Happy New Year!
Did you have a new year’s resolution this year? I didn’t. There’s a reason for that. I never seem to be able to keep them.
I remember one year when I was a teenager, I resolved to stop biting my fingernails. I bit them down to the quick with great ferocity. My mother would bribe me to stop. Once when I needed a new pair of nylon stockings, she told me I could have the pair she had gotten me as a birthday gift if I promised to stop biting my fingernails.
“Okay” I said.
I got the stockings, but couldn’t stop biting my fingernails.
So on new year’s eve several months later, I resolved to once and for all stop biting my fingernails. I think I thought of new year’s resolutions as a time when, if we wished for something, the wish would automatically come true. I found out this isn’t exactly the case. It becomes a burden. One that we are reminded of each time we repeat the habit we wished to resolve.
Most new year’s resolutions are dismal failures. Some people sign up for gym memberships, go to the gym for a few weeks and never return. Others resolve to quit smoking, quit drinking, start a diet, write a book. Things we haven’t been able to succeed at get tossed into the new year’s resolution wish list.
For me, resolutions are like getting up the courage to finally jump off the high dive and one day you say to yourself, “okay, this is it, I’m doing it.” You climb the ladder, get to the top, look down at the water below and decide that climbing back down the ladder makes way more sense than jumping off. Why? Perhaps it’s because you don’t know how to enter the water properly, you aren’t that good of a diver, you have a fear of heights? I don’t know exactly why you decided to do it or not do it. But chances are if you were truly ready, you wouldn’t have made it an ultimatum. It would have been a natural sequence of events.
The same is true with new year’s resolutions. Going on a diet, or quitting smoking, drinking, or biting your fingernails doesn’t require an ultimatum. Ultimatums freak out that part of yourself that is depending on the habit to feel secure. Quitting anything before you’ve reached an understanding of why you do it in the first place is sure to create more intensity around it. Approaching the habit with love and understanding is much more compassionate and much more likely to create the results you’re looking for. This approach may take more time, but it’s also more likely to get you to your goal.
I prefer to explore what it is I’d like to change with curiosity. Why does it exist? What is it trying to tell me?
If you made a new year’s resolution, instead of thinking of it as a forced necessity, perhaps you'd be willing to try a more compassionate way to explore reaching your goal? I finally stopped biting my fingernails when I was ready to see why I was biting them in the first place. It took a few more years, but when it no longer made sense, I stopped.
Exploring why we do what we do is how we learn about ourselves in a loving and compassionate way. It's compassionate self-care.