The advent of a new year is upon us.
Like the seasons themselves, a new calendar year is greeted with myriad personal responses – from the excitement and anticipation of new beginnings, to the anxiety and apprehension of 12 months of challenges. Regardless of our outlook, a new year, a new month, a new day all offer opportunities to start afresh, to plan for personal peace, to embrace a clean canvas and its endless opportunities. Living in that singular moment is the very essence of mindfulness.
Widely regarded as common practice, resolutions are not as universally adopted as one might think. Research estimates that 55 percent of us do not make resolutions. The balance promising to make changes in how we move forward in the coming months; only eight percent successfully achieve their New Year’s resolutions.
Regardless your approach to New Year’s Resolutions, I suggest you consider setting goals, yes, but even more importantly, planning to practice and planning on the inevitable so you can enjoy a resilient New Year.
“It’s important to set goals for ourselves and create plans to reach those goals: this is the underpinning of cultivating hope. Hope is our greatest antidepressant,” writes Elisha Goldstein, A Mindful Strategy for a Resilient New Year.
Goldstein offers steps – practices – that can help us retain that hope and fulfill the promise of a resilient New Year.
- Expect to Stray. Just as the seas influence set and drift on the sailors who navigate them, wandering off course is part of our own personal, natural behavior. “We’ll almost always wander with the goals we make,” Goldstein says. To be clear, unexpected interruptions and hurdles can knock even the most committed and dedicated among us astray from our goals. Expecting it to occur coupled with the discipline to make the wandering temporary takes practice. Commit to the practice of getting back on course. The accomplishments will follow.
- Don’t Judge. “Your wandering is not a good or bad thing,” Goldstein says. “It’s just the natural course of someone trying to make a change.” Being mindful of those occasions where you wander can help you identify triggers or influences that sent you astray. Etching those influences into your memory (or noting them in a personal journal) will increase your chances of avoiding such disruptions when you encounter them – and you will encounter some of them, again – in the future.
- Refocus. Once you’ve admitted to being off course, return to your plan. Gather yourself – in the moment, to be sure, but also set aside a more generous amount of time – and see if your plan needs revision, or just more practice. Does your plan align with your core values? Are there milestones and benchmarks that can determine how far along your path you’ve progressed? Are you benefitting from the positive influences of others? Answers to these and other salient questions during a regular review of your progress will make any mid-course corrections timely and effective.
“It’s important to keep an open heart toward yourself as you practice;” Goldstein advises. “It’s not going to be perfect, so the question is can we accept the reality of our imperfections?”
This is a good time to take stock of your personal peace, while celebrating the opportunity to steer your journey into a new day. Merely yearning for a better tomorrow won’t make it so. Spend time early in 2016 capturing each moment in itself…committing to mastering mindfulness principles and practices in the New Year.