Be the Change

Because I set goals for myself all year, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I survey my progress by asking three important questions: What have I accomplished, What can I do better, and What is holding me back?

We all lead such busy lives, our accomplishments often get buried in daily minutiae: We forget or don’t notice our own efforts. That’s why, at this time of year, I like to turn the pages of my calendar to remember all the meetings I’ve had, the conferences I’ve attended, the articles I’ve written, the projects I’ve tackled. It helps me analyze how I have moved forward and what threw me off track. Which leads to the second question.

Technically, you could call the answers to the second question “resolutions.” I call it my “trajectory”—it’s where I want to go, who I want to become, what I want to accomplish, and how I can get there. It's understanding the lessons that I learned from my mistakes and successes. When we’re in the middle of struggle, negative or positive, our egos often cloud our judgment; but looking back at the year from 30,000-feet gives me a clearer view.

But a word of caution: Be gentle and learn to forgive yourself. We often can be our own worst enemy—hypercritical, self-flagellating. Why is it so easy to forgive others, but not ourselves? Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. You’re as human as the rest of us; we all make mistakes. Celebrate Failure—welcome it as you would an old friend. Failure teaches us more than success ever could. Failure offers us the opportunity to enter new territory and diverge, pushing us onto unforeseen paths that lead to, as Thoreau wrote, “success unexpected in common hours.”

Finally, I ask what is holding me back. What projects or commitments am I hanging onto that no longer align with my goals? What resentment or anger or hurt or guilt is stomping around my brain? Have any relationships become toxic? What old wounds do I continue to rip open? To what old stories do I still cling—that I am too old, or too young, or not talented or creative enough? In other words, what negative thoughts do I need to flush out? Which always leads to this: What am I willing to let go? . . . because letting go is not easy. We have to learn to be like the trees, as Rumi said, “and let the dead leaves drop.” Get rid of the negative to make room for the positive. Empower yourself by clearing out whatever holds you down. Move forward by letting go. Redefine yourself. Enter the New Year with your fresh, positive self.

Have a Happy and Healthy 2017. Seek joy and find love. Be the change.

©Ellen Antonelli 2016

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