Many people view the New Year as a time for new (or renewed) commitments. I have also found that just as many view the changing of the calendar as just another day. Is one view better than the other?
What if there was a third way to view the start of a new year? What if we could look at every day as a new beginning – regardless of the date on the calendar?
As anyone who has ever been a member of a health club will tell you, the first few weeks of January are filled with people who have “finally” decided to get in shape. Unfortunately, this causes only a temporary problem with delays and waiting for machines because all of these new year’s athletes’ staunch resolutions to “finally” do it have…well, vanished by February.
I also know clients, colleagues, and friends who believe that the New Year is really just another day. “Nothing new to look forward to – just the same old, same old.” Unlike the New Year’s athletes, their resolve to do something new often vanished long before January 1st.
Very different perspectives yet, in both of these cases, there is a common theme: a nagging unhappiness. Maybe it is the belief that something in our lives is wrong. Maybe it is a fear that we have no control over our lives. Maybe it is an anger that our current lives are not what we had anticipated or hoped for.
Henry David Thoreau’s observation that most of us “live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in [us]” is uncomfortably familiar.
But what if we instead recognized that every day (and every individual moment within each day) is brand new? That every day has never happened before…and will never happen again? How would this paradigm shift change life as we know it?
While I agree that the New Year can be a “good” time to “finally” take action on that which we want to achieve, why limit ourselves to only one day in the year? For both the New Year’s athlete whose resolution starts out strong then fades away and the person whose life is one of monotony without change, it may mean the beginning of the end to the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that we feel.
We can (and, I believe, should) embrace the challenge to view each day as a new beginning:
- Let go of the past. Easier said than done, but all of those “wouldas,” “couldas,” and “shouldas” are powerful “guilty glues” that feed our fears of wanting and doing something more.
- To let go of the past, we need to remind ourselves that we are NOT our pasts. The amazing thing about humans is that we have an innate capacity to change and adapt. The paradox is that we are often afraid of those changes due to an unending litany of “what ifs” that prevents us from moving forward.
- Learn from the past – but remember that this is valuable hindsight and not necessarily inescapable foresight. Just because it happened before doesn’t necessarily mean that it is inevitable now. This is true for both victories and failures. The consistent practice of self-reflection helps us to recognize patterns so that we can avoid repeating past mistakes or proactively replicate the factors that contributed to past successes.
- Don’t be afraid to open up to the road ahead. To do that, we need to stop looking backward in the rearview mirrors of our lives. What lies ahead? Where do you want to go? What do you want to be? How can you use your God-given talents to get there? (Surprisingly, many people with whom I’ve spoken to have absolutely no idea what their ideal life would look like – without a destination, it’s nearly impossible to map out the best route to get there.)
- Take three deep breaths and just do it! Nike was on to something when they branded themselves with those three little words. Yes, we’re all afraid of what might happen! Yes, it is inevitable that there will be surprises along the road! And, yes, we might even decide to change our destination! But not doing something empowers our minds to weave powerful, self-righteous “what if” fictions that rationalize and reinforce the “guilty glues” that are keeping us stuck and unhappy.
- So what if we fail? Most failures are NOT – I repeat, NOT! – the end of the world. Failures lie on a continuum from minor upsets to life-threatening catastrophes. What’s fascinating is that the same “failure” can be viewed as earth-shattering by one person, but only a minor pain to another. Our perceptions create our realities.
Success has never been and will never be a linear path. Many people who ultimately succeed often admit that they have “failed” their way to success. They learn from the past. They don’t let their pasts define their futures. And they don’t wait to make the necessary changes in their lives based on a date on the calendar.
I hope that every day in this New Year can be a new start and an awakening for you. Happy New Year!
Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert whose goal is to eradicate burnout from the workplace. She is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as a popular keynote speaker and trainer. To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI. She can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.