Did you know that studies show that most people’s “New Year’s Resolutions” are out of the window by the third week of January? Sounds familiar?
So you might even think, why bother with making resolutions if you are not going to keep them?
But honestly have you wondered what mental space you hold when you are making your annual resolutions? Most of us make our resolutions from the mental space of “I’ve got to fix myself” and “I am not going to be happy until I have improved myself”. (And of course this judgement also applies to the people in our lives. From that mental space we can only see what does not work in people and situations and how we can fix them/it.)
Studies show that the majority of our thoughts are repetitive and negative. The non-stop commentary in our head that says “I am not good enough”, “This shouldn’t be”, “How am I ever going to make it”… is the context from which we “force” ourselves to be “better”. And that voice in our head is not going to be at peace with ourselves until we have fulfilled the goal it has set itself. And guess what, even when we meet the goal, that voice is still going to find something else to judge ourselves on, like a parent who is never happy with his/her child’s performance.
No wonder making resolutions and keeping them seem such a drag! It’s really not very inspiring!
And the bad news is, the self criticising tape recording in our head is not going to go away, and there’s no way for us to stop it as long as we live. (Check out Dr. Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief and he explained it very scientifically) The “I am not enough” is deep-seated. All the “positive thinking” won’t stop it – and yet most of us seem to expect it to stop one day and we will finally be happy, and that’s probably why we keep disappointing ourselves.
But the good news is, we do NOT need to identify with that voice in our head. If a hard-to-please-never-satisfied parent is there in our head, there is also another completely different fully-loving-and-accepting parent in our head. This is the wise one who understands that accepting is not the same as endorsing. And no matter what we do this parent loves and accepts us completely.
The question is how do we let this “loving parent” out more?
As we know full well this is not our “default inner parent”, we got to consciously create space for him/her.
Here are some tested practices I have found to be useful personally:
– Take time every morning to notice what you are grateful for in your life. Keep a “gratitude journal” and write down three things (or more) what you are grateful for/celebrate. Some examples: “I am grateful for my functioning body and being free of pain and sickness”, “I am grateful for having money in the bank and a roof over my head”, “I am grateful for the convenience I enjoy living in Hong Kong (or wherever you are)”
– Take time every night before you go to bed to give yourself a pat on the shoulder. Acknowledge yourself for something you have done that you are proud of, or that you would like to see yourself doing more of. This is not self boosting. Don’t be shy. This is a time to activate the part of our consciousness of self acceptance and self worth. This is also a time to remind our consciousness what we would like to do more of to contribute to others (which in turn would make us happy). Some examples, “I acknowledge myself for being patient with my secretary today”, “I acknowledge myself for leaving work on time and making it to the gym”, “I acknowledge myself for choosing herbal tea over coffee today at lunch”
– Do something meditative everyday: let your mind rest and return to that innate peaceful place everyday. I magine how you have felt last time when you were most at peace and content – was it at a meditation practice, after a yoga class, when you took a long walk in nature quietly, or when you were day-dreaming sitting on your couch? Allow that. Cultivate that. It is here that we plant thought seeds to the subconscious (where the automatic commentary originates)
In summary, all of the above practices help to bring us back to the beginning of compassion – and it all begins from being “kind” to oneself.
Why do we make resolutions? Ultimately if we really ask ourselves, we just want to be happy and at peace with ourselves (don’t you?)…
Being able to step back and establish an empowering context from which to set these resolutions is something we can all take time to do if we want to. Upholding this working context is a process that brings happiness and peace moment to moment, and not “until someday” when we finally reach the “destiny” of fulfilment.
“Kindness” is an universal value in all major spiritual traditions and probably no one would argue that being “unkind” is preferable to being “kind”…. Here’s an elucidation of the concept of “unconditional friendliness to oneself” or “maitri” by a Western Buddhist teacher and author if you would be interested to delve deeper.