5 Alternatives to the New Year’s Resolution – the perspective of a cynical yogi

Indian philosopher and teacher,  Jiddu Krishnamurti said that change imposed upon oneself is not true change, because it comes from where one is right now. Ok, sure, he was most likely not referring to changes like eliminating bagels from your cupboard. Or maybe he was. Because every action has a seed of intention. If you are willing to trace and follow the urge to set up a NYR (New Year’s Resolution) down to your depths, you will certainly come to a core belief, a fear, the seed of intention. But I am getting ahead of myself…

Show of hands please: Who remembers their 2017 NYR? Those of you with armpits exposed, who has sustained that resolution? Ah… not so many of us…According to Joseph J. Luciani, Ph.D., 80% of NYR fail by mid-February. There is much written about why this is so: Our goals are too grandiose, not realistic, we don’t have a support system, the resolution is simply code for “I’ll make this resolution, procrastinate the new behaviour so I don’t feel guilty about indulging for the rest of December”, when in fact, we really don’t mean it. It just makes us feel better about today.

I’m all for healthy, balanced lifestyle choices. But maybe we need to go deeper to make the good choices stick. You might find that rather than adopting the new, so called healthy behaviour, what your heart truly desires is to simply embrace and love yourself as you are. Doesn’t the self-loathing get old?

I love this quote by Mark Twain, “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” Why trust someone else to tell us how to eat/ live/ behave? Certainly, there are experts in each field, but in the end, the inquiry and work is up to you.

Here are 5 alternatives to the usual NYR gig. I hope you will let yourself off the hook on the eve of 2018 this year.

  1. Support someone else’s positive life change. It’s good to take focus off one’s self from time to time. No one is looking at your muffin top. Or are they?… If you run a marathon this year or not, will the axis of the earth bend? By the way, I love the idea of running a marathon! Maybe that will be my NYR. But how about we shift our focus to someone else this year? Wouldn’t it be fun to simply support a loved one in their endeavour? Give it a try. See what happens.
  2. Be average. Yup, that’s right, just be average, Ms. Type A, Super Mom, Washboard Abs Lady! Set yourself up for success long term. Engage in a positive, practical, doable change that doesn’t feel like a tremendous hardship, something you feel like you can do for the rest of your life. These sorts of changes seem unworthy of NYR status, but in the long run, make more sense. For example, if weight loss is something you want to accomplish, don’t change your diet or set a goal just yet. Take inventory of your usual patterns. Make a list of 10, small things that you could change that would contribute to slow, sustainable weight loss. These could be things like ‘eat one more servings of vegetables/ week’. ‘Find the produce section in the grocery store, and pick up a zucchini’. ‘Do two exercise classes a week’.Then pick the one that looks the easiest to accomplish, and do just that one for a few months or until it becomes second nature. If the task looks ridiculously easy, you’re on the right track.
  3. Take time to know your ‘why’. “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln. Here’s where the yoga comes in. Go deep. What is your true intention for aligning with this NYR? Why is it so important? Is it important? Are you doing it because it is your deep heart’s desire, or because you think this is what is expected of you? Is it because you are afraid you won’t be loved? Ask the difficult, introspective questions. Get to the core of your intention. If it aligns with your deepest heart’s desire, I’d say you have a good chance of sticking to it for life, or until it no longer serves your soul.
  4. Start today. If it’s worth your time and effort, if it is truly something important to you, why wait until January 1? If you’re putting it off, I dare say your NYR is an excuse to indulge today, not a true New Year’s Resolution.
  5. Practice self-compassion. I mean this in two ways. One, kindly ask your inner critic to sit in the back seat for a spell. Yes, they are trying to protect your from dying alone, but she has become overly vigilant. Whatever you think you need to change, may not need to change, or may needs to change only a little. Two, when you slip up on your commitment, it’s ok to feel bad, but just jump back on. Don’t waste energy beating yourself up.

Maybe it is time to transcend the dogma around diet, exercise, lifestyle change. Perhaps the real work is within. We live in a time of extreme divisiveness. We judge others, call them names as a collective, find solace in identifying with those who lean toward our way of seeing things. The problem with this is that judgement doesn’t know where the boundaries lie. It seeps into our hearts, and in the end, we judge ourselves. Could it be that we are just fine the way we are?

 

“I must have been incredibly simple or drunk or insane

To sneak into my own house and steal money,

To climb over the fence and take my own vegetables.

But no more. I’ve gotten free of that ignorant fist

That was pinching and twisting my secret self.”

-Jelaluddin Rumi

 

Here are a couple of books I am reading that I think are worth referring to for authentic living:

The Seat of the Soul

Braving the Wilderness

The Yoga of Eating

Please note on this last link, Charles Eisenstein generously offers the book as a pdf. Please balance this energy exchange with your offering back to his teaching. Thank you.