|The best word to describe my holiday break was pivot. One day into my year-end writing retreat, my husband called to tell me he wasn’t feeling well. At first, we thought he had the flu, but we soon discovered the COVID fairy had blessed us|
Since I continued to test negative, we isolated from one another. That meant a delayed holiday meal and nixing the festivities we’d planned until he tested negative toward the end of the year.
Illness wakes you up to what’s important. The vulnerability it creates cracks you open to the full experience of life, from the gratitude you may have toward caregivers, to your sadness, disappointment, or anger at being sidelined. But it’s our ability to embrace the dark and the light that makes us fully human.
For many of us, New Year’s Day serves as another wake-up call. It’s a time when we celebrate our victories, mourn or losses, and vow, once again, to get our shit together. One way we do this is by rushing to create resolutions.
New Year’s Day has always been a sacred holiday for me. It used to be a time when I wrote about the past and hastily created resolutions for the future. But now my New Year’s process spans eight or nine days.
On this New Year’s Eve, I read through old resolutions and the January first entries I’ve created since turning eleven years old. On New Year’s Day, I completed a powerful meditation that helped me write a “Letter from God.” Next weekend, I’ll burn a list of everything I want to let go of and choose this year’s word. Then I’ll finalize my resolutions.
For many people, the R-word is so loaded with fears, regrets, and shame that creating them feels like brushing your teeth with sandpaper. I used to fear failing mine so much that I purposefully set vague resolutions, like be a better person. Without a benchmark for comparison, I felt legit to check these things off my list. But deep down, I knew these goals weren’t supporting my growth.
Sometimes the way out of the resolution trap is to use new terms. Self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff talked about creating intentions in her end-of-the-year newsletter. According to dictionary.com, the primary definition of intention is an aim or a goal. The secondary definition is the healing process of a wound. Reading that created a paradigm shift for me.
What if our intentions were goals that healed something deep inside us?
How would that change what you wrote down?
If we confront the shamestorm resolutions can create, we might see that the reason we fail at the important ones isn’t because we’re not dedicated to them, but instead because deep down, we’re telling a story about ourselves that conflicts with our core values.
This is something I have a lot of experience with. For years, I’ve had a resolution that reads “published author.” Over time, that’s morphed from having a single poem or essay published to holding my book. When I was thirteen, I wanted to be famous, like Stephen King, but now I just want to be of service to others, which is one of my core values. But the story I’ve been telling myself made it difficult to check this one off the list. It goes a little like this:
Who me? I don’t have anything important to say. Besides, even if I DID have something to say, I’m probably not good enough to do this. So, let’s stall, because it’s better to never achieve a goal than to fail at one.
It took me a long time to understand this, and even longer to do something about it. The road has been long—no, make that really long. What keeps me going is knowing that selling my memoir will not only help me lean into a core value, it will heal something fundamental about how I see myself.
In his book One Mindful Day at a Time, which was recommended to me by Paula Boyland, Alan Wolfelt writes, “Imagine awareness as a flashlight. In any moment, we can choose to shine the flashlight wherever we want.”
As you embark upon the first week of 2023, I want you to shift your focus away from goals and intentions (we’ll get there), but instead, use this week to become aware of both your core values and the stories you’re telling yourself.
Here are a few ways to do this:
Make a list of your core values. Not sure what they are? Make a list of the things you did this week. Star the ones that make you feel proud. Then click here to identify which core value they speak to.
Write a morning (or afternoon) page for an entire week. Note the themes that pop up. For example, are you complaining a lot about certain people or events? Do you write about familiar fears? What you write will give you insight into that unconscious story.
Keep a thought journal for an entire week. In it, write down your thoughts throughout the day. Make note of what you discover.
At this point, all you need to do is collect data. Next week, we’ll do something with it. If you really want to work with this at a deeper level, sign up for Start S.M.A.R.T. in 2023.
Until next time, may you have the courage to always write on.
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