I don’t want to be the party pooper. But your New Year resolutions are destined to fail. You are wasting your time. Sorry to have to say that.
Did you know that people who have suffered a serious health issue like a recent heart attack don’t manage to make the changes they need too. Even with the threat of possible death to motivate them.
These people know it’s time to lose the weight, get fit and change to a plant-based diet. All that stuff. Yet after an initial phase of enthusiasm and motivation the majority return to their old ways. Recognise something of yourself here.
The truth is that the brain can change. But it doesn’t really want to. It’s wired to keep the status quo. It likes things to stay the same. That’s how it keeps you safe.
What this means is that even the change that you know for sure is good isn’t welcomed by your neurology. Here’s the other thing about your brain. It’s not ‘rational’. Well not all of it. Only the recent bits are. There’s a more primitive older part of your brain. It a feeling brain. It doesn’t think. That’s why you can ‘know’ what’s good for you but can’t do what you know you should.
Here’s the good news. There is a solution. But you’ll need to be a bit sneaky. A bit mysterious. Imagination is required. It’s to appeal to the feeling experiencing bit. As I’ve warned you. There’s more going on then knowing. Rational approaches won’t work.
What you really need to do right now is to write yourself a letter. A love letter. Use the old tricks. The aim is to seduce the brain. It likes that. To get it working for you. With you. It needs some loving. Some positive affect. Those positive psychology people are actually onto something.
I’ve been writing this sort of letter for a while. I think I’m getting good at it. It helps if it’s pretty. Like handwritten. A bit poetic. And because it’s a love letter you can go all out. Say some really nice stuff. Add some flourishes. Like a rose scented seal. I’m serious. Because I’ve already made quite a few big changes I feel I can speak out. Give you some advice.
I now know quite a lot about myself. Found a lot out writing these letters to myself. Like how being part of a super large catholic family has real drawbacks. Like how difficult it is to truly look after yourself as an adult when you were sort of neglected as a child. Because it’s impossible to be given enough individual attention when a new baby turns up every twelve months.
It’s the reason I’ve realised the importance of self care. Deep self care. This is about so much more than a shopping spree with your girlfriends. Or time at the day Spa. Or a pedicure with a glass of champagne.
It’s about giving time to what makes your heart sing. Speaking your truth. Asking for what you need. Being ok with your imperfections. Sitting with the painful stuff and knowing you are still ok. It’s about how we are inside as well as outside.
This kind of deep care is my intention for 2017. I invite you to do the same. Instead of those same old same old resolutions.
These something sweet about the idea of starting afresh isn’t there. Of throwing out that old messed up artwork and having nice new pencils and fresh paper to begin all over again with.
But here’s the rub. The catch. We can change the materials or medium as much as we want but we bring our old artist along. Every single time. She still needs to work out how to make that mess on the page become art.
We can change rooms, cities, countries, relationships as much as we want but in the end there we are. You know that saying. ‘Wherever I go there I am.’
Standing in the picture pretty boulangerie on rue du Martyrs with my newly acquired French I found I was the same person. It was difficult to ask for what I needed. Despite the classes and endless practise. Just like in my other everyday life. Felt inarticulate. Same old self. Same old issues. Same old same old.
But I kept going back. Fumbling about. Getting a little bit more courageous each day. Till finally I found a voice. Small at first. I realised I was learning to speak up for myself. It took a different language to open my heart. Insisting eventually on the baguette traditionale. Not that other one passed off to le touriste. Om my bread never tasted so good.
Still after the trips to Paris I need to come home. Ask for what I need here. Bring the lessons of that exotic place back to home turf. Inside myself. Outside my dreams. In the present. Fully.
Perhaps this is why so many New Years resolutions fail. We forget to factor in ourselves. We make commitments to be better, thinner, fitter, healthier, richer…Yada yada yada!
So here’s my simple suggestion. Start where you are. With yourself. Reflect on what is really going on. Without judgement. With compassion. That’s self love. Yes. Start there.
Then write yourself a love letter. A real letter. Make it pretty. Because you are worth it. Acknowledge this stuff. Be kind. Careful. Generous. Compassionate. Finish by promising to deeply care for the you in you this year.
What if your body made itself a bit fat because that makes you feel safe. Or keeps you safe. What if you have only a certain amount of wealth because you know you won’t feel accepted by your peers or family of origin with more money. What if you don’t exercise enough because a gorgeous thin you wouldn’t cope with all that sexual attention. What if drinking a bit much or zoning out on Facebook helps you avoid your loneliness. Or to not think about why you are stuck in a job that doesn’t excite you. What if your physical pain is an ache of your heart. Or grief. Or that trauma that happened to you way back then…..You get the general drift.
My proposition is this. Before long lasting change can occur you need to uncover the payoff. The sort-of secondary gain. The would be wisdom of the current situation. The reason your brain has decided this is the safe space. Why it wants you to stay right where you are as you are.
I’m pretty certain that change won’t happen till we are clued into what needs are being met. By our fat, our food choices, our time wasting, our drinking, our inactivity, the zoning out. Our various physical aches and pains. Even those more serious illness.
These are the things that help us avoid all that other stuff. It’s protection from painful stuff. Scary stuff. Feeling yucky stuff.
So taking them away and unleashing what they coverup without another way to deal with the feelings won’t work.
Deep self care is about very slowly but surely enlarging our capacity for health, pleasure, self agency and relationships. Whatever that may take. In that process we will need to expand our ability to manage difficult or scary feelings. The stuff that we carry inside.
It helps to know that this stuff is usually old stuff. It’s why we are often held hostage to the past. Why family gathering can get a bit messy. Why we find ourselves triggered unexpectedly. Because it was way back when that our brains got the original programming.
To be truly in the present and able to sustain the changes we need to rewrite brain code. Grow other pathways. That takes time. And it pays to be a bit devious. Hence the love letter. The nice stuff. The pleasures of the senses. And the Paris trips. It a kind of tip toeing about the old brain.
This is the journey. Back to yourself. Before things got a bit messed about.
That what I’m talking about when I say Be the Rose!