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IS IT TIME FOR A DIFFERENT KIND OF JANUARY?
Mid-January. It’s cold, it’s dark and it’s typically this mid-month moment that those of us who choose to resolve start to ditch our New Year’s resolutions. Shedding them with wild abandonment, or painful self-sabotage.
So, if so many of us wobble off course just weeks after we have sketched our transformation out, were we always destined to fail? Are we asking too much of ourselves in expecting radical change while also navigating the final wisps (or downpours) of winter? Should we save our metamorphosis for the lighter months? Or just go a little bit gentler perhaps?
In her book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times Katherine May writes:
“Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximising scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.”
The Babylonians were the original resolution trailblazers. Their celebrations (and years) were closely tied to the seasons, starting in spring and taking the form of a 12-day religious festival called Akitu. During this time promises were made to the gods in the hope of earning good favour and fortune throughout the coming year.
Flash forward four thousand years or so, and the New Year’s resolutions we now recognise have moved away from religion and jumped back to the darker depths of January. Our fast-paced digital world has also shaped their emphasis and meaning.
Instagram shows us the body we can have if we do this, TikTok shows us the person we can be if we do that. Our hopes and desires have shifted from a more authentic, internal reference point to become tangled in the pressure of external expectation. Perhaps this is one of the reasons our resolutions crumble so quickly? Were they realistic in the first place? Are they grounded in personal growth, or critical judgement? Are we setting ourselves up from the very start?
If we are looking for lasting change then maybe we need to approach the start of the year differently. Use January to ease back in, gently reflect on what we really want and curiously try stuff. Sketch out what our growth might look like in the light of spring. Put down the pressure of expectation and take the start of the year one step, one day at a time. Offer ourselves a little self-care and kindness.
As Carl Rogers, one of the founders of humanistic psychology once said:
“People are just as wonderful as sunsets. When I look at a sunset, I don't find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right-hand corner” … I don't try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.”
So, whether you are steadfastly sticking to resolutions this season, wobbling your way through, or just waiting to see what happens. We see you and we got you.