The start of a new year is traditionally a time for self-improvement. There is something about the calendar being reset that gives us all the sense that we are capable of making a new beginning and making our lives better, richer, less cluttered and more satisfying. If we were all computers, January 1 would be our annual reboot. Whatever our dreams and aspirations, new goals and a fresh approach seem somehow all the more achievable with the whole year ahead of us.
But all that positive sentiment and all the good intentions in the world can start to unravel as January plays out. It is all too easy for all those good New Year intentions to turn into something that rather than improving your sense of self turns into yet another reason to beat yourself up.
The secret of success
There is a secret element to all those programmes to make you fitter, healthier, more efficient, kinder, more spiritual – or whatever other course of self-improvement you have set out on – that is only rarely acknowledged. It remains largely unspoken because it can all too easily appear to be the sort of advice that runs counter to all of those other focussed, inevitably narrow programmes of concentrated activity.
The secret sounds simple, but it entails the sort of sensitive, personal and profound appreciation that the people selling diets or exercise classes don’t always have time for. It is this, it’s okay to fail sometimes.
It’s OK to fail
It’s OK to fail if you don’t hit your goals every single day of the week. It’s not the end of the world if you do have a brief lapse – for whatever reason – your goals should not collapse simply because you treat yourself to something sweet or if you miss an exercise class once in a while.
And the deeper point here is that whatever goals we may have set ourselves we must remember that we are not actually unfeeling computers. A re-boot may sound appealing, but we are more warm blooded, more fallible creatures than that. We lead intricately complex lives and the binary business of being wholly and uncompromisingly one thing or the other – for all its intuitive appeal – is simply an ideal.
It starts with a positive self-regard
Understanding our fallibility and being prepared to forgive ourselves for our minor lapses is an invaluable life-skill. If we want to achieve those New Year goals, being realistic about how difficult their attainment may be is a crucial life skill. Learning the art of self-love and developing a positive self-image is a foundation for success that extends well beyond New Year resolutions.
If you set out with New Year resolutions that are intended to improve and reward your better sentiments, rather than – as so many people do – punishing yourself for some deficiency you will be setting out on a journey that is far more likely to achieve a positive outcome.
And if you’ve been getting it wrong up until now, don’t worry. It’s OK to get it wrong now and again. It’s what makes you human after all.