New Year’s NOT Resolutions: What I am Letting Go, so I can Create Space for Something New!
I wrote this for St. Luke's January, 2020 newsletter about lessons I have learned largely from 12-step teachings, and which I continually need to apply anew each year!
As we continue to assess and re-assess our New Year's goals, perhaps we might look at them from a different angle. Rather than a list of new behaviors, what if we stopped negative behaviors, so our new choices had space to take root and grow? Here are some behaviors I am working on stopping, along with positive ones to replace them!
1. I Am Letting Go of Resentments: A wise friend once said to me that, “expectations are pre-meditated resentments.” Our hopes and expectations of other people—how they are to think, act and behave—are often only lodged in the space between our ears. We often forget to communicate what we need, want or expect and then become angry when our family member, co-worker, or friend fails to meet our often-unspoken expectations. If you find yourself feeling resentful or angry, ask yourself first, “What were my expectations? Did I communicate them? Are they realistic and respectful of others’ boundaries, well-being, and self-determination?” Instead of building resentments, strive for the positive behavior of being honest with yourself first about what you want and need, and then communicate these openly with those with whom you are in important relationships.
2. I Am Letting Go of Trying to Control Others: This is difficult when we are invested in the choices and successes of people we love. What do we do when we fear others’ choices are hurting themselves or others? We can certainly share our concern for their well-being with love. But if they are an adult then it’s time to “Let go and Let God.” They have a God, and it is not us. When we repeat the same advice over and over, we seek to exert control over someone else. Instead, strive for the positive behavior of allowing others the integrity of their own choices, even when you disagree. Everyone must live with the consequences of their own choices, both positive and negative. People remain the same until the pain of remaining the same is the greater than the pain of change. It’s not our job to decide when someone is ready to change; we can still love them and detach from their choices, and stop taking responsibility for their consequences.
3. I Am Letting Go of Denial: Denial of reality can be a safety mechanism to protect us from information for which we are not psychologically ready. But we also engage in daily denial—“I can eat as many cookies as I want and stay healthy; I can spend money freely and not budget; I can still do everything at age 85 that I could do at age 55,” and so on. Much of our daily stress comes from behavior that denies the reality right in front of us, compounding those issues in a vicious cycle. A positive behavior to strive for is acceptance. The first time I heard the phrase, Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today, I did not accept it! There are many things I do not want to accept: my own limitations, a friend’s illness, human brokenness—the list goes on. But “acceptance” does not mean agreement with, nor affirmation of the issue. It simply means that I accept reality as true. Extra cookies cause me to gain weight. I cannot do what I could 30 years ago. I need to spend within a budget if I do not want to go into debt. When we accept the existence or fact of what is real, then we become empowered to choose how to respond and what action to take. These wise, informed choices based in reality, move us toward health and lower stress.
I hope you will join me in trying to let go of these three unhealthy behaviors—resentments, control, and denial—so that there is space for more honesty, clear communication, integrity, detachment, acceptance and healthy choices in 2020!