New Year’s resolutions are common as January approaches. Having completed another year, the year’s end feels like a chapter has closed and is ready for reflecting upon. It’s only natural that we look to the New Year as a fresh start.
It’s been noted that we humans are essentially story seekers. We need ideas, fantasies, narratives, beginnings, middles, and endings to help us make sense of ourselves and the world.
We’re also creatures of pattern and routine. We enjoy setting targets and goals, and we feel comfortable with time frames and deadlines. All of this combines to give us a sense of control over life ‘as it should be’.
That said, we all know that life rarely turns out as we think it should, and we’re all aware that life unfolds moment-to-moment. If anyone of us wishes to make a change, right now, we don’t bother to announce it as a resolution, nor do we wait for the next year to make the change. If we want something badly enough, the next moment is always the right time to begin.
This was something I began reflecting on when I received a message from someone asking for my advice on how to “improve myself, not just at the start of the year, but in whatever day or month I find myself in.”
The implication being, if I’m not successful at making changes from the start of the year, I want to let go of that expectation and make positive changes whenever I can.
If you want to change, then change
Here are a few tips I would suggest to anyone who’ looking to transform themselves, at any point throughout 2019 and beyond.
Our stories might have a beginning, middle, and end, but our lives are fluid ‒ we can choose to create a new beginning whenever we want to.
Decide who it is YOU want to be (not whom others suggest you should become)
Start by listing up to 20 values that you feel are important to you. Some examples include: being of service; to honour tradition; to grow spiritually; to invest in the family; developing self-knowledge; to be industrious; to be a contributor to the community; to develop self-acceptance…and so on.
Once you’ve listed 15‒20, circle 10 that you consider to be crucial to who you want to be. After that, rank, in order, your top five values. This will help to give you a sense of where to start developing your best self.
Think about the kind of people you want to be like and emulate them
Emulating someone doesn’t mean to imitate them ‒ it means that you look at what they’re doing, the qualities they possess, and you try to cultivate similar qualities that resonate with you.
These people can be from within your family, a circle of friends, teachers, colleagues, and acquaintances. They can also be well-known people whom you respect.
Whoever it is, select up to five of these people and write down these three things for each of them:
- What you admire about them;
- What you can learn from them; and,
- What mistakes have they made, and what insights can you gain from those setbacks?
Write down qualities or skills that you possess that the above people don’t
If nothing comes to mind, try to think of qualities or skills that those people don’t have but you would like to develop. Write down ways that you can begin to cultivate them.
This will help you to build on the foundation of emulating those you respect, but will also give you an edge ‒ something that’s unique to you ‒ that you can use to further cement your sense of self and what you want to achieve.
What’s stopping you?
Finally, what would you do if there was nothing stopping you?
All of us, at some point, deliberate and procrastinate to degrees that are unhelpful. We know we should study for an extra hour a day, or go the gym, or get that job done…but for some reason, it’s just easier to put off.
But what would your life be like if, over the next week or next month, you made a commitment to stop avoiding what needs to be done? How much progress would you make? How satisfied would you be? What would that feeling of accomplishment feel like as you took on what needs to be done and, instead of avoiding it, did it well?
How would your life be if you brought all of this together and decided to take charge of your direction and destiny?