Before you even think about making New Year’s resolutions, why not stop to recognize your recent evolution?
We can take many creative angles when we approach New Year’s resolutions.
Go classical: Resolve what you want to change, stop or begin in 2016.
Opt for expansive: Envision what you want to bring into your life in 2016.
Hit the flip-side: Set intentions for what you want to let go of or release in 2016.
Choose to intentionally abstain from the nonsense: “What is 2016 but a left-brain abstract construct?” “Aren’t resolutions just a lack of self-acceptance?” “I’ll just break them, anyway.”
Take your pick.
I’ve danced with each approach and played mix and match. I’ve wielded them as whip, kick, trampoline, energy drink and guiding torch.
I’ve used them to plant a flag on a new territory of me.
But what if—before we began to think about making resolutions—we each paused for a moment to recognize our evolution?
The thing about the messy art of living is we’re bound to learn something along the way. We’re likely to have found some new questions or new answers and certainly some new experiences and grown in mysterious ways during one good oblong orbit around that big golden sun.
So why don’t we stop for once to acknowledge that, to allow ourselves to take that in?
We often move from one year to the next, stacking our resolutions on top of each other, broken or whole. When we focus exclusively on what we still need to do, to have or to become, we reinforce and perpetuate lack within our lives and cast it into our future. The ghost of “still didn’t” chases us into January, whether he’s deflating our spirits or blowing fierce wind into our eager sails.
When we go from one year to another without pausing to take in its yield, we forget that we stand on the shoulders of all the “me’s” we have grown through to become who we are in this moment, and on the shoulders of all who have helped us along the way. We ignore that life teaches us about who we are, as Parker Palmerreminds us, and listening to it matters.
If we don’t stop to acknowledge what this little leg of the journey has brought us, then we deny ourselves the awareness and appreciation of learning what we’re capable of—of being, doing, feeling, learning, changing or accepting.
Don’t tell me what fell off your list, what you regret or what dreams you’ve yet to realize. Tell me what you put your heart and attention to and what you found was within you and around you, already.
Here’s some ways I will pause to appreciate my evolution as I look back upon my year…
Before I make a single resolution, here’s what I’ll ask of myself this year:
In what ways did I step into myself, or free myself, or show up a little more?
What moments did I gift myself completely to?
In what ways did I touch or help other people? In what ways did I let them touch or help me?
What was I brave enough to learn—even if perhaps the lesson wasn’t invited?
What was I brave enough to start or persist with or commit to—even if fear was at my side?
What was I brave enough to walk away from, or admit, or stop doing—even if it was hard?
How did I open up my perspective or defy my comfort zone? What new influences or experiences did I expose myself to?
What curiosities did I follow? Were there some “firsts”?
What did I learn about what enlivens my heart, what matters to me in this season of my life? Or did the season change?
What beauty or challenges did I let be brought to me, did I receive?
What did my most challenging moments teach me? What did my heart’s fullest moments reveal?
How did I show myself I could practice courage? Forgiveness? Caring? Trust? Loyalty? Humility? Faith? Kindness? Confidence?
What did I create? I may have instigated a smile, wrote a play or had a baby.
With what energy did I engage with my life and with the aspects of it? What kind of relationships did I foster?
In what ways did I grow as a woman and a human being?
What has begun to intrigue or draw me, what changes are already in motion?
By the nature of acknowledging my experiences and personal evolution, I will also feel what I’d like to get better at or become truer to. I will find little gaps and opportunities, and hungers will arise. This is no antidote for craving changes or more heart-led living. But I might find that evolving intentions are expressed from a different place.
They’ll have grounding instead of grasping. They’ll be growing not from some woman I still wish to be, but from the woman who I already am.
*Post originally published as "Before You Make a Single New Year's Resolution, Read This." on elephant journal.