January is the month of change.
Well…maybe, more accurately, January is the month of intent to change.
“This is the year I’m going to shed that extra twenty pounds.”
“I am going to quit smoking this year.”
“I’m definitely going to spend more time with my family this year.”
“This is the year I truly commit to thirty minutes of meditation every day.”
Thousands of people start with a clean slate on January first intending to change their lives for the better; to make an effort to live their lives in a way that is more congruent with the person they truly would like to be.
And while a few people meet their goals, the vast majority of us make the same resolutions year after year. Perhaps we make strides toward our resolutions in the beginning, but by the time December rolls back around, we’re preparing for the next clean slate, the next chance to begin again.
Why are our efforts so unsustainable?
I believe a real part of this problem is what I call the “RIGHT NOW” mindset. I want this change. I want to see real results and I want to see them RIGHT NOW! Most of us know crash diets don’t work and are, in fact, not a step toward health at all. Yet, how many of us are still lured by the promise of shedding weight quickly?
We don’t seem to be looking for a lifestyle change, a behavioral change. We simply want the results of those changes.
Therapeutic change is often sabotaged by well meaning family members by this very mindset. Deep exploration and self discovery may be happening for the person in therapy. This is the type of work that supports sustainable change, yet family members won’t necessarily see this. When they don’t see the types of behavioral changes that positively impact their own situation, they often come back with statements like, “You’re only telling your therapist what you want them to know,” or “This doesn’t really seem to be working. You haven’t changed at all.”
And we’re equally hard on ourselves as we try to change. We disregard the small changes that can be sustainable, foundational; while we become hypercritical about all the ways we’ve fallen short.
It’s very exciting in the summer to pick fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden; to walk into the space you’ve cultivated and see it brimming with red tomatoes and dark green cucumbers and plump, juicy watermelons. But this food doesn’t appear shortly after planting a seed. It takes time for roots systems and leaves to become established. Without these initial systems, there would be no food. But we gardeners don’t give up after we plant a seed. We check the garden daily, water it, weed it and become excited by each new dot of green that pokes through the soil.
We should be at least as nurturing, patient and excited with our own process and we are with our plants.
So this year be gentle. Be kind. Nurture yourself into the change you desire. And take the time each day to love the You you are today.
Happy and peaceful new year.