Toss Your List of New Year’s Resolutions!

New Year’s Eve has arrived!  For many of us, that means a party to attend, a day to sleep in, and then a list of goals to consider, commit to, feel overwhelmed by, minimize, and then discard by Valentine’s Day.  Sound familiar?

May I suggest that instead of making a goal-driven “list of despair,” that we focus instead on 2 reachable goals.  Just 2.  Not 10, or even 5!  Our lives are full enough already that we don’t need to “stoke the fire of guilt” by creating yet another impossible set of New Year Resolutions.  By focusing on 2 important things, we can channel all that energy we normally devote to guilting ourselves, and we can actually feel good about ourselves.

The ONLY 2 New Year’s Goals You Need:

1) Make yourself a priority everyday.

In general, of course, I would recommend the basics: eating 2+ meals a day, getting good sleep, staying active, and seeking balance in your life.  Those are all good things!  But we need to NOT try to tackle everything at once.

Instead, focus on one aspect of your life which will make everything else easier. Specifically, we should spend 30-60 minutes everyday for ourselves.  Choose to curl up with a book, or go to the gym, or nap, or watch a favorite show, or play a video game, or pursue a hobby, or walk, or call a friend, or read blogs or Facebook, or write your book, or simply sit outside and watch nature.

It really doesn’t matter what it is, but we each need “me-time” for 30-60 minutes everyday; time when we don’t have to answer to a soul, not even our partner or children, and we just do whatever WE want to do.  It is time for which we report to NO one, feel NO guilt for spending it (this part is very important), and which we can look forward to enjoying everyday.

This concept is at the heart of “self-care.”  And one of the biggest myths that driven people carry in their minds is that “self-care must be selfish or lazy.”  It’s NOT true.  Self-care is NOT selfish, it’s self-protective.  When we nourish, protect, and maintain our physical and emotional health, we actually have MORE time, energy, strength, and motivation to focus on our jobs and to care for others.

Remember the speech the flight crew always gives at the start of a flight?  We are always told that, in the event of an emergency, we should place the air mask on ourselves BEFORE we help others with their masks.  Why?  We may think, “I’m an able-bodied, healthy adult, and I am sure that I could easily help 5 people to get their masks on before I went into a wheezing frenzy and had to be saved, right?”  But if we put on our own mask first, we will probably save another 15 people, and no one will have to rescue us.

The same idea is true with our emotional health.  When I tell people about taking time for self-care, they say something like, “When would I fit THAT in?” or “I never have time to get to the rest of my daily tasks, let alone time for doing that.”  Those same people might say the same thing about stopping for gas on their commute to work.  We think we don’t ever have time to stop for gas, and then, inevitably, one day we run out of gas on the freeway and someone has to stop and rescue us.

I always think it’s interesting that in the rush of our week, when we turn down our kid who wants to play ball because we don’t have time for a single other thing, we can suddenly find the time to go to the doctor or take a sick day if the stomach flu hits us.  Where did the time come from?  How did we ever manage to squeeze in a day off?  Miraculously, we find a way.  And those little “emergencies,” which we magically find time to deal with, are “urgent” because we make them urgent.  We can make a little self-care “urgent” as well.  

The truth is, we all need to “refuel our emotional tank” on a daily basis, and if we do, we will find an increase in energy, patience, motivation, hopefulness, and sense of purpose.  I’m not making this up!  There is a science to this concept, and it’s time for each of us to try an experiment.

2)  Focus more emotional investment on the relationship which matters most to you.  

If you’re married or dating, hopefully this will be your partner.  If you are single, this may be your children or your best friend.  I know that with our busy jobs, house cleaning, kids’ soccer games, church involvement, and social engagements, we literally might not have a lot of extra time to give to our most important relationships.  Sometimes we finally come home and feel so exhausted that all we seem able to do is fall down on the couch or fall into bed.

Ideally, we would find some extra time each day for our partners.  But even though we may not be able to ramp up the amount of time we spend with each other, I believe that in a mere 5-10 minutes each night we can ramp up the emotional focus and priority we invest.  It all just depends on whether we choose to show our partners our core emotions (not just the irritability, tension, sarcasm, or logistics of the day), and how emotionally tuned-in we are to theirs.

When was the last time you felt genuinely close and bonded to your partner?  Chances are that if your relationship is healthy, that closeness didn’t require a trip to Hawaii, or a perfect physical appearance, or a lot of money, or a whole day’s efforts to achieve.  But it likely DID involve a few sincere, mutually vulnerable, unguarded, and loving moments of EMOTIONAL CONNECTION with your partner.

Leave your logic and reasoning at the door.  Put aside your review of the daily logistics and work calendar.  Turn off your TV, tablet, laptop, and phone.  And for 5-10 minutes each day, turn on your emotional expression and take an interest in your partner’s feelings: the good, bad, high, low, sad, happy, and love.  The 5-10 minutes isn’t meant to solve all your problems, come to solutions, or criticize each other.  It’s time to hush up, soak up, and validate each other.  There is magic in empathizing and hearing each other, and that only works if both of you take that leap and choose to be vulnerable with each other.

If we can follow these two REACHABLE GOALS this year, we can prevent the “New Year’s Guilty Regret,” and instead give ourselves more energy, more health, and more connection with the people who matter most.

1 Comment

  1. That is great advice Kirk! Just what I needed to hear and to ponder about! I am now even more excited for 2013 and all of its’ possibilities! Thank you for your thoughtfulness and grounded suggestions. I am certain that any of us who apply them will have a much much more prosperous and fulfilling year! God bless you in all that you are about. Love David and Luciana.

    David & Luciana Voss