How have you landed in 2021? With trepidation, caution and reluctance or is it with relief, curiosity and excitement about a new year and new opportunities. I feel a lot of how we approach that will depend on how we fared in 2020 and therefore what we think may need to change in 2021.
And talking about change, each new year seems to have a lot of us using the R word … yes … resolutions! I’ve shared my views on those previously and my suggestion would be to not get caught up in them. Too late? Oh well …!
A resolution is really just a decision, a choice to do or not do something and, given that we all have free will, that’s perfectly ok, except that timing and your reason(s) for the decision or choice are key.
In relation to timing, why now? New Year is not the best time in general to change anything when many of us have overindulged, stayed up later than normal and got out of our routine all of which may leave us feeling we need to change something but is now really the best time?
We make hundreds of decisions each and every day, what has you making this decision today? It could be any day and ideally when we are truly ready to make that change rather than just being influenced by the date or internal or external pressure.
What about your reason for the change? It may be worth asking yourself: Who am I really doing this for? What am I hoping to achieve? By when? What are the potential pros and cons of the change? Are you making this decision for you or someone else who may be encouraging you or wanting it for you (or for them)? Are you are truly willing to go through with it?
Any sort of change probably requires some significant shift in our habits and that can be easier said than done. Habits are created over time and eventually, as part of our overall repertoire of behaviour, become unconscious, in other words we are not aware of them until they are having an impact on us or someone else in some way and they come to our conscious attention.
So it’s worth taking a moment to check in and dig a little deeper. What’s really behind the habit? When did it first start? What prompted it? It’s likely to be related to what we observed around us as we grew up, what our parents or grandparents did, what our friends did, peer pressure, wanting to ‘fit in’ and be accepted as one of the in-group. It’s also quite likely that, in the examples of alcohol and smoking, we hated it to begin with but persevered and forced ourselves to get used to it to the point of believing we enjoy it.
Our habit may also provide some form of comfort or feel like love because our grandma used to bake the most delicious treats for us when we visited, or we were offered chocolate when we were upset or smoking helps us to relax. The situations may be different now but our connection to the earlier experiences are powerful and it’s important to get to where it all started.
It’s also important to consider that when we release one ‘addiction’, whatever that is for you, it can be easy to substitute if for another that may seem like a healthy choice eg give up smoking and get into high intensity exercise 7 days a week; too much too soon can be risky and become equally addictive over time leading to burn out and exhaustion; the opposite of what might have been intended. I’m not saying do nothing, I’m suggesting that making the right choice for you at the right time is more likely to work.
A couple more suggestions that may help you make the changes you want to.
Keep it simple. It’s all too easy to decide to make multiple changes all at once and not get anywhere with any of them; choose the one that brings a sense of achievement.
Recognise that it doesn’t have to be perfect, just one step at a time. You will be in situations where you are offered the drink, the biscuit or the cigarette and you may choose to have them; it’s not the end of the world or your progress. Explore what was happening and why you made the choice and choose differently next time.
So rather than rushing into a decision or choice, ensure you are ready and willing and go gently; it doesn’t have to be a struggle if you are clear about the positives the change will bring and you have the support and resources to turn to.
Whatever or maybe whoever it is you are choosing to let go in 2021, do it with care and compassion particularly for yourself.