As we begin 2013, ideas about how we can do things differently next year are abundant in our thoughts and in our conversations. The beginning of a new year has become a significant opportunity for change, to start doing that thing we always wanted to do (or think we should do!), to be healthier, happier or more productive. But why is the beginning of a new year the time when we are more focused on change? Perhaps there is something attractive about the idea of a clean slate, starting things afresh and hoping to keep things on track. Perhaps we feel guilty about not having managed to meet certain goals, and maybe finally, this time, we will manage.
So, today, I find myself wondering how mindfulness relates to the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Mindfulness teaches us that the spirit of New Year, as a time for change, can be cultivated and brought into each and every moment. Every moment, this moment, is an opportunity to do things differently... or maybe, just maybe, to accept things as they are.
How about taking an alternative approach, whatever time of year you read this: Making a resolution to accept yourself exactly as you are. In some ways, a hard resolution - we all have things we don’t like about ourselves; must we accept those too? In other ways, the easiest resolution - you don’t need to change anything about yourself; you can be successful by just being you.
We often feel stressed, anxious, low or upset because things are not how we feel they should be... “I should be thinner / taller / more attractive / kinder / more assertive / more successful.” This belief that we should be different often leads us to try and change things, or to give up because we feel like we’ll never get there. However, if we accept that in this moment things are as they are and stop running from things we’re unhappy with, we can find a different kind of peace. We can stop running, take a breath, and realise that we don’t need to run from anything.
The good news is, accepting doesn’t have to mean giving up on change. It doesn’t mean we have to persuade ourselves that everything is the way we would want it – it may indeed improve our health to lose or gain weight, we may feel happier if we could be more assertive. Instead, mindful acceptance can mean acknowledging what is here, now. When it is something we cannot change in this moment, letting go of the impossible-to-meet need for things to be different.
Ironically, it is often this very acceptance of how we are now that provides a platform, a foundation, from which we can look to make sustainable changes. If we can accept ourselves before making a change, our self worth is no longer contingent upon success or failure of a given task. Rather than running away from things we’re unhappy with, we can set a target and feel okay with ourselves whilst moving towards it.
So what do you think? Is this the year to make an alternative New Year’s resolution?