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Weighing in on New Years Resolutions or The Value of Practice

January 17, 2012


I thought I would weigh in on the subject of New Years Resolutions.  I have always felt somewhat ambivalent about the whole ritual.  There is, of course, something artificial about it and it is always accompanied by a lot of partying and over indulging.


For the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, there is a ritual called Tashlich where you go to a running body of water and empty your pockets of crumbs, symbolically ridding yourself of your sins, or as I have practiced it, the things you want to get rid of from the past year so that you can welcome in new things and make meaningful changes in your life.


Jeanine Stein in The Los Angeles Times recently wrote about thinking small, setting modest, attainable goals and slowly chalking up small successes as you steadily build confidence.  This matches what I have taught clients and other therapists regarding self care and self care goals.  Instead of “I’m going to go the gym 7 days a week for an hour at a  time”, start with I am going to go to the gym once a week for a half an hour this week.  And when you have accomplished that for a week or two, you can build on it.


And when you “fall off the wagon” think about just starting over again.  I often make the analogy between that kind of not doing something you want to be doing and meditating, where once you notice that your mind is busily thinking of all kinds of things, you bring yourself back to your breath.  There is no blame or guilt, you just bring yourself back to whatever it is you wanted to be doing.


I’d like to encourage people to think about framing your resolutions not as I want to be (50 pounds lighter or a faster reader or a great chef or a great dancer) or I want to have (a new house, a boyfriend)but rather  as something I am going to practice.  Just like we practice yoga, or meditation, or medicine, let’s practice getting to know new people, or practice dancing or reading or eating mindfully etc.  Rather than being or having, let’s practice.


Hopefully, over time, when we practice, we develop more and more mastery and we become better and better at whatever it is.  Practice leads to embodiment of it, whatever it is.  Being present in the moment, doing what it is we are doing.  Habib Sadeghi, at  The Be Hive of Healing wrote in article on New Years Resolutions to keep your “intention in the back of your mind while keeping your attention in every present moment.  Focus on what you can do now.  That’s all.”

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