I recently started the book “The Midnight Library” and its subject matter got me thinking. Thinking about life as I know it and have known it, hopes and dreams, and New Year’s Resolutions. In brief, the book is about Nora Seed and the regrets that have piled up. Some legit; some just in her mind. But, when she finds herself at the Midnight Library, she’s given a chance to make things right and do things differently through its books. Needless to say, this guilt-ridden cradle Catholic and library/book lover is all over it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my one beautiful life and am so grateful for my many blessings, but I do have regrets and probably would have made different…and better…choices a few times in my life. Nothing earth shattering or life changing, just ones filled with more wisdom and less chance. More grace and less naiveté. It’s never too late, right?
Come Monday, we all might be feeling regretful. That’s the day, January 10, that a British study estimates most of us will have ditched our New Year’s resolutions. Stateside, even though a projected nearly half of all Americans made resolutions January 1, (or in this year’s case, January 3) nearly half of them will fail at the long-term achievement of them.
Ugh. Are you already a resolution fail? Are you regretting either the one you chose or the pursuit of achieving it?
Every year my New Year’s resolution is to learn something new. I’ve taken classes in everything from Italian to ice skating, cooking to shooting a gun, bridge to yoga. I LOVE yoga and its bridge pose but I hated bridge. Too quiet, too serious, and way too much math. My husband and I took dance lessons (he hated them) and I’ve improved my golf game (he loves it.) I’ve also learned to cross-stitch and tried Pickle Ball. Funny thing is, is that except for golf and yoga…and this blog, which I started on a whim in 2016…I haven’t continued my learning curves and haven’t really committed to any of them. Jack of all trades you say, master of none? Perhaps. An interesting article on this very thing recently ran across my lap and I learned that the effects of being only partly committed to things can be heartbreaking.
If we are honest with ourselves, I’m sure I’d find I’m not the only one out there who is a half-committer. We check the box, dive in, give it our best, procrastinate, get distracted, and abandon it. This is the case with me with ambitions other than New Year’s resolutions. I’m a dabbler. I love to learn about something, give it a shot, and then I’m done. Apparently this is frowned upon and unless you really don’t like something, not committing to it will likely result in letting yourself down and maybe even letting others down. We beat ourselves up and brew up negative self-doubts.
Yikes. And here I thought I was just trying to expand my scope. Note to self Carla: commit!
Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin has tips on how to commit to committing and make sure resolutions we set are successful. First off she says, be specific. Don’t just say you want to find more joy or calmness in your life but instead identify what gives you joy or makes you calm and then resolve to do those things. “Read a good book” or “surround myself with people who are fun and likable” are way more likely to be accomplished than simply “be happier” and “sign up for tennis lessons” assures you will “learn to play tennis.”
And dump the demanding mindset. Seems like our resolutions are often grim or a grind. The more pleasant something sounds, the more likely you’ll do it and feel a sense of accomplishment. “Have lunch once-a-month with friends” will probably get checked off the list long before “learn to do my own taxes.” Think about it, if learning how to do your taxes is crucial, you’ll learn to do them resolution or no resolution.
Experts suggest setting smaller goals you truly want to accomplish something and keep at it. Rather than saying “I’m going to lose weight this year,” say “I’m going to work on losing 10 pounds between now and March.” Also think about what didn’t work last year or in the past. Ask yourself why and either fix the problem or move on. Some also recommend setting monthly goals rather then or in addition to year-long commitments. Accomplish something every month or commit to doing something (or not doing something) for 40 days.
Rubin offers great advice and provides a great free tool with her annual list of things you’d like to do by the end of the year. She reminds us that items on this year’s “22 for 22” list can be easy or ambitious, one-time undertakings or habits that stretch for years. The list also contains your choice for your “Word of the Year.” A list and a word prompt? Hmmmmm…pretty sure I quickly printed it out and got to work.
Almost instantly I wrote “Discipline” for my word. I was thinking not only more self-control and self-discipline, but maybe that dreaded C word: commitment. On the flip-side, during my first yoga class of 2022, fabulous instructor Nicki of Inner Essence Yoga asked us to choose an Intention for 2022 and a word for 2022. Intention-wise, I went straight to “Hope and Healing” and first word that came to my head was “Acceptance.” So, do I commit to something this year or accept things as they are? Hoping it all works out!
I like the idea of setting “intentions” rather than making resolutions or even setting “goals.” The word just sounds more user-friendly and practical. “I intend to learn or do XYZ and my intent going in is pure” jives with me way more than “I resolve to…” Tumaytoes tohmahtoes perhaps, but whatever works.
Whatever I choose to do or learn this year, I’m pretty sure it will be something safe and soundly thought out. I am not a risk taker. I don’t mind difficult or challenging, but risky or uncertain will certainly get a “no thank you” from me. I have zip-lined in the rain forest, took a solo dog sled ride in Alaska, and love doing the annual Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day, but that’s about it. I can’t even think about anything risky I’m interested in trying. If you think of something for me, please let me know.
Instead, I’m going to focus on something “new” instead of something “no way.” I’ll learn something new, go somewhere new, and do something differently. The challenge will be figuring out how to really commit to something. But, do I really need to? Do I have to?? If I decide to take piano lessons, do I really need to perfect my skill at it? Isn’t it okay to just enjoy learning the basics of something new and then moving on to something else? I’m thinking yes.
Lastly, accept the fact that you aren’t the same person you were one year ago (who is, right?!) and embrace the new and maybe different you. Remind yourself of your successes and victories and replace that dreaded I “have” to with I “get” to unless the “have to” is health related or essential. Stop wasting energy on people and things that drain your brain, show gratitude, and face the year and your intentions enthusiastically and with confidence. I’m confident you can do it!