which you are certain to break; that you will never again sink your teeth into a sugary donut, or guzzle down an ice-cold Coca Cola on a hot summer day – but a plan that you will eat two less donuts per week, and only enjoy  your favourite tipple every other day. 

Why set yourself up to fail?  The last thing you want to do is to feel like a deflated balloon.

Instead, start slowly by asking yourself the questions above.  Write down your answers and take baby steps toward achieving your goals.  The expression “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” rings true when it comes to New Years – and nothing in your life should be all or nothing.  If it is, chances are you are setting yourself up to feel guilty or bad down the road. 

So be honest.  Now that we are two weeks past New Years – have you stuck to your New Year’s resolutions – or are you slowly losing your enthusiasm for making changes?