Conventional resolutions often fail to do us much good because they were never really designed for us in the first place. The best resolutions are based on thoughtful, heartfelt consideration of what would make us happy. But all too often, we assign ourselves instead to accomplishments or self-improvement tasks approved by other people. We end up working hard (at least for a little while) on things our friends, bosses, partners, parents or our culture at large say are right for us. As well intended as such resolutions might be, they lack the natural appeal and profound meaning that self-generated resolutions can hold. So our first step in the resolutions process is to take a compassionate, nonjudgmental look at ourselves and ask what we really value. Where are we truly energized to focus our energy in the coming months and beyond?
Consider the difference between the following two scenarios: In the first, someone strides up to you and blurts out, “What’s wrong with you, anyway?” Depending on your personal style, you might feel angry, confused, upset, scared, defensive or some combination of these. Now imagine that another person approaches you and asks in a kind voice, “How are you doing?” When you respond, this person listens, nods and shows interest. How do you feel now? Clearly, the second interaction would be far more pleasant, and you would be more willing to share your true thoughts and feelings with this person than with the first.
It is this attitude of open-minded acceptance that you will need to maintain — no matter what you unearth during the “discovery” phase of your resolutions work. Your goal is simply to become keenly aware of those sometimes-faint internal voices that speak your truth.
For example, there is little purpose in following someone else’s advice (directly stated or implied) that you climb the corporate ladder “to provide for your family” if your inner wisdom tells you that what your family needs is more time (than money) spent together. So begin by listening only to your own inner voices, to what resonates as true in your heart and mind, to what your soul tells you is meaningful and right.
Hearing these voices clearly amidst all the external voices we’ve listened to throughout our lives can be difficult, but it’s a little like dealing with a bunch of socks that have been jumbled together in a washer: Initially, those socks are so snarled and intertwined that they’re impossible to sort out. But as you separate them and lay them out, it becomes easier to see what goes with what.
Begin by removing all distractions, sitting down, closing your eyes and listening to your quiet inner voice. At first, you may hear only murmurs, or you may hear an enthusiastic, overeager chorus, each voice trying to out-shout the others. Invite the voices to settle down, and visualize yourself separating them and laying them out neatly in front of you. What have they been telling you that you haven’t yet heard? As you consider the following questions, remember to keep your focus on awareness and observation rather than criticism and judgment.
- How do I define myself? Does this match how others see me?
- What parts of me (good or bad) am I ignoring or denying?
- What values are most important to me?
- Are those values and parts of my life being honored by the way I am currently living?Am I “stuck” somehow? Where, and why?
- What internal or external obstacles stand in my way?
More from Cheri Huber
There Is Nothing Wrong with You (Keep It Simple Books, 2001)
How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (Hay House, 2000)