OK – don’t get me wrong, I think setting up well-grounded goals to walk towards can be very beneficial. However, the popular end of the year ritual of making new year’s resolutions tends to fall less into the category of tangible goals and more akin to sitting down to eat a big meal. There you are with a vast array of foods awaiting your fork and you proceed to eat and eat and eat way more than is needed or heathy, thereby making yourself sick, yet again. It’s the ol’ your eyes are bigger than your stomach shtick.
It can be the same for making new year’s resolutions. It is a loftly premise to look at the next 365 days with the idea of making major changes all in the name of self-improvement. The old addage: go big or go home very seldomly serves us on any transformational journey and yet that is what I feel we are clutching to, albeit unconciously. In the western world we don’t like to go slowly, we don’t like to simplify, we don’t like to take our time to stop and smell the roses. And we sure as hell don’t want to do any small acts. We want bigger, stronger, faster, more and more and more.
So while we are star gazing into the next 12 months at some un-fixed time on the horizon resolving to lose weight, stop smoking, drink less, be more successful, take up a language and spend more time with our friends what, may I gently ask, are we doing right now?
When did we first start thinking that tomorrow, next week, next month, next year is more sufficient of a time to think about than right now? What is it we’re doing right now? Are we using our new year’s resolutions, the way we do many other things in our life, to escape the here and now? Isn’t the only moment we can be truly alive happening right…now?
Wanting more background and statistics I looked into new year’s resolutions a little bit. What I came across was not surprising. According to a 2007 study from the University of Bristol, comprising of 3,000 people, they found that 88% of those who made new year’s resolutions fail, depsite the fact that 52% of the participants were confident of success at the beginning (from wikipedia). Here are some more numbers I found (on theweek.com): After just 1 week only 75% of pepole are maintaining their resolution(s), after 2 weeks it dips to 71%, after one month it’s 64% and after six months it drops to 46%. Regardless of the high failure rate come January still 45% of Americans make at least one resolution each year. Hmmm.
I dug up some quotes too:
“New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” ~Mark Twain
“Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever.” ~Mark Twain
“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.” ~Anaïs Nin
“Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.” ~ Oscar Wilde
Here’s what I think – we need to pay closer attention to the so called “small” matters of life. There are two main challenges surrounding small matters that I can see clearly: 1. We underestimate the small acts we can do for ourselves, our loved ones, those around us and the earth. We take for granted this very precious moment under our feet. 2. On the flip side it’s usually the small stuff that we get tripped up on and get bent out of shape over. Someone ate my muffin! Dammit! What ever will I do now!! I think the two are not separate but indeed very much connected. Oftentimes we become hyper-aware or hyper-sensitive of the actions that we ourselves are lacking motivation in – hence, there’s a mirror wherever we go.
When we take good care of the present moment we are also taking good care of the past and the future. When we can learn to embrace the very here and now we are already on the path of transformation.
With one final quote I will sign off until this moment spills into the next moment when I long to write much like the sun longs to rise each day, as an involuntary and abundantly joyful expression of self:
“Perhaps the only way we will be able to see the full spectrum of ourselves clearly is to look into every small pocket of time that unfolds, every small relationship we develop, even if it lasts for only 5 minutes in the grocery store check-out line, and every small action, task, exchange of words and thought that arises in the company of 1 or more people or when we reside alone in the dark.” – Chan Dieu Hoa