Holidays, Holy Days, and Resolutions

We’re on the cusp of a multitude of religious and cultural winter holidays. While I’ve celebrated Christmas my whole life, many I know celebrate Hanukkah, Yule, the Solstice, and others. Regardless of your religious and cultural inclinations, the winter presents itself as a magical and wonderful time of year for a variety of reasons. However, the history of those observances and celebrations go far back to a time when everything was marked by and revolved around the sun, no pun intended. 

Before the advent of today’s religious celebrations, the winter solstice was a celebration that marked the longest night of the year and longed for the return of the sun. Every year, the seasons turn and the winter symbolizes that time in the cycles of the year where the old would pass away and the new began to germinate and await rebirth at return of the sun. The winter holidays and New Year resolutions are intrinsically tied together. Resolutions are our way of honoring that cycle and saying, “With this new chance, I will make my life better by doing these things.”

Rightfully so, many eschew New Year Resolutions because so many times those promises made are rarely promises kept. We make all sorts of goals like, “This year, I’ll go to the gym consistently.” and by March, those visits stop altogether. We’ve all been guilty of it in one form or another. In fact, years ago, I just gave up completely and stopped playing the game. For years, I had decided to abstain from making New Year Resolutions because they seemed impractical, ineffectual and completely frustrating. However, two years ago that all changed for me.

Two years ago, as I have written in my own blog, I went through some health scares and ended up losing almost 75lbs in a year through nothing more than simple healthy eating and a little exercise. Now, almost two years later, I’ve kept it off and even lost a bit more along the way. That journey taught me a lot about resolve and the impact of slow, steady, achievable goals that can lead up to huge results.

One valuable lesson it taught me was that goals give us something to shoot for even if they don’t accurate reflect our real life destination. There were times I would make my weight loss goal for a particular month and fall short. Instead of losing say, 7 pounds, I might lose 5. But I still lost weight…so I kept going. Goals give us direction and motivation, but to use them as a “pass-or-fail” metric of success can be far too limiting (and frustrating) for the human experience.

For this reason, the last two Decembers have been a time of reflection for me. I take time to evaluate the past 12 months and look toward the next 12. I consider what worked for me and contemplate their continuance – sometimes with some alteration to hopefully increase its effectiveness. I also try to spend some time thinking through the things that did not work for me. Do they need to be modified or do they need to be dropped altogether? This process helps me come up with resolutions that are both achievable and also in some part already proven. Of course like my own journey two years ago, sometimes it’s important to start something radically new. However, too many radically new activities are oftentimes a great cocktail for burnout and depression. So I use those sparingly and only when I can turn them into bite sized chunks that are easy to evaluate in small increments.

So this year, as you are, or have been, celebrating your own winter holiday be it a religious holiday like Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, the Solstice, Id al-Fatr, or cultural holidays like Kwanzaa, Omisoka, or even Festivus – I encourage you to set aside some time to contemplate what practices worked for you this year and which ones didn’t. Feel free to throw out the ones that don’t work and improve on the ones that do. Stretching yourself with some radically new ones works best when you add sparingly but with great motivation. For me, some of my resolutions for 2018 are:

  1. Weight training 4 days a week.
  2. Yoga 3 days a week.
  3. Read more books.
  4. See the Grand Canyon.
  5. Reduce my negative thinking.

What are some of yours? Pop over to our Facebook conversation and let us know!

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