A decade ago when I was working at the now defunct Trend Midweek, I wrote a weekly editorial column on a topic of my choosing—one of the few things I miss about that painful gig. I recall, in the first issue of 2002, writing about my “anti-new year’s resolution,” during which I resolved not to make a new year’s resolution. (Yes, I realize in doing this that I contradicted the entire point of the piece.)
But here I am, a decade later thinking about new year’s resolutions and how I haven’t really made any yet, three days after ringing in the new year. Resolution-making is a tricky business. Last year, I made several and spent the latter half of 2010 beating myself up for not following through. This is especially self-destructive, as one of the resolutions was to not beat myself up. And so, the cycle continues.
On Dec. 31, Mike Robbins wrote a piece for The Huffington Post about “Completing the Year Consciously.” In the article, he suggests reflecting on the highs and lows of the past year and doing and saying “whatever we need to in order to create a true sense of closure to an experience.” He writes:
Because we often have resistance to authentically celebrating and appreciating ourselves, reflecting honestly on our accomplishments or our failures, acknowledging our real results or lack thereof, grieving loss with depth, and more, we usually just roll through the end of things and either avoid completion altogether or move on to the next thing as fast as we can. When we do this, however, we miss out on a sacred and important process.
Ouch! The “avoid completion altogether” remark hits close to home, and, unfortunately is the way I deal with more than just unfulfilled new year’s resolutions. According to Robbins, “when we don’t take the time to truly complete something, we end up carrying baggage, regrets, fear and unresolved issues into our next experience,” all of which undermine our success and fulfillment.
In order to help bring closure to 2010, Robbins proposes asking oneself a series of questions and putting the answers in writing. They include:
- What were my biggest lessons in 2010?
- What am I most proud of from this past year?
- What were my biggest disappointments in 2010?
- What am I ready to let go of from this past year?
- What else do I need to do or say to be totally complete with 2010?
He even suggests sharing the answers with important people in your life. Then, and only then, will be in a place where you can effectively craft goals and intentions for 2011.
As I reflect on 2010 with less focus on the negative, I realize that I did take some steps—baby steps—toward some of the lofty resolutions I set for myself. At least now, I am positioned in a more accurate—though still scattered—direction in some areas.
Perhaps the answer, then, is to not make grand and likely un-realizable new year’s resolutions for 2011, but rather to build on the goals (scaled back) set in 2010. Notice I said “goals” as opposed to “resolutions.” Goals can change as we grow. Resolutions feel as though they are set in stone.