December 30, 2018

2 Magic Words that I use Year-Round—instead of Resolutions.

Who doesn’t love a chance for a do-over?

Birthdays, Mondays, the first of the month, the solstice, and ah—the holy grail of them all: the first day of a fresh, new year.

The thing is, I’ve had a terrible track record when it comes to fresh starts. I wake up to a usually cold, grey, snowy day with my best New Year’s intentions and within a day, a week, or a month, the shine has worn off and I’m hiding from my inevitable failures.

I’m fairly certain my intense need to bookend certain chapters (and even pages) of my life stems from a lack of self-worth.

Whenever I experience a failure, no matter the size—from my disastrous marriage, to not meeting a deadline at work, and even to a particularly heated argument with my teenage son—it feels impossible to move on, like I’m stuck in a muddy bog of regret and unhappy memories.

In my mind, I’m looking for my personal version of Facebook’s highlight reel, as if somehow, I can just not post about the bad stuff, and it’ll never have happened, and then I’ll still be “good enough.”

So in the past, I’ve leapt—with chalkboard erasers in hand—at any significant opportunity to “wipe the slate clean,” all the while knowing that it’s impossible to really do that.

And I have tried to be grateful for the lessons and experiences that come from falling on my ass. Sometimes, I’d succeed at changing my perspective. But more often, I just couldn’t shake the horrible feelings that settled within me, almost physically, from screwing up, letting others down, or even letting myself down. The moment I felt less than, I’d go searching for a way to start over, to be a better person, to somehow erase my wrongs.

That is until I read two magic words:

“Begin again.”

Somehow, the concept of simply beginning again—right then and there—derailed my pattern of always waiting for my birthday to curb unhealthy habits, the first of the month to finally stop spending money stupidly, or for the new year to try and change, well, every damn thing.

Instead, I could simply start over. Right now. Today, this hour, this moment. I could have an argument with someone, take a deep breath, and start again with more compassion. I could binge-eat through a Saturday, and halfway through, realize what the heck I was doing to myself—and not wait for Monday to stop, but stop right then and there at 5:42 pm. And begin again. And drink some water. And eat some veggies instead. And forgive myself.

I could begin again on Tuesday afternoons after our Editorial meetings when I feel like I’ve put my foot in my mouth for the third time that day. I could begin again when I realize I haven’t spent a single minute in two weeks doing something I enjoy. When I’ve had a sh*tty day, I could even begin again right before I go to sleep. I’d take a deep breath, remind myself that each new day is a goddamn gift, and go to sleep knowing I get a fresh one when I wake up.

And instead of spending way too much time wallowing in not feeling worthy, by beginning again and again, I have begun to change how I feel about myself—your thoughts are not necessarily reality, but they can affect it—which in turn changed how I handled myself outwardly too.

So, that’s probably why I don’t make resolutions for the new year anymore. I’m always starting over—right when I need it most.

That said, I did something last year that has really benefited me and I thought I should share. When I did make resolutions in the past, I would often create a lofty list of “forever” goals, only to forget about them and fail at them a month down the road—things like lose X number of pounds, never walk in late to work again, and quit smoking (I did finally succeed at that last one).

Instead, last year, I set a goal each month and used my bullet journal to remind me to complete it each day. You could use a calendar to set reminders, or any other tool or app that you usually use to organize your life. I found physically crossing off a pen-and-paper to-do list every day was most effective for me.

You could choose to complete 12 goals, or if you’re struggling to come up with ideas, choose six and complete each one over the course of two months.

Some of my goals were:

January: Drink more water. (I set a goal to drink at least 1,000 ml each day.)
February: Better sleep habits. (I made sure to get eight hours each night—bedtime is super hard for a night owl like me.)
March: Daily reading instead of YouTube. (My reading had dropped off in favor of meaningless videos and social media.)
April: Floss daily. (Judge me if you want.)
May: Meditate every day. (Sometimes I used guided meditations, and sometimes it was just sitting quietly, paying attention to my breath.)
June: Journaling at the end of every day. (More cathartic and helpful than I thought it would be.)

And so on. These are just examples—set whatever goals feel right for you. The key is to write them down and use a tool to keep ourselves accountable.

The bright side of choosing a goal for a one or two-month span is that there is an end in sight. Some of my goals stuck with me and I reversed a few terrible habits, and some didn’t—oh, sleep, you elusive creature.

The point is that I tried, and I succeeded for the most part, and I am much better for it. And beginning again with something new—having succeeded at last month’s goal—filled my self-worth cup in ways that a forgotten list of resolutions at the start of each year never could.

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