Now into February, any thoughts of the 'R'-word may have long faded with the festive haze. I am referring to resolutions, of course, and if you have held true, let me be the first to say "well done."
If you didn't, I'm still your friend! And I have a suggestion or two for you, if you want to "dust yourself off, pick yourself up and start all over again" with what was or were life-changing changes, those few weeks ago...
The trouble with resolutions is that most people ironically use resolutions against themselves, rather than in their favour. It goes something like this: you decide to give something up, say smoking. You make the decision because you think you should (more about 'shoulding' later); because you need to, and not because you want to. Clearly, you start with good intentions – a.k.a. the "road to hell" - and then the trouble starts.
Not long into your well-meant efforts, the fun and games start. You are dying for the thing you think you should be giving up. You can't stop thinking about it. You visualise that cigarette, that chocolate bar or that drink, apparently against your will, you try to put it out of your head. But you can't. Tormenting thoughts take root; try as you might – and with all your mental might – you cannot free yourself of the urges driving you back to that 'bad' behavior. You smell smoke, pass a sweet shop or a friend offers you 'just the one drink'. It's murder!
Disappointment in yourself grows as your feelings of weakness and lack of resolution kick in. Your will-power can feel the rug slowly being pulled from under its feet – and you feel like you might as well just give up. As the final assault on your self-confidence prepares its attack, the words "OK, but just the one" fill your head or even slip from your mouth.
And it's only the first week of February! I'm not judging you, and you'd be right to ask, "What's the alternative, clever dick?" I say: "read on..."
By way of an introduction, I was recently reminded of a wonderful phrase – "We spend the first forty years of our life recovering from the first five." And herein – in my view – lies the answer to making meaningful and lasting changes in our lives. To me, all addictions, however minor (and by addiction, I mean a pattern of behavior that runs you and your life, rather than you running it) are directly linked to self-esteem. And I believe self-esteem, i.e. the way we view ourselves, and what we feel worthy of, is developed in those first five, vital years of our existence.
From the moment you were born, the world you arrived into – with your family center-stage closely followed by schooling and friends – started 'shoulding' all over you. Add to the shoulds, a liberal sprinkling of 'don't's and 'mustn't's', and you soon got to be the person that determined the rest of your life, complete with an impressive range of 'have-to's and 'can't's running your life. No wonder honouring a simple resolution is such a tall order.
I say that if you truly value your self and your body, giving up any behavior that is harmful to you or your body is not difficult. If however, you have unresolved issues around your own value and worth (like approximately 95% of the population over the age of five), the drama of harmful and destructive patterns of behavior will be irresistible to you.
If you are not at peace with yourself, the dependency on substances like nicotine, alcohol and reliance on food to alleviate or dull pain will be very attractive and the cabaret of feeling guilty when attempting to give them up will also be part of the 'fun'. It's therefore no wonder so few resolutions make it into February but therein, strangely enough, lies the value of our addictions and dysfunctional behaviors. If you are moved to give something up, I invite you to take a long and serious look at why. Change because you really want to and begin to understand why you habitually - and perhaps destructively - choose the habits and behavior you dislike and want to be free of.
Be brave, adventurous and ask the big questions like: "Do I like myself?", "Do I feel worthy of what I say I want in my life?" and "Am I truly happy?" Questions of this magnitude hold the key to lasting change and may expose the futility of the more superficial gestures that dominate the media at this time of year like kicking the habit and dropping dress sizes.
If the answers to these big questions bring up discomfort, seek the help of those skilled in facilitating and supporting profound change like coaches, counsellors and psychotherapists. These professionals are there to help you see into the dark, scary corners of your life that you might not venture into alone and may ask more of you than you might ask of yourself in your dysfunctional comfort-zone. They're human too and behind the coping facades of everyday life where we all are "fine, thank you," they liberate those willing to dig a little deeper. What have you got to lose? (apart from the habits that are messing up your life).
As we progress with the new year, I'll be digging deep myself and sincerely wish you well in your endeavors to change your life for the better. I honour your courage if you are serious about taking yourself on and know that greatness is waiting for you just around that dimly lit corner...