I spent New Year’s Eve or ‘Hogmanay’ as it’s referred to in Scotland with my British husband and some New Zealand friends of ours from church and you know what they all had in common? They all had a list of New Year’s resolutions. It’s a universal principle that most people see the New Year as a fresh start, a chance for improvement, refinement and forward progress. The desire self-improvement is cross-cultural. This New Years, instead of focusing entirely on traditional resolutions like going to the gym 5 times a week, I have focused much of my attention on emotional, spiritual and intellectual goals. Why? Because I have found that my body and physical well-being is more affected by my spiritual and emotional health than anything else.
The root of all health is in the brain.
The trunk of it is in emotion.
The branches and leaves are the body.
The flower of health blooms
when all parts work together.
Cut yourself some slack.
Making a list of goals for 2015 is all fine and good if that helps you keep motivated and focused however if the thought of breaking one of your rules makes you sick, you might want to re-think your strategy. Being too hard on yourself actually hinders, not helps, yourself from achieving your goals. Guilt is not a positive motivator. By all means, give yourself rigid guidelines and stick to your guns, but do NOT punish yourself when (yes when and not if) you fail to make it to the gym one day or sneak a chocolate candy. Guilt is by no means a positive incentive. Take it from me, cut yourself some slack and don’t become your worst enemy. You’ll thank yourself later.
Not all resolutions are task-oriented
The most common New Year’s resolution I’ve heard revolves around dieting or body image.
I will work out every single day.
I am giving up dessert in the New Year.
These physical goals are great and I encourage people to think about living healthier lives in 2015. I too want to get back into the rhythm of practicing yoga. I find bodily exercise helpful for my emotional well-being and peace of mind. I am an advocate of staying active and living an active lifestyle. Perhaps what I’m suggesting is for us to look beyond the stereotypical ‘better body by 2015’ goals and understand that health goes beyond the physical body. We consist of body, mind and soul. If we work on our bodies but ignore our minds and emotions, perhaps we’re missing out on opportunities for personal growth and development. Like our bodies, our minds and souls need to be nurtured too.
Do what makes your soul happy
I’ve already touched on this a little in my previous point, but it’s equally important to nurture our minds and souls as it is to nurture our bodies. Discover your passions and interests. And visit that thing as often as you need to feel good. Singing. Cooking. Dancing. Painting. Designing. Decorating. Photographing.
Whatever it is, what makes your soul happy is essential to living well this New Year. Make time for your soul by making time for your hobbies. Setting aside time to be in our element, to sit and reflect are precious moments where the world is shut out and we can be the people we were created to be. Untouched and inspired.
Surround yourself with positive people
I’ve really struggled with this one in previous years. Shouldn’t everyone like me? The reality is, not everyone will like you. In the same way not everyone likes chocolate cake, not everyone will choose you, call you up for coffee, make time for you, speak well about you, or befriend you. This is an important lesson to grasp. But once you wrap your brain around this idea, then you can be free. Free from the need to people please. Freedom from caring about what other people think. We can then be comfortable with ourselves and invest in people who are actually worth our time. I used to get quite panicked and anxious if I found out that someone didn’t like me, gossiped about me or found fault in me. I can recall countless hours where I would anxiously await their phone call or spend emotional energy deciding how I would speak to them. What I’ve learned from those few instances are some very powerful lessons that I intend to take with me into 2015. Concern yourself with people who encourage you and build you up. Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t waste your time and energy on people who are negative and only cause you grief. Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay. You’re the best you there ever was. Invest in those people who see that.
Learn to let things go
Why do we like Disney’s Frozen? Perhaps the song ‘Let it Go’ speaks all too well to many of us. Learning to ‘let it go’ goes hand in hand with avoiding places and people who are negativity magnets. You don’t need negativity in your life. Life presents enough of its own challenges. You don’t need negative people to bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself. But we are human so we will hurt when people say unkind things to us. And sometimes we will hurt very deeply. I experienced this first hand at my very first job in Scotland. I discovered that my boss was gossiping about me behind my back – she actually called me stupid! You can imagine what this did to my sense of worth and value not only as an employee but as a human being. How could I work for someone and do a good job when I was perceived as stupid?! I had to learn to take out the garbage every day. With the help of family and friends and countless times praying to God for strength and self-control to not lash in anger, every day I had to ‘take out the trash’ (or rubbish if you’re British)! I had to filter everything I overheard and throw out the stuff that was negative or mean-spirited. If it wasn’t helpful, encouraging or positive, I would toss it out. Whatever didn’t affirm or uplift me, I learned to filter it out from the rest and throw it away! Because after all, nobody stores up garbage. Garbage is smelly and messy. Who needs that?
Don’t underestimate yourself
Perhaps what I learned most in 2014 is to never underestimate yourself. Don’t allow someone’s negative opinion of you to define who you are. Don’t give in and believe untruthful words spoken over you. You can imagine the difficulty of working for someone who thought I was clueless. The most challenging part of my experience was resisting the temptation to believe my boss’ words about me. Words have the power to bring life and death Proverbs says. And my boss’ label of ‘the girl who asks dumb questions’ hung over my head for weeks and even made me question my own abilities. I started to outsmart my own common sense and rethink my career path. Most days, I came home from work feeling undervalued, unappreciated and downright stupid. All because some person labelled me. My self-esteem was caught under fire, and I had to do everything in my power to stay the course and focus on truth. Which is that I am made in the image of Christ and I am not highly valued by the One who created everything and everyone. Learn to trust yourself, you know more than you think you do.