This blog post comes slightly late considering that the second half of the year started on the first of July. But I am pretty excited to have found some time to write at all! My last blog post came from London and the one before that was written in Singapore. And as grateful as I am to have travelled, I am equally grateful to be writing this post from my own bed in Liverpool, before I head to Amsterdam next week for the International Conference on Mindfulness (yay!).
But I digress. That’s not what this blog post is about.
This post is about the first of July, or – as I recently discovered it’s also known as – Second Half of the Year Day (pretty self-explanatory, huh?). So the first half of 2018 is officially behind us.
But this is not a day to mourn the failed New Year’s Resolutions that you may or may not have written, nor is it a day to update them for the second half of the year, as they are doomed to be forgotten by August. Rather, it is an opportunity to check in with yourself, reflect on the year that has been, ground yourself in the present moment, and look towards the future with new energy and reinforced values. And it is these values, rather than superficial resolutions, that I am writing about today.
Why New Year’s Resolutions don’t work
As I have mentioned, the typical resolutions we often set for ourselves do not last very long. And here’s why:
1. Go big or go home. We want it all and we want it now. That is the mentality ingrained in us as individuals living in the fast-paced society of the modern world. And our resolutions reflect this. We set large goals with a short time frame for completion, such as losing a substantial amount of weight in one year. But once we realise how challenging it is or experience even a minor setback, we often give up. It’s now or never, so we opt for never (at least until the following New Year).
2. Habits are not made to be broken. If you have ever made a resolution to give up chocolate, cigarettes, alcohol, or any other habit that you enjoy, you will know how difficult it is to break a habit. The good news is that while habits are hard to break, they are actually a lot easier to create. So replacing an “unhealthy” habit (i.e., taking the elevator) with a “healthy” habit (i.e., taking the stairs) might make our resolutions more achievable. However…
3. First of January doesn’t last forever. Life gets in the way. When January gives way to February, our motivation to stick to our resolutions often leave with it. Sometimes it’s because our resolutions are only things that we think we want. They are generic (e.g., exercise more, eat healthier, drink more water) and do not hold any real value to us personally. Sometimes it’s because they are so tied to January the 1st, or worse, to some future version of ourselves that we think will make us happy, that they don’t encourage us to live in the present moment at all. And it is in the present moment where we make all of our actual decisions. So…
What resolutions to make instead
…today we are breaking all the rules.
1. What’s in a name? First of all, we are making resolutions in July. And whether you call it resolutions, goals, aims, targets, dreams, objectives, or something else, I am here to tell you that it doesn’t matter. The first step to actually accomplish something is to stop getting hung up on labels and the pressures that they place on us.
2. That-which-should-not-be-named. Second of all, we are making (I am choosing to call them) resolutions that we can actually achieve. To create our “half-year resolutions”, the first question that we should ask ourselves is: What do we value? Do we actually value giving up that occasional piece of chocolate? Probably not. Do we value being kinder, meditating, and learning how to stay present? I sure do. What do you truly value?
3. Signed, sealed, delivered. And third of all, we are judging the success of our resolutions not in some distant future, but in the present moment, over and over again. Every moment is an opportunity to fulfill a resolution that is based on your values. If you want to practice loving kindness, learn how to act with love and kindness to yourself and to every single person that you meet (or don’t meet) today. If you want to stay present, tune in with your body throughout the day, engage in a short meditation practice, or simply connect with your breath as often as you need to.
4. Bonus step. Finally, it is important to remember that when we set goals or resolutions to exercise more, save more money, or be a “better version of ourselves”, we are saying to ourselves that we want more than we have right now. This makes it difficult to be grateful for what we have, because we are focusing on what we don’t have (and thus want to achieve). And what happens once one goal has been accomplished? We create a new one. Earning more money this year means that you can earn even more next year. Losing weight means more weight can be lost. When is it enough? When do we have enough? When are we enough just as we are?
So make your own half-year resolutions (or don’t). Reflect on the first half of the year that has gone (or don’t). Share your thoughts on this blog post in the comments below (or don’t).
But do, do, do enjoy July. Enjoy the weather, enjoy the sun, enjoy your friends and your family, and, most importantly, enjoy every single moment! 🙂