Timebound Workplace

A New Year, New You? Maybe Not!

I find the concept of making resolutions on New Year’s Eve fascinating.  The frenzy with which people attend to resolutions during the end of the year intrigues me.  The burst of energetic resolve, the elaborate goal-writing and the endless conversations to identify the “right” goals seem to pop up in conversations, essays and blogs.  Each year I listen, read and ponder:

  • “What is so special about setting goals at the end of the year?”
  • “Why does it consume our attention so enthusiastically?”
  • “Is there that magical list which when followed will ceremoniously anoint your goal as worthy of action?”

You would think that after reading all that has been written and continues to be discussed about year-end resolutions and goal-setting, I would be less intrigued or would have been equally evangelical about making a few resolutions of my own.  The opposite is true.

I continue to listen, read and ponder because I am unable to mirror the zeal and capture similar enthusiasm to actually come up with a New Year resolution, much less act on it. The story behind a tradition or a practice always captivates me and I went looking for the story behind making New Year Resolutions.  There are many historical references, and I picked the story in a recent Washington Post article, “Why do we make New Year resolutions?” by Howard Bennett to think about this practice this year with more intention than I have given it in previous years.

The month of January, according to this story is named after Janus, a two-faced Roman God, facing backwards and forwards.  January then does seem like a perfect time to make resolutions for the rest of the year, wouldn’t it?

As you look backwards at your successes and failures, what behaviors of ingenuity, resiliency and ownership have remained steadfast in your life? How might you use these practices to create forward-looking pathways today?  I believe the goal in of itself matters little.  For a goal to create joy, productivity and fulfillment, most of us might need to dig deeper to flush out hidden energy that will redirect our lives more fully, with insight and awareness.  It is the sweet intersection of what is gone before and what is yet to come, when explored fully, that creates the synergy for becoming unstuck.  So, here is an exercise that might support the actions you take to set your resolution into motion:

  1. Identify three stories each from your life that gave you the deepest satisfaction AND the deepest embarrassment.
  2. Remember the examples of ingenuity, resiliency and ownership that showed up in ALL your stories.
  3. With intention, bring to awareness this ownership to inform your daily actions.
  4. See your goal evolve effortlessly and seamlessly into all aspects of your life.

My unsubstantiated theory is that whatever your goal, the chances that you will meet it is higher when you carry with you a deep awareness and recognition of the thread that connects your past to what is current and potentially creates the fabric to your future.

I also learned that Janus is the Guardian of arches, gates and doors.  Now, isn’t that a great visual? A sentinel standing guard who in a moment’s notice can either sternly command you to stop and close the door shut or can usher you in with pomp and circumstance.  Of course, the nicer choice is being ushered in with pomp and circumstance.  What might help persuade this “guardian” to be gentle and empowering towards attaining your goal?

You are your best guardian because no one else has your interests more in mind than you.  The issue, I believe, lies in the scripts that have become dear to us and take us to predictable and mostly unproductive outcomes.  It is this attachment to a way of doing things or thinking a certain way or confirming our self-doubts that stops resolutions from going that extra mile.  Again, I believe the goal in of itself matters little.  What is fruitful, perhaps, is freeing oneself of the various deals or contracts we make with ourselves on an unconscious level so that we can truly engage in magical thinking.  Might this thinking then, lead to a sustainable transformation, rather than a mere checking off a goal from a well-intentioned list?  So, here is an exercise that might help replace the predictable, fearful and rigid thinking that could close that gate or door on you:

  1. Understand clearly how discrepancies between thought and action show up on a regular basis and why.  How do these distractions diminish your goal? And, why does it matter to you?
  2. Shrink the anxiety implicit in goal-setting by recognizing the part in your goal that is other-focused and helpful to others.  This is hard work because it forces you to have greater clarity around your goal in a way that it captivates you and others, thereby becoming truly inspiring in thought and action.
  3. Imagine the “guardian” with some humor – dress her up fancily or have her do a cartwheel each time she looks sternly at you or give her a piece of your mind! Remember, she does need your permission to mess with your heart and head.  Why give her that ownership?
  4. See your goal evolve effortlessly and seamlessly into all aspects of your life.

Seems like I have to first work on some of the insights I am sharing with you here before I can buy into making a resolution specifically on New Year’s Eve!  For now, I will continue to work on goals as they come into my life.  What helps you keep your New Year resolutions?

By Sunitha Narayanan

Sunitha Narayanan is a certified career coach with a passion for connecting people and their talents to life and work opportunities. She is a co-active coach, empowering her clients to believe in their dreams, set actionable goals and actively create joy in their work lives. She is with Promark Company, a Career Partners International firm that offers executive coaching, leadership development and outplacement services. Learn about her interests by visiting her LinkedIn profile.