I don't celebrate most holidays, but I've always been a fan of New Year's. New Year's Day, actually, more than New Year's Eve. I relish fresh starts and new beginnings.
I even like New Year's resolutions. I know, they're cliche, and that much of the time, when we make them, we don't stick with them or know where that list is come February. But even just the practice of taking stock of where we've been and where we're at, thinking about what we want for ourselves and our lives in a new year; thinking out or writing down ideas or mantras to help support us in living the life we want? I'm a big fan of that kind of self-evaluation, meditation and positive affirmation.
However, so much of the time, the leading words in resolution lists look a whole lot like these:
Obviously, none of that's exactly the language of shiny beginnings. They're negatives, rather than positives. But even more so, those are words that describe a coming loss or a scarcity of something. If we know anything about people, we know that a sense of scarcity, of giving things up, of having less, of losing things, isn't what tends to motivate people to change, even if that change might be, or certainly will be, positive.
On the other hand, if we know anything about people, we know that what does tend to motivate people well, is the idea of gaining things, or getting something, of having more, of abundance.
Because some of this language and approach can sound highly hokey, I'll give you a personal example. I'll also tell you that while I've known all of this stuff about scarcity and abundance my whole life, and I've done really well with it in some ways, I've had trouble spots with it in most areas of my life. In a lot of ways, it's been more of something I understood theoretically or intellectually than practically or tangibly.
But in the last year, I made some changes in my life, to some of the most basic parts of my life, where this idea finally felt really tangible. Where my "Yes, yes, abundance, I know, blah blah blah..." (usually paired with some grumbly, bitter thinking about how people telling me to go for abundance seem to have more of everything than me, so of course they say that), turned into an, "Oh, I get it! This is what that abundance mindset thing does!"
I've been a vegetarian most of my life, since before I was a teenager, and I've been primarily vegan for over ten years now. The limitations of my economic station notwithstanding, I've generally eaten far more healthily than most Americans. I've also been a workaholic, an insomniac, an oh-my-god-stop-asking-me-for-time-I-want-too-but-don't-sodding-have freaker-outer, a everyone-else-comes-first-before-me-er, and a smoker, to boot (since I was 11, no less. Seriously, just don't start. Ever).
My partner and I caught a bad flu early last year. The doctor we went to see asked me if I'd ever tried quitting smoking, because that was his thing. Like almost any other smoker, of course I had. (No, doctor, never, and I have also never put on a pair of pants or seen the sun in the sky. I mean, come on.) I'd tried nearly everything already. He suggested a medication I hadn't tried, but when I went home to look it up, not only did I find that his idea of "affordable" was not mine, and there were some side effects that came with the medication I wasn't comfy with. I'll try a lot of things once, but when medical literature and study says I may risk serious psychosis, I'm less than excited to see how something goes, even for such a good reason. My sanity or my lungs? Sanity wins. Sorry, lungs. Still, it stayed on my mind.
Around the same time, I was realizing that even though I was vegan, it was outrageous how full my freezer and fridge were of processed foods, and how some weeks, we were literally only having fresh vegetables a couple times a week, despite having access to them all the time. I love to cook from scratch, it's my favorite meditation, so why was I only doing it a couple times a week anymore? Just between coffee, some kind of dessert, and things like cereal and bread, the amount of sugar I was eating was also appalling. I kept forgetting to eat and to drink water. Bread had somehow snuck into my life as my BFF. How the heck did all this happen? I never wanted to be eating that way. Time for some changes.
While I was realizing all of that, I was realizing there were some other things I was lacking, doing poorly, badly prioritizing, or just not making enough room for in my life.
I started to make a mental list that looked something like this:
Over a few months, a thing happened where I'd say that a funny thing happened, except that it was perfectly sensible.
What things were easiest to stick with, and just kept getting easier and easier? The more-things, the things that involved addition, not subtraction. The stuff that gave me things, instead of taking things away.
But as months passed, adding those things started to result in ditching or limiting the things I wanted to feeling like it was happening all by itself. Despite being an ardent lover of sugar pretty much my whole life, the sugar just fell away without my even trying. How I became, of late, a person who rarely eats sugar is more baffling to me than contemplating the universe. Meals made up of something other than primarily fresh, raw vegetables and whole foods became more and more unappealing and unsatisfying. Foods that were making me feel crummy, but which I found tasty all the same, got less tasty. I just slowly stopped wanting them save very infrequently without really working on getting rid of them. And I didn't feel like I had lost anything, or was in any way limiting or robbing myself.
More sleep, play, movement and making my already-pretty-healthy diet much healthier still became less stress; things like that made it a whole lot easier to be more patient and think more positively more of the time. Adding self-care takes time, and it just kind of took away some of the time I had been over-putting into care of others. I just needed to keep making room for me-time, that's all. And with alarmingly little effort or struggle, I've gone from a pack to a pack-and-a-half a day smoker for decades to a pack now lasting me several days. I suspect that in the next year, the cigs are finally going to basically just dump themselves, seriously, and the other things I needed to limit or lose, that have already just kind of been falling away, will keep falling so long as I keep leading with positive additions.
I bet the mental leap I've been struggling with in some parts of my life for so long around scarcity mindsets I need to swap for abundant ones, like with money and time, is going to get a lot easier very soon. And probably with very little effort on my part or, rather, with effort put into cultivating stuff that feels great to cultivate, so that I don't have to put much effort into ditching the baddies: just working on the feel-good things will take care of that business almost entirely for me. I find that as we roll into 2013, I have room for some things on my list this year I just didn't have last year, like more time spent for my art, real vacation time and downtime with my sweetie, and some projects I've wanted to get started on for years and finally feel empowered to invest time and energy in, both of which I'm finding I've got more and more of.
If you poster your walls, it's a bit like how it goes when your walls are almost entirely covered, but then you get a new poster you love more than more and there's no space for it. What do you do? You find one you just don't care about that much anymore, or are over with, and dump it to make room for the new one. That new poster moves the old one out, and in a much easier way, most likely, than if you didn't have that new poster, but decided you needed to clear the wall some. If you didn't have that new poster, you'd probably find sentimental value to every damn thing on your walls, and find a reason nothing could go or even just be set aside for now. Even though you only had to make space for that one new poster, something about it, and taking one down to make room for it, might well have you clearing half the wall out of nowhere, and then -- hey! You have a whole open wall you never had before all of a sudden. That new poster isn't just nice to look at, it's clearly full of magic. It's the magic of thinking from abundance, not from scarcity.
So, if you're making New Year's resolution lists today, or just as you move into the next year and your life in it, I'd suggest leading with the positive, not the negative; with abundance, not scarcity.
How about a list where the leading words instead look like this:
For example, know you're in a dead-end relationship you should leave but can't seem to let go of it? Start by adding things to your life that are positive and great, like cultivating a great friendship, investing some of the time you're spending in that relationship in whatever your life goals or dreams are, or taking better basic care of yourself, like with how you eat, sleep or manage stresses. Chances are good that those things, and the way they make you feel in general, and about yourself, will get you to a place where there's just no more room in your head, heart and life for that crummy relationship. Letting go of it will feel easier and more liberating than it would have otherwise. The good stuff in your life will break up with the bad stuff so that when you need to do it, you're already halfway there.
Maybe you're one of the gazillion people that put weight loss on your resolutions, as so many people tend to do. How about if instead of "Lose weight," you write down, "Eat more healthy, fresh food," "Get outside and play more," and "Give my body more love and acceptance?" If you do those things, if you do have weight your body wants to lose to be more healthy than it is, it'll start to happen. Whether you lose weight or not, you'll improve your physical and mental health and FEEL better in that body. So, if you didn't actually need to lose weight in the first place, letting go of the idea that you should or must gets way more obvious. If you do need to cut some unhealthy things out of your diet or learn to limit them, those newly-prioritized good things will help you do the job without you feeling like you're having to let go of things you want.
Inclined to write, "No more bad sex?" How about "More good sex?" After all, when your sexual life is full of the good stuff, there's just no room for the bad. What about we revise "Stop having unsafe sex," to "Have safer sex and make my sexual health a priority?" Or, "Fall in love with myself," instead of "Get boy/girlfriend (so someone else can distract you from your self-loathing for a bit by liking you.)" Or, on that same note, instead of making a note to find a love relationship, like it's this thing someone else gives you or does without you, how about "Plant seeds to create a fantastic relationship with someone?"
Reclaiming, not renouncing. Gaining, not losing. Doing or being, not passively getting. Beginnings, not endings, even if those beginnings wind up facilitating endings. Abundance -- SO MUCH ABUNDANCE! -- not scarcity. More of you, more of living and enjoying and driving your life; more, not less.
As writers and once-lit majors like myself often like to say -- often when being snippy -- words mean things. Words have a literal meaning. But they also mean things in terms of the impact they have on us: they have emotional meaning, too, not just intellectual meaning. There's a lot of talk in the study of sexuality, sex ed, and social justice culture about language and terms, and you might already be cued into that. But be sure that you're also keeping in mind that the words you use, especially for your life, your sense of self, and the things you want, the kind of words you might not give a lot of thought to, can really matter and have a big impact in this regard.
Make those words reflective of what's positive, fantastic, and beneficial. Make those words be words that support you in feeling good and living the kind of life you really want to live. Make those words herald and create more, not less, of you and your going-to-become-awesome life.