This may be the hardest day of the year.
December happens at a fevered pitch. All month, the tension mounts as we approach Christmas, then New Years. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s hard to escape the hysteria. Santa Claus everywhere, and lights, and candy canes, and holiday parties. It’s Festive and Exciting and Exhausting.
And, if you’re like me, you spent a good part of December reflecting on the year behind you, and looking forward to the year ahead. What would the New Year hold?, we wondered. What did we want the new year to hold?
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This year, my year-end reflections were more focused than usual, and more in-depth, thanks to a blogging project called Reverb 10. Participants got daily writing prompts, wrote blog posts and shared our posts through Twitter, using the hash tag #reverb10 (you can read all my Reverb posts here). It was a deeply rewarding experience, helping me fully digest the experiences of the past year and develop clear intentions for 2011.
Which is why today is so terribly hard.
For a month, I’ve been getting more and more excited about the possibilities of the year ahead. I started December feeling angry that I wasn’t making art, and ended the month with the clear goal of making a living doing what I love. I felt the clarity of that goal in every fiber of my being. And I spent December connecting with like-minded souls, people all over the world parsing their own experiences and setting their own intentions, and cheering me on — a true community of support.
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But then, starting on New Years Eve, I started to get scared. The month of dreaming was coming to an end. It was time to act.
Why is it so much easier to say, “I will do X,” than to actually do it?
It isn’t, actually. I know that. DOING is easier than not doing — avoidance takes more energy than almost anything else. I know this, and still, I’m jittery today. Overwhelmed. As if everything 2011 holds needs to be realized on Monday morning, January 3rd. As if it all needs to happen at once.
It doesn’t, of course. I know this. But reading Twitter this morning, I sense I’m not the only one feeling the Pressure of the New Year. No matter how mindfully we set our intentions, or make our resolutions, when the day comes to begin putting intentions into action… fear strikes.
But here’s the thing: Today is just one day. Tomorrow is another day, just as big, and just as small, and just as important, as today… and the next day after that. And within each day, are moments – moments we can choose to spend frozen in fear, or deeply alive. For me, feeling alive means being awake to the world around me. To my warm, soft dog, Cosmo, lying on the couch beside me. To the warm golden light outside my window, the soft robe against my skin, the flickering candle across the room. All this is real.
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As for your dreams? Your intentions? Hold them in your heart, but don’t let them shroud you — don’t let them be a gauze between you, and the here and now.
One thing that really helps: Break down big, lofty goals into small, tangible steps. For example, I want to develop a more regular yoga practice this year. Specifically, I want to go to a yoga class at a studio three times a week. So yesterday, I looked at my favorite studio’s class schedule, and decided on which three classes to go to this week.
That’s it. That’s all I can do. And rather than feel intimidated, I feel excited — proud that I’m moving forward, and excited for the time I’ve set aside in my week to do that which is most important to me.
Next, I need to give the same treatment to my other goal this year, which is to make a living doing what I love. Such a huge aspiration — it’s too big to hold onto, really, until I break it down into attainable steps. I think this is the perfect activity for the first week of a new year.
So know this: If you’re feeling paralyzed by the pressure of the new year — you are not alone, and you are not stuck. The pathway from fear to excitement is right within your reach. Take some time this week to brainstorm small, specific steps you can take to bring you closer to your goals (take them one at a time). Maybe organize these steps by month (“What I need to do in January if I want to do X by the end of the year”), or whatever time period feels right to you — daily steps, weekly steps, steps to take by April/August/December… At the end of the day, you’ll know you’ve found the right approach when you look at your list and it feels EXCITING. Doable. Like looking at a gorgeous palette of colors before you begin to paint.
And that fear? It may come back – in fact, it almost certainly will. It’s scary to get close to what we want. In our most vulnerable moments, it can feel so much easier to stick with that which is familiar, even if what’s familiar makes us feel like shit. In those moments, remind yourself: Avoidance is hard. It feels easy, but really, it’s so much harder than being alive.
What are some specific steps you’re taking to realize your goals in 2011?