It’s a New Year, are you ready? What does that even mean, you might ask yourself. Ready for what? What really changed from December 31 to January 1? For many, it’s that dreaded day where change is desired most. That feeling that several new habits must immediately begin (and most likely you are somehow supposed to just break all the old ones that were working for you in some manner) in order to improve something about yourself or your life. “Everyone is doing this” says the adolescent in you. My last Facebook post even went right along with the masses, “New Year = New You!” We all get roped into this Jedi mind trick (yes, even psychologists!) – but now that we are here together, may we delve into this a little more?
Ok – Let’s explore. Similar to other pinnacle or special days of the year (New Years Day, Valentines Day) we assign meaning to things that are arbitrary (i.e., a specific day in the year now has meaning because we said it does, there are Hallmark cards about this day, and parties that are thrown). In all essence, we can chalk it up to the fact that by now, it’s tradition! It’s mostly for fun and much of the time to give recognition to things that get left behind. Valentine’s day is to celebrate those you love. But, why aren’t you showing those you love, that you do indeed love them the other 364 days of the year? New Years Eve – what a great excuse to party and count down the minutes until another day begins. Then what happens? Typically, nothing except a rather late night and a little dread that the rush of holiday cheer, family get together’s, and lots of eating has to wait another year to happen like it does during the holiday time. I think you see where I’m going with this. Why do we do this to ourselves? It’s a lot of pressure to act in a particular way, to fit in with mass thinking.
There are many theories in Psychology and Sociology/Social Psychology that help explain why people do what they do, respectively both as individuals and in social groups. Such social norms go without much thought to many of us day to day. So let’s stop for a minute. Maybe even breathe. Ahh, that felt pretty good. Ok, shall we continue? It may be uncomfortable to swim upstream when everyone else (or the perception that everyone else) is swimming downstream. If all of your friends have New Years resolutions but you, how does that make you feel? If you make one or two because that’s what you “should” do, but you don’t really plan on pushing through the uncomfortable feelings that will occur due to your new behavioral or habit change, how will you feel? Like a failure? Lazy? What negative word will you assign to yourself, which will only perpetuate the already awful feeling you’ve taken on.
What if real change, the best type of behavioral/habit change came from within, on your own time, at your own pace, in your own way, on any day of the year? You’ll probably be more able to put forth your best effort to improve the already awesome parts of you. You see, nothing nor nobody can tell you that you are doing YOU wrong. I’m pretty sure you are doing YOU the best way YOU know how given your past and current circumstances. Most of us are doing everything we can to do well with what we got. People don’t like to fail (whatever that means – side bar: I see everything as a learning experience to get you to a higher level of being), or feel miserable, or let themselves or others down. These things are byproducts of negative influences from society, other people’s life choices that we compare ourselves to, and negative “stinkin thinkin”.
This may start to seem like a blogging “middle finger” to some of our traditions (or group behaviors)… but it’s not. It’s a loving hug to yourself. Be kind to yourself every day of the year. Make changes as you see fit with your own pace and have your own realistic expectations. A new year can begin any day you want it to. You decide. Not the calendar.