In the last few days of every year, many people begin making their New Years Resolutions. It’s universal and widespread; it’s practically a requirement! But as we all know, this practice often doesn’t have a very stellar track record. It’s almost as though in the act of deciding to better ourselves, we’re actually setting ourselves up for failure. Then we beat ourselves up because we can’t stick to the impossible and rigid standards we’ve created.
This is often due to the fact that we set such lofty goals, there’s almost no way we can keep them. For years, I was so damn good at creating my own completely generalized and unrealistic goals in the name of New Years Resolutions that I wound up making crazy declarations that would implode in a matter of weeks … which lead to giving up and not making any at all!
Finally, I wised up and realized that the New Year should be a time for growing and redefining. It became clear that if I really wanted to make some life improvements for the up-coming year, I needed to set attainable goals, think them through and also decide on a do-able plan of action to bring them to life.
Here’s what I do- while it may not be exactly right for you, it works for me. You’ll need a pen and paper, a calendar, and some quiet time.
Reflect And Honor
Before making any Resolutions, take some time to think about the past year. Take stock and ruminate on what practices or habits that worked for you, as well as those that didn’t.
Think lovingly about special moments that you had with family, friends, your students or the cast of a show you worked on. Spend a little time honoring anyone you loved who passed away… be it two-legged, four-legged, someone you knew or a person that you admired from afar.
Make two stream-of-consciousness lists. One should be of everything you accomplished and all the good things that happened to you. The other one is for goals you wanted to achieve but didn’t; relationships and events that were tinged with negativity, resentment- things that are bothering you or just never worked out. Let your mind wander and write down anything that comes into your head. Then look at both lists. On the Accomplishment List, you’ll probably be kind of amazed at everything you did in the past year: the projects you finished, the friends you made, and the triumphs you had. Own them!
Forgive, Forget or Reach Out
Now look at the other list. Allow yourself a few minutes to remember these incidents, and take a few moments to ponder why they didn’t work. Don’t mull them over or beat yourself up… Let them go!
Sometimes, in order to really process through your unfinished business, you might need to write a New Years Note. This may take a little more time, but the note doesn’t need to be lengthy, it can be simple, just a few lines. You can reach out with love to an estranged family member or friend…or you can “break up”-even if it’s just in your mind- with a person or project that is sapping your energy or patience. Just write a private note to yourself, separating yourself from this problem. If you clarify why the situation is bothering you, you can change your own behavior and reactions to it, which will eventually allow you to make peace…at least with yourself.
List Specific Goals, Make A Plan Of Action And Take Baby Steps
Now that you’ve let go of your baggage, it’s time to make a list of Resolutions. Again, it doesn’t need to be long- but it shouldn’t be vague. Be specific, and break everything down into bite-sized chunks that will easily allow your plans to spring into action by slowly and deliberately changing your habits. A widely accepted thought is that it takes at least three weeks to develop a new habit…so allow yourself some time to change, and cut yourself some slack when the change isn’t instantaneous.
For example, instead of writing down “dance more”, aim to take an extra class or two a month and set aside some time for home practice. Instead of vowing to “lose weight”, promise yourself to be more mindful of what you’re eating and to begin walking two or three times a week.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that once I start adding in small positive changes, I start to feel better about myself, my new habits and what I’ve achieved…which in turn makes me want to accomplish even more.
Give Yourself The Gift Of Time
In our busy lives, time is the most valuable commodity we have. We’re always rushing off to dance class, rehearsals, gigs, the school carpool, or whatever. We’re on our phones non-stop, checking texts, social media, and business emails.
Carve out some time for you to work on your projects and goals. Write it down, make it a reality. In the very act of writing everything you want to do down, it becomes “concrete” and not just some ethereal idea floating around that can be postponed or procrastinated.
Once I’ve decided what larger goals I’d like to work towards, I split them up into daily, weekly, monthly or even quarterly mini-goals that all go towards the greater goal I’d like to achieve. Before the New Year starts, I mark these notations on my calendar, and during the New Year, I check them off as I fulfill them.
How do I find the time to do this? Sometimes I think I don’t have any spare time, but once I start looking, there’s a lot of it. I like to multi-task, but only to the extent that I can actually do two things at once in a competent way. If I’m in line at the store or the bank, I return emails. When I absolutely need to watch “The Walking Dead”, I make damn sure I’m sewing a costume. If I’m sitting on an airplane, I’m planning out classes or workshops. But there are also times when a task needs my full attention. I’ve learned to recognize that, too!
Maybe most important things I’ve learned through the whole process of making New Years Resolutions is to identify goals and prioritize time…and also to respect myself for trying…even if things don’t turn out exactly the way I wanted them to!
Coming in January, 2014: "The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion For The Serious Dancer"
By Princess Farhana, designed by Maharet Christina Hughes, foreword by Artemis Mourat