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As we move closer to New Year’s Eve, you may be thinking about what has happened to you in 2015 and making New Year’s Eve Resolutions for next year. You may wonder if you are, indeed going to have a happy New Year and in 2016?
New Year’s Eve Resolutions
Assessing or judging what you have achieved in 2015 can make you feel happy or depressed. Did you keep any of your New Year’s Eve Resolutions from this time last year or did they dissolve by the end of January? At certain times in the year, like Christmas, New Year’s Eve, birthday’s and anniversaries, you can feel triggered by how your life is progressing or not. Most of us have certain ideas and stories in our head about how our lives should be and what we should have achieved. We are mainly unconsciously ruled by these narratives and judge ourselves whether we are a ‘success’ or a ‘failure.’
We all want to succeed, especially if we consider success to be things working out the way we want them to. Most everything we do is controlled by wanting to suceed and fear of failure. It is endemic in our society. Especially on New Year’s Eve, if you do not have a partner, you can feel lonely, unloved and unwanted and your fear of failure becomes a reality in your mind that you have actually failed. You can lose access to all the other wonderful qualities you have and focus on a narrow topic which you convince yourself is the only important thing in your life.
Does success make us happy?
What does failure mean anyway? Yes, you can fail an exam or a job inteview and many people feel they have failed when their relationship breaks up. But what standards are we being judged by? Our parents, our teachers, mainstream societal values?
Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a time when many of us are exhausted from a busy year and our emotions fluctuate when the year we dreamt of, didn’t happen. I know that New Year’s Eve can be painful for many people, not just those who are single. In Marriage counselling and Couple’s therapy, people also feel lonely and disappointed around this time of year. This led me to wanting to write about a paradigm shift that we can all make. Instead of being so focused on success and failure, we can begin to shift to a learning paradigm. ‘ This means that instead of criticising yourself or feeling like you are a ‘loser’, you can be curious and ask, “what can I learn from what is happening?” rather than just reacting in a habitual way.
I learnt something recently when I talked with a friend about really wanting to finish my second book that I had stopped writing. The answer was surprising and also so simple. “Well if you want to finish your book, start writing.” Yes, simple but what stops me is far more complex. So learning about what my ‘edge’ is (what I could do next, but can’t quite do yet) to keep writing is in itself, a success. There it is again, that old success/failing paradigm creeping in, almost unnoticed!
So we often blame others or feel guilty, shame, stupid and bad about ourselves. Or you become addicted to alchohol. drugs, gambling or work to numb your feelings etc. Many of us find it easier to think there is fundamentally something wrong with us, rather than feel good about who we are. In fact, at the core of most therapy work is learning to love ourselves more. It’s surprising to learn that many successful people actually aren’t that happy, despite money and fame.
Thoughts are not facts
Some of my biggest failures, although really painful have in fact, produced most growth and learning in me. Would I have preferred them not to happen? Honestly, yes. However, realising that what really counts is awareness and our attitude and perception towards ourselves. Without those so-called failures, I would never had the possibility of learning how to flip them around and transform my difficulties into learning more about myself. Its not only what happens to us, but finding a way of changing what we think about ourselves. You can do this by beginning to challenge the stories you tell yourself. Don’t make thoughts, facts.
“I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, but just coming to the end of his triumph.” Jack Gilbert
Many years ago, I was working as Director of Staff Counselling at a big Sydney teaching hospital. I was giving a workshop to nursing staff. A staff member stood up and accused me of being a ‘Pollyanna.’ I asked her what that meant. (You see, I failed that I didn’t even know the word. As the trainer, I thought I should know what she was talking about) She said that I was turning all the negatives into postives. So thanks to learning Process Oriented Psychology, I welcomed her public criticism of me and automatically turned it on its head, even though I knew she had criticised me. I genuinely replied, “thank you so much. I have been working on myself for years to do that. You have just let me know that it has worked.’ She really had nowhere to go with my reply and sat down.
If we have an attitude of curiosity rather than allowing the inner or outer critic to make us feel like we are failing, we can open to the unknown part of ourselves and learn from every interaction and situation. We immediately lighten up without the heavy judgements on ourselves and enjoy life more.
” Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Confucius.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve
So this New Year’s Eve, whether you are partying, or spending it with family or friends or on your own, celebrate in a way that inspires and has meaning for you. That may be having fun, seeing the fireworks, watching a movie or reading a great book or being with your pet. It may be in the city or in Nature. You might meditate and send love and care to all those in the world who are sick or alone or dying. Learning from whatever life greets us with each day, is the pathway that can bring you more happiness with what is, rather than how you think it should be. Recognise that even on New Year’s Eve, this night can be the ‘dream door’ where you enter through a portal into a possible new way of being who you are.
I wish you whatever you wish for yourself in 2016. Also follow and learn from your process and your path of heart. Then you can have a Happy New Year.