With the New Year comes a new start. A chance for you to leave the struggles and obstacles of the previous year behind and start afresh. January is the month when people make New Year resolutions or set new goals. We are in the first week of January.
Surveys tell us that many would have abandoned or even forgotten about their resolutions by the end of January. And many would try to just ‘get by’ until the year ends and start over again with another set of new resolutions or goals. For many of us in Zimbabwe, 2018 is the year we would want to forget and do away with.
Much as we would want to forget the harrowing experiences that characterised 2018, there is need to reflect on what 2019 has in store for us and probably reset ourselves for the eventualities that come with the new year.
My first question is this: What makes the New Year such a good time to set goals? I understand that when the clock strikes midnight of the New Year, it is sort of like hitting a reset button — represents a clean slate, to start over again. Mentally, we get to start afresh with a renewed vigour to go after big dreams again. And it seems easier to let go of the disappointments, ill-feelings from setbacks and all the negative events that occurred in the past year.
Assess your situation
My first piece of advice would be to assess the situation you are in at the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019 before setting New Year resolutions. What went great? What did not go so well and what needed improvements? In doing so, you may realise exactly where you need improvements, or just how amazing you are at doing something. Either way, it will serve as the basis for improvement. It is like playing a computer game when you mess up halfway and you are losing . . . you kind of give up and stop playing full out. You cannot wait for the game to end (or hit the restart button) so you can start over!
Once you have assessed the situation you can move on to your resolutions. Resolutions that are suited to you, instead of generic ones. Throughout the process of setting these resolutions, remember that you do not have to set resolutions that begin on January 1 and end December 31. See your resolutions as a way to better yourself, way beyond the limits of time.
For instance, one of my resolutions is to gain more knowledge about cultures, economies, and politics. It is not a resolution I intend on giving up on as soon as the next year rolls by. Knowledge is continuous, just like every single one of our resolutions should be.
Why is the New Year the only good time to start afresh? Our happiness and well-being are never dependent on the year being new, or anything new out there for the matter. We tend to look for things and events out there to make us feel good on the inside. Well, it does not work that way. Naturally, we are not made to feel the world directly. Everything that we experience is thought-generated, not the external circumstances.
Understanding thoughts, moods
Because our flow of thoughts changes and shifts in the moment, so do our feelings and moods. When our moods are high, everything is possible, nothing is too difficult and we have all the energy in the world. When our moods are low, everything seems to turn bleak. The trick is not in changing or manipulating our moods. The key is to recognise them for what they are, their ebbs and flow, and flow with them.
At any moment, new thoughts can emerge, and make no mistake about it; they will emerge — new ideas, possibilities, opportunities and the clear way forward. But here is the catch: you cannot force them to come any faster just like you cannot make the river flow any faster. Flow with it.
If you do not get in the way, fresh insights and creative inspirations will emerge effortlessly. And with that, you can set new goals (or go after existing ones with renewed vigour), dream greater dreams, go after bigger projects. You can do that at any moment — you do not have to wait for an external circumstance to be in place, like the New Year.
When you mess up, do not get drowned in the storm of thoughts. Get out and get clear. Again, you do not have to wait for the New Year to hit the restart button and take steps in a new direction. You can boldly shift at any time. Do not aim for perfection, but rather experiences in every step you take. So one thing we are often afraid to do is take the first step.
I try to remember that the first step is often the scariest and therefore the hardest, but once you have made that first move, the world is your oyster. But remember this: you have the capacity to do anything your heart desires and it is not the fear that lies within that has the ability to negate those capacities. An old age adage that will forever remain true is that “if at first you do not succeed, try try again”.
Many times we are held back by the tangled web of previous failures, commitments, emotions and barriers. We cannot change careers because we are used to what we are doing and it is too hard to change. We cannot find time to get healthy and fit because we have all these other things to do. We cannot find time for our loved ones because we have too many commitments.
This is all old baggage. A fresh start demands a clean slate. Let everything from the past go (easier said than done, I know). Clear your plate and your palate.
Let go of attachments to what you have been doing for the past year, or years. Let go of failures. Let go of fears you have built up. Let go of reluctance. Let go of your ideas about what your life has to be like, because that is the way it has evolved so far. Let go of long-held beliefs and habits.
Robert Mandeya is an executive coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Leadership Institute for Research and Development (LiRD). — firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or +263 772 466 925.