New Year, New Practice Series: How Being Kind to Ourselves Can Result in a More Successful New Year
Updated: Feb 1, 2022
We have officially ushered in a New Year. The days will start to get longer, making us feel pressure to be and do something, anything. If you're like me, you get exhausted reading the public declarations of personal resolutions, even if you are happy for them. Because you just survived 365 days of living, only to be thrust into another four quarters of what feels like a never-ending-unexpectedly-intense roller coaster ride. And while thrills like this can be exciting, invigorating even, they tend to require a tremendous amount of mental agility that leaves me physically and emotionally spent by year's end. So processing someone else’s goals can be overwhelming.
A turn of the calendar year brings reflection. We give in to the urge to dissect our lives in order to determine if we were successful in the year prior. We pick and prod and peel back the layers until we are exposed bones, often of emptiness because we have been programmed to believe that gains are something tangible. Which means we have to be able to see it and touch it for it to be real. We are holding up a mirror of self-examination, but at the same time looking over the reflection toward the lives of other people, as a means to determine if we were in fact prosperous.
That is not fair to us.
Perhaps in 2022, we consider focusing on something controllable, with a more guaranteed reward when establishing our intentions: Kindness. Not just the simplified idea of being nice to one another, although that never hurts–but a deeper, more metaphysical practice of habits and behaviors that extend beyond compliments. However, as opposed to looking outward in a charitable way, why not extend that grace to ourselves first?
What if our triumphs are instead steeped in how we feel about our lives? Because sometimes to be emotionally present with breath in our lungs and our sanity intact is achievement enough. Other times the task of finding joy in spite of our circumstances, is a victory. Additionally, where we invest our energy ultimately grows and expands beyond the boundaries we create. Which would then mean, investing in kindness could result in such abundance that we have extra to share with others.
This begs the question: what does being kind to myself look like? For starters, creating unrealistic expectations is the antithesis of kindness. While I encourage dreaming, crafting goals that do not fit you, will often result in failure, which can leave you feeling like an underachiever.
Looking at a common resolution, the weight-loss plan, most people start with a number. Typically, there has been no expert insight into calculating the desired amount of lost pounds; it's determination is often just as haphazard as the plan itself. This is exhibited in the form of overcrowded gyms, where we're all waiting in line for the next available elliptical machine. As well as the incessant hunger we experience due to the half-baked diets we create based in some form of deprivation. By February 1st, we've fallen into old habits, feel guilty and resort to beating ourselves up. We shelve the goal until the Spring (you know, for that summer body), or resort to self-deprecating humor where we blame our inability to fit into too-small clothing on our lack of commitment.
What if it isn't your level of dedication that is flawed, but your goal in the first place?
While being healthy is definitely a way to show yourself kindness, suppose you set a goal to specifically focus on your well-being for 30 minutes a day, as opposed to reaching a goal weight? That could present itself in the form of meditation, stretching, even exercise. The objective is definitely proactive, but also showing yourself grace amidst the care that your whole body deserves. By reframing your goal, you are extending goodness to yourself. And doing so could possibly open up doors to further support your endeavors.
For example, targeting personal wellness could lead to your decision to start journaling about gratitude or taking a walk to clear your head after work. These gestures of love can generate a sense of calm, which could subsequently enable you to respond to others gently and from a more patient standpoint.
There is a caveat.
According to the University of California , the success rate of achieving your goal is increased when it is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (S.M.A.R.T.). So I am not suggesting that we abandon that structure for a generic feel-good alternative. What I am proposing is that our goals be based on loving ourselves more abundantly, so that the excess will spill over into other people's lives.
As with years prior, 2022 will be an adventure. Mostly because we don't know what lies ahead. Our attitude and approach can have such a bearing on how events transpire or at the very least how we allow them to impact us. Instead of planning to conquer the world in a year, let's focus on cultivating kindness within ourselves as a preliminary ambition to a rewarding year.
Please check back in for the remaining two parts of the series throughout January.