New Year, New What?
Updated: Nov 30, 2022
In an interview on Java with Jimmy, Coach Meg and Dr. Claude Alabre at Massachusetts General Hospital meet with host Jimmy Hills to discuss New Year’s resolutions. Here’s what we talked about.
Juice last year to the last drop
Left to our own devices with New Year’s resolutions, they can work out but they often don’t. But not for the reasons we imagine. We tend to blame a lack of motivation, laziness or being too busy as the reasons we miss the mark. There’s more to unpack.
Coach Meg explained that because the new year switches over so quickly, we don’t take the time to really process the year before. We start running hard toward new goals as soon as the new year begins.
Changing yourself is not easy, in the best of times. In order to move toward new change and growth, we need to cultivate a foundation of strengths. People can’t get better if they don’t have sufficient “psychological capital,” the resources needed to support the self-improvement process. We need to take time to ground ourselves in our resources and strengths. From that place, we are better prepared to move forward and step into the ups and downs of self-change.
How to do that? Harvest the good that emerged last year. “Juice” the good experiences to the last drop: what did I do well, what are the biggest wins, how did I get better, what did I learn, how did I grow? Only then, is it a good time to start to consider – what are my next opportunities to get better?
Create a lane in your life for the inside game
Improving ourselves starts with an inside game. Lasting change requires a lot of reflection and internal discoveries about ourselves. When our energies are focused on meeting the demands of the external world, including expectations about New Year’s resolutions, we lose connection to the inner game.
It’s important to create space in our lives to pause, reflect and allow ourselves to harvest in order to grow. If we are running in the lane of getting stuff done and performing well ALL of the time, there is no space to pull back and reflect and gather - gather lessons, gather gratitude, and breathe in what’s good in our lives and work. Give ourselves grace and gratitude as Jimmy says. Working with a partner or coach can help us to reflect and gather all of our psychological capital.
Once we open up the lane of reflection on our strengths and we invest in our psychological bank accounts, we can turn to reflecting on what powers us through improving ourselves – the combination of deep, heartfelt motivation AND a solid amount of confidence in being successful.
Go deeper than you would typically do to find out what goal is really important, what change really matters to you, and why it’s important, why it’s a top priority to get better. Then dig some more to cultivate confidence in your ability to change by considering your challenges and getting creative in finding ways to get around them.
Ignore social pressures in order to pause
Forget about the social pressures in the ritual of New Year’s resolutions. As humans, pausing and reflecting first is vital.
Of course, we also need to strive - productive striving is really important. However, striving isn’t just for the start of a new year. If we make time for pausing and harvesting the wins from last year, striving can begin later. Whether you give yourself an extra push to strive in January, June, or September it doesn’t really matter. You don’t always have to be striving, even if it’s the start of a new year.
What also works against our efforts to pause and harvest is the incessant thinking that takes over our minds. In the book Coach Meg co-authored with Paul Hammerness, “Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life,” (now Train Your Brain) we explore the topic of frenzy. It’s one word with a lot behind it.
The culture we live in creates frenzy by telling us: if we are not achieving something, we have no value. It’s important to keep in perspective that this force surrounds us. It’s like being in an intense weather system. It can take real effort to move against it and understand that we don’t need to be achieving or producing every moment of every day, including at the start of a new year.
For starters, let’s give ourselves some group compassion for how we are all living in this pressure cooker of achievement, and appreciate that the extreme pressure runs counter to pausing - stopping to reflect and gather, or simply doing nothing, catching our breath and resting.
See stress as a direction for growth
The second thing in the big umbrella term of frenzy - is stress. By its simplest definition, stress is the sign that the demands of the moment are greater than our perceived abilities. Stress puts us into the state of being afraid we can’t keep up.
In pandemic times, we all have a lot of stress and negative emotions circulating inside and outside. And the suffering is our path to new growth and more strength. We can be with, and work with, our stress and other difficult emotions and feel compassion for them, bringing warmth and curiosity. Then we can ask ourselves “what is the meaning of this experience?” After that, we can move toward learning and growth.
A bigger way to think about this is the scientific model of post-traumatic growth. Trauma is a situation where the general future and our individual futures are disrupted. COVID has been and still is a trauma. We are all traumatized because our future continues to be disrupted. We need to let go of the idea of bouncing back, returning to old norms, and instead learn to suffer well, lean in, and turn the trauma into growth. If we have survived, the pandemic is ultimately a force for good in our lives, if we use the experiences well.
Nature has growth in its basic design. We lose track of our basic nature – the urge to grow, become wiser, stronger, and more competent. A mindset to consider then is to view the whole process of living through a pandemic as a way to grow and expand ourselves. The goal to strive for isn’t reducing stress, it’s to expand ourselves; becoming bigger, stronger, and better people.
Get in touch with how you are growing and who you are becoming. The deeper the sense of who you are and who you want to be and why that matters, the more likely you'll be successful in your efforts.
What goals really matter
Java with Jimmy is focused on helping people get healthier. Despite all of the urging, most people don’t view good health in itself as a high priority goal - the bigger goal is living a good life. What matters then is connecting your health to what you really want in life. Go a few layers deeper on what you would lose if you didn’t have your health. That’s what you need to think of every time you make a choice: apple or cookie, exercise or stay in bed, e-cigarette or yoga stretches.
In those moments where we choose either our dearest life goals or, feeling better for a quick moment - pause to ask: who do I want to become? How do I want to get better? And how does this choice serve that? If we are not clear on our highest yearnings, we go for what feels better in the moment, rather than investing in the future we want, the future that’s precious to us.
New Year New What?
"Juice" the good from the last year
Invest in your psychological bank account by pausing and reflecting on the good
Feel compassion for the disruption of the pandemic on yourself and everyone else
Welcome your stress and suffering as a signpost to grow
Focus on the goals that really matter to you
Strive well – know why self-improvement is precious to you. Then recall what is most precious when you make choices, remembering your goal for getting better.
Onward to getting better, better days, and a better future.