New Year’s resolutions bring on a sense of hope, optimism and momentum. But scratch at the surface of them and most of us are filled with a dread. Anticipation of failure and a deep sense that we won’t actually follow through. Exercise every day. Save money. Lose weight. Gain muscle. Talk to our moms. Don’t talk to our exes. Do’s and dont’s and wills and wonts. Usually measured on a binary of success or not. A slippery slope to giving up. I’m going to exercise every day, turns to I'm going to exercise a lot. Then sometimes. Right after I finish these holiday cookies. We feel bad and our sweet selves turn to our most trusted self protective coping skills of “forgetting” to shield us from the harm of shame. By February New Year’s resolutions were so last year.
Anyone who has worked with me over the months of December and January has heard me talk about three words for the year as the antidote to resolutions. They are about cultivating intention into our being. They are about moving through our days with an essence of who we want to be in mind. They are far from binary, they are rich in texture and cadence. They can feel bright sometimes and faded other times. We can bring them to mind and work them into our therapy and our goals.
Choosing three words is a bit like picking out a favorite outfit for the day. We can mix and match, they fit together and support each other and feel complete as a triad. Partnering words together can change our intention around them. When we find the right “outfit” it just works. We breathe a sigh of ‘yes’ and we just know. There they are. Fuel for our hearts and minds as we head into the new year.
Choosing three words for the year is different from a goal. There is no winning or losing. There is no doing it right or wrong. There is only a practice of keeping them in mind. That’s it. What I practice, what I keep in mind, becomes strengthened. What is strengthened flavors my decisions and interactions. We weave these words into our real lives and watch what may flower from it.
It’s fun to start with a goal and then work backward. What are the traits, or values that would make that goal more reachable. For example, if my goal is to save money this year. I might think of words such as Enough or Abundance. Or maybe something along the lines of Discipline or Intentional. Maybe what comes to mind is even deeper. Maybe at the heart of it all is my relationship with my own self worth and the idea of Worth or Value comes to mind. Maybe I also want to find joy without spending money so words like Creative, Freedom, Gratitude might trickle in. What would it mean if I cultivated the values of Abundance, Freedom and Gratitude. Or Enough, Worth and Joy. How might I interact with my money different from this place? And not just my money, but my work, play, relationships, therapy. The words can spread out and bring us such wisdom and growth in all the areas of our lives.
So this year I invite you to come up with three guiding words to cultivate and nurture (oh, those are two great words aren’t they?) over the year. Let’s talk about in during a session, or post them here.