Every year, millions of people promise to live healthier, happier, more prosperous than in the past. Repeatedly, New Year’s resolutions begin with a fervent declaration accompanied by a flurry of preparation—gym membership, new sewing machine, air in the bicycle tires. Resolutions can fizzle out with amazing speed. Then, there is the guilt trip, so you beat yourself up when you do not reach the goal or measure up to your ambition—again. I propose reframing New Year’s aspirations as hopes and intentions. This process calls for the honesty of introspection and reflection.
Hope, born of a yearning of a desired outcome, is a deep sense that your desires and visions might come to fruition. Hope often has a spiritual basis. The end result is vivid in your mind. You have a visceral response when thinking or talking about your goal.
Intentions require self-discovery which arises from inner exploration. You take a realistic view of your intention, first by thinking about its importance in your life. Time, ability, equipment, fortitude, stick-to-itiveness, resources, and support all play roles in your new endeavor. A plan emerges. Intentions differ from resolutions in that they well up from deep within and offer flexibility. They afford you the freedom to change your course if necessary—guilt-free. Resolutions, however, can become mired in an all-or-nothing mindset that stifles creative problem solving.
Introspection is a deep search within to mine the golden nuggets of strength, courage, resilience, and wisdom. The passing of years offers a natural transition into the next season of your life. The deeper you delve within, the more powerful will be your insights and epiphanies. Options and possibilities you may not have considered burble into your mind. “Ah ha!” becomes a staple in your daily language. You set intentions and develop plans to reach them. You look to the new year with profound gratitude for having traversed another year of life and joyful expectancy for the future. You may have no clear answers to your deep, passionate questions, not yet. Offer gratitude for what did and did not happen in 2021.
Reflection helps you see where you have been and assesses the way the events of your life unfolded that contributed to where you are today. Look into your heart and find the denied or neglected places, the tender places, the desperate places, the raw places. Revisit the challenges and painful experiences with fresh eyes. Think of the balms of self-compassion, gentleness, and nurturing to help heal those parts of you. Reach out for help if you need it whether with someone close to you or with a professional. Time spent in reflection is a fantastic opportunity to re-celebrate the joys and triumphs of 2021.
Here are five questions to start you on your path of self-discovery and New Year’s resolutions that bring you joy and peace.
What do you want your attitude to be in 2022?
This is the most important and the most difficult question to ask. Your attitude determines how you think, believe, feel, and live. Attitude is one area of your life where you have total control. How you respond to life’s drawbacks can mean the difference between peace and serenity or hopelessness and despair. Adjust your attitude, by 1) journaling to see the reality of your thoughts and feelings, which may surprise you; then 2) talking with people you trust.
What do you want to affirm in 2022?
Reflect on 2021 and think about epiphanies and insights that brought focus and clarity to your life. Perhaps you are learning to ask for help and to be vulnerable with the people in your life who love and care about you. In the process, you affirm that you are worth the time and attention of other people. Think of your achievements and the effort it took for you to realize your dreams. How can you apply those practices to reach goals in other parts of your life?
How do you want to spend your time in 2022?
Every year has 525,600 minutes/1,440 minutes per day—more if we are in a leap year. Those minutes tick away whether you notice them, or they pass by without attracting your attention. Consider activities you want to do more of as well as activities you want to release as they no longer support you. Think about activities that are important to you, that bring you joy and peace and evoke a sense of wonder. Invite experiences into your life that transform you emotionally and spiritually. Create space in your life for more play and respite. Sometimes doing nothing is what you need to recharge and return to your tasks refreshed.
Who are the people you want in your life?
Look at your relationships and ask yourself whether they support you or cause you pain. Relationships are complex, and you cannot always create a desirable distance between another person and yourself. Take care to ensure that you are safe before making drastic changes to your relationships. Consider such factors as how much the relationship means to you and how you can deal with the situation in ways that respect the dignity of everyone involved. As mentioned earlier, get help if at all possible.
What do you want to do differently in 2022?
Here, you turn your attention to your visions, intentions, goals, and choose with care activities that nurture you. Map out doable steps to help you achieve your definition of success.
The reduced daylight of winter months can put the strongest emotional fortitude to test. Dark days and cloudy skies can contribute to a host of emotional issues. Living with emotional upheaval or pain and chronic issues can mean just getting through the day is progress. Try to remember that December 21, the shortest day of the year, and the beginning of Winter, means that following days become increasingly longer and sunlight in abundance will return. Know the darkness and time of dormancy are temporary. Just think, when December 31 arrives, you can celebrate ten days into more sunlight each day.
We can look forward to this time of year with a spirit of appreciation, celebration, self-confidence, and hope as the seasons change. We can welcome each as an unfolding of the ever-flowing energy of life. We can participate in the transitions of nature and match our rhythm to that pulse. We can endeavor to be better people, however that looks to each of us as we step out of one year into the next.
May 2022 be a year of renewal for you. Be well. Be safe. Be at peace. Keep your journal happy.
Billie Wade, a lifelong journaler, believes people are precious, sacred, resilient, and stronger than they know. She created Journaling to Heal, LLC which helps people discover the power of writing in their process of recovery from emotional stress and trauma. Visit her at www.billiewade.com and find more of her writing on www.dmpcc.org/billie where she writes a monthly newsletter column for Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.