cheers to 2017

To Read (Before Midnight!): Why You Should Resolve Not To Resolve

In 2017, let's all be a bit kinder to ourselves—and let's start by ditching that stressful resolutions list.

The New Year brings with it the promise of a fresh start. As the clock strikes midnight, anything seems suddenly possible. We resolve to start over, to do things differently, to stop neglecting our yoga practice, to read more. The tricky thing about making resolutions on this one day of the year, however, is that these self-promises often morph into stressors and/or disappointments. My invitation to you this year is to resolve not to resolve, and instead replace that check-list of goals with a softer, sweeter, more compassionate approach.

I once committed myself to a 30-day yoga challenge during a difficult time in my life. I decided that I would, without fail, practice yoga every single day; I even hung a giant poster board on the wall of my bedroom so I could track the days I had been ‘successful’. And while the promise of daily yoga is undoubtedly beneficial for both physical and mental wellbeing, that dangerous good/bad paradigm is inherent within the structure I’d created for myself: I would feel good about myself—accomplished—if I could check off yoga for the day, and I would feel bad about myself—guilty and lazy—when I couldn’t. I talked to my mom about this, and her words of wisdom for me were, “Brooke, thirty days of consecutive yoga seems like a lot. Why not just practice when your body feels like it, and let that be enough?” With that, I decided to take the poster off the wall, and return to my intuitive way of living.

Goals are wonderful, yes. Goals help us create actionable steps to achieve what we want in life, but aggressively trying to meet said goals can turn into a form of self-punishment—and there is a fine line when navigating the two. What I noticed with my yoga experiment is that a more compassionate, nurturing approach better yields the results I wanted all along.

Researcher Kristen Neff, who studies self-compassion, finds that “self-compassionate people set high standards for themselves, but they aren’t as upset when they don’t meet their goals. Instead, research shows that they’re more likely to set new goals for themselves after failure rather than wallowing in feelings of frustration and disappointment.” In other words: When we show ourselves love, we can soften into what we crave. We are no longer deprived, and will feel more intrinsically motivated to incorporate practices like yoga, running, eating well for our bodies and undoing patterned behavior.

Just this month, I came up with something called an ‘After-Care Package’ to show myself support and love after something difficult happened. So far this package has included dining at my favorite restaurant with my friend and her sweet mother, taking long walks with friends (even in the rain!), treating myself to a manicure and pedicure, dropping glittery bath bombs into a long bath, receiving yoga therapy as a client, going to a poetry reading, and, most importantly, slowing down to let myself feel and heal.

So instead of compiling those resolutions, consider what a ‘After-Care Package’ would look like for you in the coming year. Determine what items or events you would like to put inside it, be it experiences or actual, physical items. Remember, as you consider this, that everything we need is within us. See what can unfold for you as you set goals sweetly along the way and drop the harshness associated with expectation and promise. We are, human beings, after all.

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