Raise your hand if you have already broken your New Year’s Resolution?
I mean, what human being in the world wouldn’t want to better themselves? Who wouldn’t want to feel better, look better, save $$$ better, and sleep better? We all have specific goals and dreams and desires for our lives. But each time January 1st rolls back around, many of us tend to fall into that same old habit of trying to muster up as much superhuman strength, willpower, and self-control as we possibly can to radically change our lives for good (and for the entire year).
And each year, we think that strategy will work, but it never does.
I struggle with rules. (Mostly because I have a tendency to find loopholes, push boundaries – or break them entirely.) So when I create a bunch of rules and resolutions that I force myself to follow or a list of to-do boxes that I have to tick, it usually takes me about a month-or-so to break one of those rules, forget to tick a box, and ultimately call it quits on the whole “bettering myself” endeavor. The resolutions that were meant to help me flourish and thrive – end up becoming some of my worst enemies. During my post-resolution fail, I end up feeling more discouraged and more hopeless than before I even began.
Does this kind of thing ever happen to you?
I thought more about this “new year, new me” dilemma that I was having, and I asked my Heavenly Father for a solution. The key phrase that He gave me while I was praying was “mindset change.” To develop healthier habits and to make those habits last, I need to have a proper mindset change. My mindset must also be rooted in truth. So what could that potentially look like for you or me? Let me give you a quick example.
One of my resolutions last year was to eat more vegetables. Simple right? Wrong-o. I failed at this goal miserably. Each day that I “forgot” to eat my veggies, I felt more and more guilty. I knew I was breaking my own rule and it made me feel like a failure. That guilt spun me into a seemingly endless cycle of shame that caused me to eat even fewer vegetables than before I began my new year’s resolution. Crazy, right? So this year, rather than trying to create a rule to eat more vegetables, I asked Father what to do instead. His response was, “Samantha, simply resolve to love yourself.” Woah, okay. Wait what, how?
Then I thought about it. Someone who loves and cherishes their body will naturally want to treat it well. They will eat healthy foods, sleep better, stay hydrated, drink less alcohol, and workout to keep fit. Someone who loves their body will go out of their way to take good care of it because they value it. Changing my mindset shifts my focus from the rule itself (eating veggies) to the condition of my heart (loving myself). That shift is what promotes a positive attitude based on a positive truth, a healthier mindset, and long-lasting change. This mindset change also corrects any “wrong thinking” attitudes I may have had when I made the resolution in the first place. If my motives were wrong or my perspective was skewed (body image issues, eating disorders, trying to people please, etc.), then it will be easier to identify where I am struggling with those “wrong thinking lies” and adapt if necessary. Problem solved, but wait… there’s more.
Resolutions can also reignite the “perfectionist” in us. How will you know if this dynamic is happening to you? Well, check your heart when you break a rule or give up on a particular resolution. Do you feel shame, guilt, or defeat? Do you feel like a complete failure or a fraud for not measuring up to the standard you set for yourself? Or do you shake it off, show yourself grace, and try again next time? The first response depicts someone who is striving for a level of perfection that can never be attained, and the second response depicts someone who is focused on gradually progressing and growing over time (mistakes, setbacks, and lots of grace included). So who do you want to be? Who does God want you to be?
(I’ll give you a hint. It’s not the first one.)
We all have this new year to start fresh, but before we begin to dig into 2019 let me warn you that this year will not be immune to imperfections. Mistakes will be made, setbacks will be had, and lessons will be learned – and let’s be honest, there will probably be a day when you skip your workout at the gym to watch an entire series on Netflix while binging hard on a box of Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts. (No judgement, I’ve been there).
Here’s a word of advice from someone who is learning how to take her own advice: Don’t let imperfections stop you from growing, progressing, and learning – and don’t let imperfections shame you into the paralysis of old comfort zones (where humans go to die). A failure is not a failure if you learn from it, and progress – no matter how big or small – will always trump perfection every single time.
We are on a life-long journey of “figuring it all out,” and it’s quite a beautiful, messy thing. So maybe this year isn’t about achieving that particular number on the scale or eating a certain amount of vegetables per day or acing every single exam through college. Maybe it’s about learning how to give and receive grace, love, and forgiveness. Maybe it’s about focusing more on the condition of your heart and a bit less on the gray hairs sprouting on your head. Maybe it’s about learning how to value your body – or someone else’s. Maybe it’s about slowing down and learning how to make the most of your time, your energy, and your finances.
Maybe this year is simply about experiencing growth, and whatever that word means for you.
So do that. Grow, make progress, and learn – and do it all at your own pace. Practice cutting yourself some slack, and while we are on this topic, let’s also cut the people around us some slack too (because life is hard and sometimes society, culture, church, and social media make life even harder when it doesn’t need to be that way).
Lastly, as I end by quoting from the timeless Disney masterpiece High School Musical, let’s all make an effort to remember that in this 2019 new year –
“We’re all in this together.”