I've always been inspired by the possibilities of a new year. My mind fills with goals, aspirations, plans and schedules — all designed to spur change and improve upon the person I was in the previous year.
The basic premise of each year's resolutions is typical: weight loss, healthier lifestyle practices, earning more money or getting in better shape. I busy myself with planning elaborate exercise regimens, dance class lineups, sweeping dietary changes and career objectives that would make the most ambitious goal-setter tremble with anticipation (and an ounce of fear).
I'm so sure each year that I'll carry out every carefully crafted strategy to fruition, reaping exalted benefits of the hard work I will undoubtedly pour into each endeavor. I begin with gusto, leaping into January with renewed energy and focus. I proceed into February with success and vigor …
… then comes March.
Always March. By March my ridiculous expectations, harsh limitations or restrictive schedule wear me down, leaving me frustrated, disappointed and chastising myself for complete and utter failure on one or many fronts. I retreat into old behaviors, re-establish goals and begin again — not far from the place I occupied during the previous December. My resolutions are fun to plan, but (it turns out) not so fun to implement.
So here's the thing for 2015. I'm not making any resolutions. I know many individuals before me have experienced this same revelation, and I'm not pioneering any new approaches to the New Year's resolution conundrum. I may be a little slow on the uptake. It's OK. This is my gig, after all.
But rather than simply refuse to participate in the beloved tradition of resolution declaration, I decided to take things one step further. I'm pronouncing 2015 the year of my NOT resolutions. These proclamations are essentially still goals and aspirations in their own way — but rather than center around achievement and personal accomplishment, they're more gentle and manageable approaches to life in general.
And here they are:
1. I will NOT put unrealistic demands on myself.
This includes any type of rigid schedule, unrealistic dietary restrictions, goals set for the purpose of pleasing anyone other than myself or harsh lifestyle or character modifications of any type. I will remember that I thrive in a flexible, creative environment and even if someone else succeeds in other ways, those are not my ways. I will instead strive for attainable and healthy changes that are manageable and designed to truly improve my life in my own unique way.
2. I will NOT be my own worst critic.
This year, I will ease up on my own opinion of me. I will give myself a break. I will not beat myself up for past mistakes or perceived current shortcomings. I will not compare myself to anyone else because I am uniquely me.
3. I will NOT treat myself with any less love and kindness than I would show to anyone else.
I'm very quick to forgive and typically strive to see the best in others. However, that generosity of spirit is often lost when I review my own life and actions. "You can do better," has been my mantra. This year, I will work to recognize the wonderful things I bring to the table. I will celebrate my contributions to the world and I will speak to myself with kindness when I fall short of my self-imposed expectations — just as I would do for my friends and family members.
4. I will NOT focus on negative thoughts.
Every day we are bombarded with news stories that could make the most steadfast optimist cringe. It's easy to get caught up in a cycle of fear and negativity. I understand that I can't fix all the problems in the world. I can't even single-handedly fix one of them. But I can be a positive influence in the lives of others. I can radiate love and kindness and positivity designed to touch the hearts of those I encounter. By doing so, I just might make the world a slightly better place — and that's enough.
5. I will NOT forget to have fun.
In a society where terms like success and accomplishment are used to identify someone's worth, it's easy to get caught up in a dust storm of busy-ness. It's as if society has grown to believe that only by being constantly busy can we prove ourselves to be worthy, accomplished, successful.
Well, I'm going to discard that belief this year and work toward making space for the things I love — writing, yoga, dance, family, friends, reading books, learning and connecting with others. I will strive to approach my days with a light heart and a good humor. Sure, I still have to work and earn money, but work will not define me or control me.
This may be a hefty list to tackle all at once. I'm looking at some major changes in my approach to life and living with myself. I'll add that I will NOT expect miracles, and will allow time and practice to guide me to these goals. I'm viewing these NOT resolutions for 2015 as a process rather than a rigid plan. It is a road map for a gentle, growth-centered journey to a happier me.
Photo Credit: Getty Images