S/HE — Ah, making New Year’s resolutions. The surest way to lose respect for yourself quickly.You draw up an aggressive, indestructible plan for the coming year (this is it, man), vow to start things on January 1st (no, hold on, January 2nd), go strong for approximately a week and a half (the brand new me!), and by mid-February, find yourself in your kitchen with a gym membership you haven’t used in a month and a half-eaten box of cronuts.
Instead of worrying about New Year’s resolutions (while stumbling through the rest of December in a haze of sugar, alcohol and credit card debt), I thought we could end this year right.
In five easy steps, of course! Because like cronuts, everyone loves steps.
Step 1: Make a list of 100 things that happened to you this year that you’re grateful for. If 100 sounds like an insane amount to you, you’re probably the person that will benefit most from doing this exercise. And you’re forgetting that there are 365 days in a year. I know that one nice thing happened to you every three and a half days. Go about it chronologically: write down the wonderful (or at least mildly pleasant) things that happened to you around January of this past year, then February, then March … And these can be little, trivial things—I’m grateful that I got Netflix and can watch old Doctor Who episodes whenever I want—great! Or they can be significant—I’m so grateful that I finally got a job and moved out of my mom’s house—good for you! I don’t know a more effective way of getting out of a funk. You experience a complete shift from feeling like your life is lacking to realizing how hugely blessed you are. Hey 2014, you’re alright, kid.
Step 2: Take inventory of your life. Stay with me on this — it’s going to take some third-grade geometry. Draw a bicycle wheel with spokes. To each spoke, assign an area of life that matters to you: Family, Career, Health/Fitness, Romance, Finances, Spirituality, Emotional State, Creativity (feel free to add a couple more you value). Now rate each spoke on a scale of 0 to 10, and draw a dot accordingly on each spoke — 0 goes in the center of the wheel and 10 goes on the part where the spoke hits the rubber. Now connect the dots all the way around. The resulting wheel is a representation of how your life is going—and it’s probably dangerously lopsided. The ideal “life wheel” consists of all 9’s or 10’s. Honestly, mine doesn’t, and yours probably doesn’t either. You might have 9’s in some areas of your life and 3’s in others, which is going to give you a wheel that’s completely bent out of shape and can’t go anywhere—feeling stuck, perhaps? Or you may have 4’s in every area of your life, so your wheel is perfectly round, but it’s also very small, so it can’t carry much weight—are you comfortable but completely uninspired? Very revealing, isn’t it? This exercise allows you to take an honest look at what’s working — or not — in your life. And by quantifying the things that were previously abstract in your mind, you’re less likely to be numbed to or overwhelmed by your goals. You now have a comprehensive, realistic assessment of where you are today, which is a springboard from which to make new choices. You also have a really cool wheel drawing you can show your friends.
Step 3: Start bringing those numbers up — now. Everybody runs to join the gym in January. But why don’t you start working out (or writing your novel, or creating a profile on E-Harmony) right now? Pick your lowest numbers and write down actions that will elevate your sad 2’s to proud 10’s. “Work out more” is not an action step, by the way. Be specific —”Take three Zumba classes a week at the YWCA” is a specific, measurable action (310-452-3881 is the number to our front desk, by the way). I know this sounds suspiciously like making New Year’s resolutions, but it’s not an empty New Year’s resolution if you’re taking action in December! And by the time all your friends crawl out from under their regrets and begin to make lists, you’ll be starting the year already feeling like a success.
Step 4: Call someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Humans run on relationships. Reconnecting with your old friend from college you used to do everything with but slowly stopped talking to after graduation, or a parent you’ve been avoiding for two years, will breathe new life into the final weeks of this year and will have you skipping around like Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol.
Step 5: Remember that even if you fail Steps 1 to 4, you’re still okay in my book. I’ve spent so much of my life feeling disappointed with myself for not following through on my goals and resolutions, which only made me want to give up on them entirely. But I found freedom when I realized that not doing what you wanted to do doesn’t mean you’re a failure — it just means you didn’t do what you wanted to do — that’s it. Take away the emotional weight behind that and move forward. It’s not about finding your identity in your failures — or your successes. These areas of your life that aren’t working might be frustrating to you, and may be keeping you from your dreams, so that’s why we draw wheels and follow steps to break habits that don’t lead us where we want to go. But if you don’t do them, or try and aren’t perfectly successful at doing them, you’re not bad or wrong — you’re just not living the life you want. But you’re completely empowered to do something about it at any moment you decide. And no need to wait until the first of the month — just commit or recommit to yourself exactly where you are.And independently of any external measurable, simply because you’re a unique expression of a human being, decide that you’re awesome.
5 steps later, you’re glowing. Happy Old Year to you.
The YWCA Santa Monica/Westside is a nonprofit organization that empowers women and girls. Annually, we serve more than 2,500 women, girls and children from 10 communities on the Westside of Los Angeles. Contact Margarita Roze directly email@example.com.