What my cold has to do with your New Year's resolutions
Nothing and everything (just go with me here).
I have a cold.
I just cancelled a small gathering I’ve anticipated with glee for weeks. Here’s what I said in a note to invitees:
As I write to you I’m sipping Theraflu, which gives you a strong clue as to what I’m about say next: I must postpone.
This cold has rolled through our house (first, Rael, then me) like a slow-moving bowling ball and knocked out every social plan starting with my actual birthday till now! And it’s not done yet. It’s actually a little bit comical. Point is, I don’t want to do something similar to your holidays. 🎳
The last couple weeks were unusually-packed with parties, gatherings, out-of-town visitors, plus Thanksgiving and my birthday. Finally beyond my post-pandemic awkwardness, I was more than excited to splash around in a lovely puddle of social abundance.
Instead, I bowed out of almost1 all of it.
Disappointment aside, I’m chuckling at the ridiculous comedy of it all, in the make plans and watch God laugh sort of way.
Which brings me to new year’s resolutions.
Wait a minute! The echoes of Black Friday are still ringing in my ears and you’re already talking about New Year’s Resolutions?!
Yes, but hear me out! I think this might be helpful.
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Plans are dressed-up wishes
This social bulldozer of a cold has reminded me that plans are little more than dressed-up wishes.
Plans seem firmer than wishes. They’re the stuff of calendars and to-do lists, for God’s sake! But even the best-laid, color-coded, remind-me-when-it’s-time-to-leave plans can’t guarantee outcomes. (Because none of us can control outcomes.)
This is why, despite my white-knuckled grip on the invitation, I spent Sunday evening with a box Kleenex and a jar of Vaporub rather than toasting my friend on her birthday.
Well no duh people are forced to cancel plans all the time. What does that have to do with New Year’s resolutions?
Nothing, specifically. But, in the big picture, everything!
New Year’s resolutions are dressed-up plans
One tends to be disappointed when things don’t work out as planned. Because it’s irritating! We were looking forward to that thing!
But when New Year’s resolutions don’t work out as planned, the tendency is to berate yourself and attribute the failure to your own laziness or lack of willpower or [insert favorite self-judgement here].
Am I suggesting we shirk responsibility for our mess-ups? Of course not. We must take responsibility for ourselves.
The problem is when we try to take responsibility for the universe.
Responsibility and flexibility support each other
You’re not a blob without agency or decision-making power. But you’re also not a task-execution machine. You’re so much more!
All I’m suggesting is that, this year, we hold our plans and resolutions a little more lightly.
Assume, up front, that things won’t go according to plan. Play with the flexibility this affords you. Lean more toward “experiment” than “chore.” Have a little more fun with it all.
Put structure around big goals however it feels helpful. When you hit a snag, take a moment to adjust and then just keep going. Progress is rarely linear, but it’s still progress.
What’s already working?
Rather than laser-focusing on all the ways you must improve starting at the pistol-crack of New Year’s Day, why not begin with a gentle reflection on the good things that happened this year?
(These lovely journaling prompts fromwill help.)
You might find you’re already moving toward your goals.
What if New Year’s resolutions started in February?
You could give yourself the entire month of January to gently spin up your resolutions! What! I know!
What if you spent January clarifying your goals and deciding on which ones feel most alive in you?
What if you listed the tools and people who will support you?
What if you identified the first few manageable steps (I should say the next few manageable steps, because you’ve probably already started)? If you need inspiration,and I talked baby steps for years on the Edit Your Life podcast. She has taken that idea to even deeper places this year.
What if you began chugging in earnest on February 1?
… if New year’s resolutions aren’t pleasantly motivating, what if you ditched them altogether?
Resolutions should serve you, after all, not the other way around.
I wrote this in 2021, from a place of deep exhaustion:
Must we constantly improve?
Is self-improvement the same as growth?
Can anything grow without rest or dormancy?
Perhaps our striving, grasping, imperfect selves can experiment with being satisfied, even content, with what is.
Every year is different. Every year we’re different. January 1 (or February 1) is just a day on the calendar.
Our own rhythms are often the wisest timekeepers.
Meet me in the comments
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Hopefully my virus-addled writing makes sense.
Do you like to close out the year with a reflective practice? Do you put structure around the process or are you more go-with-the-flow?
What do you think about a February start for new year goals? This would drive Rael nuts. He’s a zero-to-sixty, full immersion type when it comes to change. I’m more comfortable with baby steps.
How does the whole “plans don’t guarantee outcomes” thing sit with you? I wouldn’t call myself a control freak, but if I think about it too much (especially when it comes to my kids), I get freaked out.
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One more silver lining from being stuck at home with a cold: I spent two days playing around in Canva designing graphics for this newsletter. It was fun to get stuck into the details. I created an email banner, a wordmark, and a new cover page image. I fiddled with them for HOURS which tells you about my mad design skillz.
I hope you like the little makeover.
Wishing you a cozy afternoon.