New Year New You? That’s what all the advertisements say right now.
It’s a new year, you should lose weight.
It’s a new year, you should make more money.
It’s a new year, it’s time to finally find a partner.
It’s a new year, better buy a house. Or a car. Or some bedding or something.
The ads say once you do all these things, then you can finally be happy.
What. A load. Of crap.
I love the new year, but I hate all the emotional manipulation that goes with it.
You don’t need to change who you are to be happy.
And you DON’T need to accomplish a bunch of stuff that may not even be what matters to you in order to deserve happiness.
In fact, trying to achieve happiness through goals that aren’t even your own is the surest path to dissatisfaction.
Now I’m not saying don’t set goals. I love goal-setting and right now I’m in the middle of setting my own annual goals and intentions.
But your resolutions, goals, and intentions for the New Year need to be about who you are, what you want and what actually lights you up and turns you on. When you include the things you care about — not what you were told to do or what you should want — your goals may be odd and a little surprising, but they will lead you to a kind of happiness not found in the gym or with a financial planner.
So as you figure out what you want your year to be like, here are some questions to consider:
Is this goal based on a felt desire within myself? One that I can feel in my body? Is there an internal yearning for this? Or is this a goal I’ve been told to want, feel like I should want or feel like I should do?
For years, I set financial goals for myself that I failed to meet. “Pay off all your credit card debt. Save 20% of your income.” Reasonable stuff like that. It took me a while to realize that the reason I failed wasn’t because of some horrible flaw in myself. It was because I hadn’t connected my financial goals to the rest of my values and my life. Once I set financial goals that were connected to things that genuinely excited me (instead of just doing what I was told I should do), my finances suddenly and sharply improved — because my reasons were intimately connected to my values.
Similarly, I never got much traction on any “exercise more” goals, but when it became about “having fun in my own skin,” suddenly dancing, hiking, swimming and sailing on a regular basis naturally followed.
What do I want my goals to feel like when I achieve them? Are the things I’ve written down for this year things that will lead to me feeling that way?
Have you ever accomplished something, and when it was all over wondered, “Is that all there is?” Sometimes we become so focused on WHAT we’re trying to accomplish that we lose track of why we even started in the first place, or whether we should have changed course in the middle. Connecting your goals with how you want it to feel will keep your life from just being a giant checklist.
Do my goals encompass all parts of me? Or just the parts that I feel are acceptable to pursue?
It’s easy to be ambitious about things that your family, your friends or your society rewards you for. But what about the things that the people around you don’t understand or don’t ever talk about? Over a decade ago, I decided my annual intention-setting needed to include goals about developing my relationship to my own sexuality. At the time, I knew no one who did such a thing and it felt incredibly risky to even write it down in my own journal. But now I enjoy so much spaciousness, self-knowledge, autonomy, pleasure and freedom that I want to go back and give my younger self a giant high five. What parts of yourself (sexually, creatively, financially, relationally) feel similarly risky to have goals or intentions around? What baby step can you take this year to include that in your goal-setting?
Dream big this year if you want. Or don’t. Try something bold this year. Or don’t. It’s not about what it looks like on the outside, and it’s certainly not about pleasing other people.
Make a life for yourself this year that is about you and your heart… I bet it will be extraordinary.
Mighty fine thanks to Martin Talbot for the photo.