Every single year since we were old enough to make a decision and (sort of) stick to them, we’ve gone all up in our business and played the tyrant to the Self with huge New Year resolutions.
Designed with care, and quite a bit of totalitarianism, these decisions are supposed to shake the tectonics of our lives and completely change what we’re not satisfied with. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, more power to you if you do, but dreams remain just that if there is no (long-term) behavior change. Small changes accumulate and this is where we miss the target – we presume it has to be one huge thing, one big demonstrative bridge-burning festival to mark the transition. Two weeks in, that showpiece of throwing out all of the junk food from the cupboard and fridge is long gone and you’re snacking on crisps, growing roots on the couch… again.
Big gestures of “I’m going to transform my life”, “New Year, new me” don’t work because the bit is just too big to not make you choke. It is not possible to adhere to a large and demanding self-disciplinary task if you don’t have the mechanics of the small things surrounding it down. Sure, sheer will power and self-torture can pull a small percentage of people through and make the decision stick, but there is a whole structure to why it worked (mostly because there was a bigger “why” or a place they’re terrified of if the old habit continues as-is). Yet, the majority of decisions fail. How to change this? A bit of humility, as the psychologically most important midnight of the year, draws near. Why humility? Because you will need to have a serious talk with yourself about your resolution and be humble enough to admit how laughably small the first steps have to be for you to adhere to them. It is kind of embarrassing to admit to oneself how deep we have to dig for such a tiny improvement. But 20 little things that are an everyday habit transformed for the better are going to be infinitely more valuable in a year’s time than one large step you’ll give up on because you still haven’t the mechanisms to stick to it.
Humility to know when you’re beaten when you need help when you need to adjust course is a source of hope because hope always sees what could be. And if you keep an open mind, and don’t presume you know and can do everything right now, if you acknowledge that there is a learning curve and adopt a mindset of someone willing to be taught and helped, then that future is far more viable. Hope is the same as faith. It is predicated upon having no hard proof a thing will work but understanding that playing the odds demands you to get better, to inch a bit closer to the ideal. Imagine what just one evening of disciplined care for the body a week will do in a year. That’s 52 days you gave yourself time to replenish something inside. Imagine just being kinder in situations where you know you’re buttons will be pushed. What will a gentler approach achieve here in a few months? Not because you’ve decided you’ll never be mean or snappy again (sometimes you might have to be to set boundaries), but just by consciously switching into “going to do this thing differently” as the moment presents itself.
None of us change in huge swooshes which make everything different. It’s a slow work in progress and it takes a lot of tiny lessons and repetitions to change a habit. Once you do, no matter how small a thing may be to the observer, you did a huge thing you can be proud of.
We hope this year to come will be kinder to us all. We hope you will be kinder to yourself. We hope for enough humility to admit when we don’t know and when we need to break the trajectory down into almost absurdly small steps. We hope you’ll choose small improvements that accumulate through time and we hope that hope always stays here, showing us a world that could be and giving us something to strive for. Happy transitions! See you on the flipside.