At the start of a New Year, most people feel the need to mark it with resolutions, goals, behaviors or attitude changes – whatever they want to label it – because the New year brings about the feeling of a “fresh start”, which humans love. I mean, who wouldn’t? That “begin again” feeling is nice.
But as January ends and the New Year buzz dwindles, life has typically already stomped in and derailed things OR people have built up a lot of pressure around maintaining and sticking to their goals. It’s understandable. Achieving your goals feels great! However, not achieving your goals feels like a moral failing – especially in a society jammed full of “bootstrapping” rhetoric and diet culture (which is built on the American ideal of “bootstrapping”).
Bootstrapping is the idea that anyone can get into or out of a situation using existing resources. And I would add another layer to this definition that we have here in America, “good” people bootstrap through anything because they are strong willed, noble, have integrity and “bad” people fail at it because they are weak willed, morally failing and don’t have integrity.
The bootstrapping rhetoric is everywhere. Diet culture, politicians, the educational system, motivational speakers, manifesting gurus all promote the idea that with enough willpower you can do it too (whatever “it” is).
Now, please do not misinterpret this post. Setting goals and working towards them is a beautiful thing. Wanting to grow, change, build more positive habits, take care of yourself and your body better, these are wonderful things and I fully support you!
The point I’m here to make is, the rhetoric that develops due to the American bootstrapping theory, is toxic to your wellbeing. It is narrow minded and lacks compassion.
The real truth of life is that every moment is a moment to change behavior, adopt a new attitude, practice self care. You don’t need to wait for Monday, a new month or a New Year to get that “fresh start” feeling. You can cultivate that a minute from now. Now, it does take a little practice, but the dividends are exponential.
The other truth of life is priorities shift. What we want changes or goals we thought were healthy and helpful turn out to be harmful. And sometimes they are just unrealistic or infeasible and we need to adapt and adjust. You’re not “quitting” you’re pivoting and businesses do this all the time and are NEVER seen as a failure, but as agile.
In my view, owning and practicing these two truths is true integrity and nobility – to know your worth doesn’t change and that you always have the power to build back better with a compassionate voice at the heart of it.
Here are some questions to help you practice adding compassion:
- “Will pushing myself to do this make me feel better or worse?”
- “Is this approach sustainable?”
- “Is there a way to break this goal into more manageable steps?”
- “Why are you taking this approach instead of another one?”
- “Am I attaching judgement or morality to this goal?”
- “What would it feel like if I didn’t attach judgement or morality to this goal?”
- “If/When I achieve this goal will it change how I think about my own worth/desirability or deservingness?”
- “Can I just complete this task tomorrow and support my mental health with more time/sleep/family time/socialization?”