A New Year's Resolution Story

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Scene:

Time: Sunday, January 16th, 2022. 1:36 am.

Place: My house

We zoom in on Me, sitting on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, laptop on knees, four hours into desperately trying to finish that assignment to be handed in in eight hours. Hair is disheveled, cold mug of tea on the coffee table, dog passed out at the other end of the couch and snoring lightly.

Me to Me: Ugh. Why do I always do this?

Me to Me: I don't know. You promised this year would be different. You said 2022 would be the year you would keep your closets organized, get to bed before midnight no matter what, and stop procrastinating.

Me to Me: I know! I know! I was doing okay until last Friday. I watched "The Home Edit" and got the extra shoe racks, I did the "Restorative Yoga" practices and was in bed by 10:45 pm, and I sent out the "Save the Date" cards for that big event in July exactly six months in advance. I should have known I couldn't keep the momentum. This always happens. I do it every year. And I should have started this assignment the day it was assigned.

Me to Me: Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Sigh.

Me to Me: Sigh.

Sound familiar?

This "New Year's Resolution" tradition... Why, oh why?

Ancient Babylonians are purported to be the first people to begin this tradition. Four thousand years ago, they celebrated the new year with sacred vows to their gods. They promised to pay their debts, return what they borrowed, and be loyal to their King. If they kept their word, their gods would repay them with abundant crops and good health.

Four thousand years later, not much has changed. We make promises to ourselves, to our Higher Power, to our Partner or family or roommates that we will magically shift something overnight, that somehow between 11:59 pm and 12:00 am, we will pull a reverse Cinderella and transform from a pumpkin into a shining carriage, from tattered rags to our very best sparkly dress. This time is different, this time we will not falter!

And usually, we don't. For around two weeks. Sometimes two months, occasionally even two years. Sooner or later, though, the closet is messy again, we stay up too late binge watching the latest show or trying to make a deadline.

Why not stop and look at things differently? Our Yoga practice has encouraged that idea. The Yoga Sutras preach pratipaksha bhavanam, which means "cultivate the opposite" in regards to negative thoughts. If we think about that in relation to New Year's Resolutions, then perhaps we can see these "failures" as clues to a bigger story. The resolutions themselves are just setting the story up, they are the preface.

Say you make the resolution to get to bed before midnight. Before we get into the execution (or negligence) of that, let's take a look at what's behind the times we don't do it. Have you been burning the midnight oil with:

  1. work? Hmm. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at how you can be more efficient with your work day. Are you giving yourself proper nutrition at lunch time so you can be effective in the afternoon instead of irritable and/or sluggish? Maybe it’s time to start doing a little food prep instead of running to the nearest cafe, ordering whatever is the quickest, racing back to the office and frantically eating while chatting with your bestie? No wonder you hit the wall at 3 pm. Your digestion is upset, and your system is telling you to shut down and focus on processing your food. Skip the bestie convo and make a weekend plan instead. Self care is empowering.
  2. binging the latest reality series? Might be time to see if you have sufficient "zone out" time during the day. Set a few mini breaks for yourself a couple of days this week. Take five minutes to meditate, or journal, or have a silly text exchange check in with a friend (just not at lunch!) See if that works to reduce the need to cram all the brain drain time into the end of the day.
  3. catching up on cleaning or quality time with a child or partner or friend? Those are each even deeper clues. If it’s cleaning, it might be time to invest in a cleaning person if it's in the budget, or try to do a little each day instead of waiting until the whole place needs attention. Quality time? What about a weekend plan to do something super fun - a real bonding, memory-making experience. Doesn't have to be costly or elaborate. Try a new yummy recipe and make a picnic, either outside or in the living room. Take a Yoga Anytime class together - there is such a variety of styles and levels!

All this to say, considering the reason BEHIND the resolution might give us an opportunity to address the real work we need to do, ie, go to the source of the problem instead of the symptom. When we look at the resolution holistically, it’s motivating. And even if we don't do the thing we originally said, wouldn't our energy be better utilized in trying to figure out why instead of beating ourselves up? Sometimes we find our BIGGER priorities were served instead, sometimes we see how it went awry, and that gives us the right information to do it differently next time.

Now let's go back to Me and Me on the couch and change up the dialogue up a little, in accordance with this new way of thinking:

Scene:

Time: Sunday, January 16th, 2022. 1:36 am.

Place: My house

We zoom in on Me, sitting on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, laptop on knees, four hours into desperately trying to finish that assignment to be handed in in eight hours. Hair is disheveled, cold mug of tea on the coffee table, dog passed out at the other end of the couch and snoring lightly.

Me to Me: Okay, here we are. How did this happen?

Me to Me: Well, you took on a lot this past week. You agreed to help with a clothing drive, you spent an extra hour on grocery shopping looking for lemongrass because you wanted to make that Vietnamese soup, and you stayed at the office party longer than you wanted to because you didn’t want to be one of the first to leave.

Me to Me: I am proud of the clothing drive. Time well spent. No regret there. We gave a bunch of coats to some people who really needed them. However, I probably should have ordered delivery on the soup this week, or settled for a simpler recipe. Duly noted. And, next time I will practice self-care and excuse myself when I need to by saying, "I have to get to work on a project deadline". Everyone will understand.

Me to Me: Yes to all of this! Bravo! Go Me!

Lastly, I leave you with wisdom from the Yoga Sutras, Chapter One, the very first sutra, Atha Yoga Anushasanam: "Now the practice of Yoga begins." We can ALWAYS gather information and begin again. A “New Year” can be Now.

Happy New Year.

Namaste, Ali

About the Author

Ali Cramer

Ali is a yoga teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner based in New York City. She believes deeply that the practices of yoga and Ayurveda can teach us to live our lives with integrity, balance, and grace, if we are willing to do the work. You can practice with Ali on Yoga Anytime in Yoga and Ayurveda and Ayurveda: Yoga Practices to Feel Like Yourself.


Comments

2 people like this.
Nice, Ali! Personal transformation inspired by the wisdom of the teachings of yoga. Me to me: Yes! Let's do it!
1 person likes this.
Kate M thank you so much! Happy New Year 🙏🏽

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