Harnessing the ‘new year mentality’ to fuel 2018
(spoiler alert – it involves rest rather than treadmills)
10 min read
Tis the season of NY resolution headlines. They have dominated all of my social media feeds over the last couple of weeks and no doubt yours too. Some are motivational and a bit shouty (live your intentions! set your goals! be the person you want to be! commit!).
Some are gentle and acutely aware of the likely outcome (don’t set yourself goals that you feel bad about not reaching. Be kinder to yourself. Focus on your achievements. You are enough.) etc etc.
The subtext here is that we’re doomed to fail with our new year’s resolutions unless we have an almost robotic iron will. So why bother at all?
But what if I like the idea of a New Year goal?
Here’s the thing. Goals and intentions can feel great. What if you actually enjoy feeling fired up as you go into the New Year? What if you DO want to do something different? And then, what if with all the will in the world, you also run out of steam a few weeks in to the year and all good intentions fall by the wayside? This is the widely accepted reality – statistics show that c80% of resolutions are dropped within 3 months.
That understood, how exactly are we supposed to retain the level of energy we often feel about new commitments at the start of the year across the year and beyond? From where do we summon the mental and physical stamina required to make these new commitments part of our lives?
There has been a lot written about the behaviours required to embed new habits. And whilst I don’t dispute the efforts needed to adopt fresh habits I do wonder if there’s something much more fundamental at the heart of our struggles to integrate these NY changes. Perhaps the key to overcoming these struggles becomes clearer when we begin to examine the ‘New Year mentality’ in a little more detail…
The origins of New Year’s Resolutions and why the ‘New Year mentality’ matters
Apparently, humans have been making resolutions for around 4000 years when Babylonians made commitments to pagan Gods, although it was only in Christian times that we began to use the first day of the new calendar year to mark the occasion. But it proves that we’ve had annual good intentions, and lots of practice at it, for quite some time.
So, what exactly is going wrong between 1st Jan and 31st March? Let me ask you a question – how did you feel over the Christmas holidays this year? Did you have some time away from work? Some time with loved ones? Some time to mull over the events of the last 12 months? Even if you detest your in-laws perhaps you had some headspace, some downtime. Time to think about your own needs as well as the needs of others. We tend to use the festive holiday period as a time to give ourselves permission to down tools, to indulge and to relax a bit more than usual. And I mean this from both a physical and mental perspective. It makes sense then that as we approach the New Year we tend to feel more energised and more creative – making intention setting and goal planning feel intuitive and enjoyable.
Let me ask you another question – fast forward through the holidays and to the second or third day back at work. How are you feeling now? You’re possibly right in the thick of it – battling through the backlog of emails and requests, trying to get on top of everything that happened when you were eating cheese and pulling crackers. Now your goals or intentions feel a bit further away than they did right at the beginning of January. You might be being pulled in several directions making the integration of new year’s resolutions just too difficult. You’ll get back to them when you have more time. Right?….
The fundamental difference between the new year mentality and that of a week or two later is your mental and physical capacity. Consider this – what if every single day we started taking the time and space required to fully recharge so that we actually had sufficient energy levels to succeed in our new challenges? To have this sense of renewed Jan 1st energy, a new year mentality, we must first recreate that sense of slow and restorative festive lull. Balancing the notions of renewal and growth with those of restoration and stillness – because one feeds the other.
Sustainability through balance
Next time you find yourself in a cycle of self-doubt over resolutions that seem impractical part way through the year consider how you might practically find ways to incorporate moments of stillness and rest into your day. Maybe this takes the form of meditation, a gentle stroll or a daydream. Perhaps you’re a napper at heart. Whatever your downtime preferences, I can guarantee that by balancing these two energies and reclaiming that ‘new year mentality’ you will feel an increased ability to achieve your goals and that those goals will be increasingly sustainable in the long term.
Go forth and rest! See…I told you no treadmills!