2016 Happy New Year 2016
We’re 15 days into a new year. How’s your new diet going? Your exercise plan? Your commitment to spending more time with your friends? Going well? Then keep it up! If it’s not going so well, you might want to take a look at what’s working or not working, without beating yourself up or considering yourself a failure. Here’s how you can do that…
I’ve never been one to proclaim new year resolutions. Well, maybe when I was much younger. I found them to be quite futile and yet another way to beat myself up. So I just stopped. At some point I decided the new calendar year would be a good time to commit to a theme for the year…developing non judgment, becoming more compassionate, or maybe strengthening the flexibility and openness of my mind are all examples of the themes I’ve adopted over the years. I didn’t realize at the time that I was setting my intention for the year but that’s really what I was doing and it worked much better than setting the same old goals, over and over.
A few years ago I began a new annual tradition to mark the ending and beginning of the calendar year. Each year on December 31st, I write myself a letter to open the following New Year’s Eve. After the first year of this ritual I now have a letter to read in addition to a letter to write. I find this process to be a great way to reflect upon the previous year and consider my intention for the new year arriving.
I wrote myself a letter this year. I also developed a plan for how I wanted to improve my daily routine in 2016. It was a great plan – a beautiful plan! And I was confident (sort of) that I would implement everything in this plan – which targeted every aspect of my daily life; from eating whole foods to working out, meditating, reading, spending & saving money, and everything else (and more) that one thinks of when planning the perfect healthy lifestyle. Today is my mid-month check-in and not surprisingly, I’ve experienced successes, partial successes, and for lack of a better description, failures, while implementing my perfect life.
I can’t help but laugh at myself right now…perfect life! I thought I was over that delusion!
As I looked over my plan today and reflected upon how I feel, I actually feel really good. Rather than look for successes and failures, I decided to look to see what’s working and what’s not working. It was important that I take a deep look at what wasn’t working and ask myself a few questions: Was this a new habit I wanted to develop this year? If so, do I still feel that desire? If so, and I haven’t followed through with my plan, had I committed to the new routine? In most instances where I didn’t achieve my desired result I realized I had planned but not fully committed. I also looked at how I might better support my commitments from today forward.
First and foremost, too much change at one time, no matter how well intentioned or committed, is difficult in my daily life. So the first step for me was to prioritize the new habits I want to create.
Secondly, I determined there are four foundations that create a healthy lifestyle for myself and support everything inside my plan. I think these four foundations are supportive to each and every one of us (and are listed in no particular order):
Eating Whole Foods – Getting Enough Sleep – Getting Exercise – Meditating
While all of these are important and in general are equally important, I find that if I don’t get the right amount of sleep, everything else falls by the wayside. And the right amount of sleep for me includes the timing of my sleep cycle. I feel extremely fortunate that I can wake up when I want to – unchained to an alarm clock or someone else’s idea of what time I should start my day. But in the past few months I’ve gone to bed later and later, which means I wake up later and later; sometimes 8:30 or 9:00! And this doesn’t support my daily routine the way I need it to.
So tonight I’m changing my routine to getting to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier. To make that easier, I need to turn off all electronics one hour before I go to bed. I don’t know that everything will immediately fall into place when I make this change but I do know that focusing on small shifts or tweaks to a plan can make huge differences in implementing a plan.
I’ve also noticed that it’s time to change not only my language but my intention from planning to committing. As I shared earlier, I develop beautiful plans. But without commitment, they are just plans. So today I commit to turning off all electronics one hour before I go to bed and going to bed no later than 11:00. I’ll see if that helps – I might need to change bedtime to 10:00. Perhaps even more than commitment, clarity of intention is required. For example…
Why do I want to go to bed and wake up earlier? When I wake up early I feel rested and have a long morning at the beginning of my day. Morning is my most productive time of day for meditating and when I wake up earlier I’m more likely to eat a healthy breakfast. If I’m meditating and eating right, I’ll have more energy to exercise. And with a firm foundation to start my day, all those things I planned to do like daily journaling, weekly blogs, and taking Paz on more walks will be easier to do. The easier they are to do the more likely I will develop a daily routine.
In short, if you’ve fallen behind in your new year goals, take a deep breath and relax. Then…
- take a little time to review what’s working/not working. There’s no need to judge yourself or categorize the first 15 days of the year into successes and failures.
- Determine what is really important to you; review your initial intention.
- Prioritize the changes you want to make in your life and approach them incrementally, not all at once.
- Review your foundation activities – eating whole food, meditating, exercising, and getting the right sleep. What will best support you and your needs – don’t worry about what other people say is most important.
- Review your intention again and make sure you have clarity about why you are making your changes – what’s the real result you are looking for? If you want to lose 15 pounds, why do you want to lose 15 pounds and is your intention strong enough to support your commitment? This has nothing to do with willpower!
- Finally, state your commitment and congratulate yourself for sticking with it. Sure, you may be course correcting – you may have skipped a few days at the gym or eaten a chocolate bar. But you are also mindful of what you are doing and thinking. You are mindful of why you are doing what you are doing. And that’s the tough part. That’s being present in the moment. And THAT is what will create your new habits, routines, and healthy lifestyle. It’s easy to go through life without paying attention. By virtue of reviewing and reflecting on your actions so far, you’re already doing the hard stuff. Keep it up!
Once we are clear with our intentions and our commitments, we might find ourselves facing more challenges. This too, is a normal part of life and nothing to beat ourselves up over. In my next post I’ll share my own experience with difficult mind states like desire, aversion, boredom, doubt, and restlessness. How might those states of mind get in the way and what can we do when faced with them?