I asked many people over the Christmas break if they had any particular New Year’s resolutions, but most people said that they don’t believe in them. In fact most sounded utterly turned off by the idea of making some plans for January, convinced they would drop any commitment by February at the latest. So, are New Year’s Resolutions a good idea or do they just add unnecessary stress and pressure to the gloomy month of January?
If you look up resolutions in the dictionary then the first meaning is “finding a solution to a problem” and the second one “a decision to do something or behave in a certain manner”. After the festive season -with the benefit of a clean slate in the New Year-, I guess that time of year does lend itself well to making some resolute plans. I found that most people have strong doubts with regards to their own tenacity and determination, so the very reason for not making plans is because they do not trust themselves to see it through. So when people say to me “I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions”, they really mean “I don’t believe I will stick to it and see it through”.
We often count our failures and keep a long list of when we have let ourselves down. In addition we re-live those moments over and over when we account those stories to other people. After time it becomes a way of life. No doubt there are plenty of times when you haven’t let yourself down and success was the end result, yet often people let the negative weigh much heavier on the scales of experience.
So, New Year’s resolution or not? Should you –out of fear of disappointment- just slide into the year and see where it gets you? Treat 2013 as just another year, another bleak January and wait for spring to come? Research and experience teaches us that having an intention and a purpose ultimately allows you to achieve so much more. There is this innate quality in people that thrives when having a goal to aim for. And then there is the question of being able to measure progress, something that the 21st century attitude is so keen on. By not having a target, you will never know whether you actually came anywhere near…
Of course my coaching head says to set some New Year’s resolutions, to go about your life with intend and re-set the goals along the way. Being behind the steering wheel is ultimately the place to be if you want to go places. Maybe you will surprise yourself this year, as you boldly step over the fear of letting yourself down. If your goal is important enough to you, then you won’t. But simultaneously you can’t control everything in life. Occasionally you need to stop the car and assess the scenery, the roads and signs along it. Somewhere in between lies the happy medium. You can live your life in any way you see fit, you can determine how 2013 will evolve for you, but at the same time read those all important omens that guide you along the way. The difference between those who live a successful life and those who do not, is only what they see and how they translate it to themselves. Successful people have an open mind to see opportunities and operate from a base-point that things will turn out well. Now there’s a philosophy worth living by.
In the last few months I have done some work with teenagers on self esteem in a local secondary school. It is a topic that is close to my heart, because over the years I have come to recognise positive self esteem as a key to so many doors. And for so many people, whatever their age or ambition, self esteem is the one huge obstacle blocking the way to success. After all, with positive self esteem you are able to think creatively and find a solution to any problem. Even the most talented individual will never see their gifts come to fruition if they permanently question their own ability or hide their light under a bush. Sadly, we live in a world that has a focus on the negative, the thing that needs fixing or doesn’t work very well. From a young age many brains are trained to look for the one thing that isn’t so brilliant instead of celebrating the 100 things that are.
Over the last few weeks I worked with groups of 60 kids at a time, predominantly year 9. There is something very inspiring about working with teenagers, although I understand some might not agree. I love the energy and the unpolished-ness of that age group, which is so evidently busy growing up yet still very much finding their identity. When I look at a group of youngster I can see the possibility and wonder how their lives will evolve over the coming years. Going through the session I found again this time what I have found on so many occasions working with teenagers. Quite aside from the fact that they seem to have spent little time pondering on self reflecting questions about who they are and what they like/dislike, excel at or struggle with, there is a definite swing towards anything negative. Many of the kids I taught found it far easier to point out what they were not good at. When I asked them to draw their hand on a piece of paper and write at each finger a quality/talent they believed they had, or something they liked about themselves, many hands stayed empty for ages. Partially because they said they simply didn’t know or out of fear of sounding arrogant.
This isn’t an especially difficult exercise because they are young people, because I have come across similar results with many adults. It may be extra troubling that young people lack such self confidence because in many ways kids hold the future. And what kind of future do you build for yourself if you think little of what you have to contribute? Thankfully a simple reconditioning of thinking can lead to spectacular results. It doesn’t require becoming big-headed and learning to write a long list of personal attributes. It simply takes a resetting of the mental filter. Instead of focussing on the negative, it’s recognising and celebrating strengths and abilities first. Absolutely everyone has something they are good at, skilled at, natural at. That isn’t something you choose, that is actually quite impersonal because it is chosen for you and set into your DNA and nurtured by the environment you grow up in. It’s worth celebrating those skills by putting them to good use in your world.
Secondly, it’s understanding the areas in life that may need improvement. Instead of saying “I’m rubbish at maths”, you may want your teenager to say “I’m great at art/drama/sport etc and I need to give my maths a little more attention”. These are simple changes but profound shifts in reality, because you start with self confidence and esteem which can overcome any problem. Additionally, I tell youngsters that it is impossible to be good at everything, because that is unrealistic and why would you want to? Lastly, and most importantly, I try and teach kids that the one person that can actively do something about their self esteem is you, yourself. If you learn nothing else than the fact that you can affect your own self esteem, then you have fought half the battle right there.
As aforementioned, all of this often applies to many adults I work with. We have in many ways the same issues and hang-ups as youngsters. Often those issues stem from the past and just get more complicated over time if left unaddressed. So maybe today, going into the weekend, call over to yourself all the things you are good at and all the things you like about yourself. If you are over 25 you should be able to write a list of at least 25 things! Do this on a regular basis and you will find that your perspective will shift; looking out for the positive, the strengths and the abilities will automatically put you in a position of strength to solve anything that comes your way.