What Nature Can Teach Us About New Year’s Resolutions

On December 21st, we passed through Winter Solstice – that gate that comes once a year to remind us that we’re returning to longer days and more light. Between now and the Summer Solstice in June, the light will slowly, almost imperceptibly, return.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions
Photo via Unsplash

I love two things about the Solstice:

  1. It always comes, twice a year, without any interference from humans. It’s a sure thing, and a good reminder that we don’t have to force change – the Earth shifts and moves in its own perfect time.
  2. It’s a slow change. Instead of everything changing in a jarring instant, it happens in increments that add up over time, until before we know it, we’re out playing in the daylight until 9:00 at night. It’s smooth and artful.

 

Contrast this with the pushy, neon energy of New Year’s Eve.

I think it’s sweet that people want to celebrate bringing in the New Year, but the whole champagne-popping, bright lights-flashing, party-hat scene has never jived with me.

Not only does the celebration itself feel empty, but the amount of “New Year, New You” marketing emails and advertisements that come at us this time of year feels pretty overwhelming.

The intent behind all of these emails and programs isn’t negative – there really is something to the idea of starting a new year that’s invigorating. But the urgency associated with them is so unnatural.

It’s healthy to seek change and create goals that come from our depths and really support our dreams. That said, too often we’re pushed into creating rigid programs for ourselves that rarely end up producing the benefits we were seeking.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions
Photo via Unsplash

We enroll ourselves in “Boot Camp” or commit to “Whipping ourselves into shape,” believing that the new year is a time to fit into stuffy boxes of personal change.

If there’s something your heart really wants to be different in 2017, I think that’s beautiful.

But instead of creating an Excel spreadsheet outlining the steps toward change or signing up for a program that treats you like something bad that needs to be “fixed,” I’d encourage you to take a different approach.

Keep it simple and give it space to grow.

The Solstice comes twice a year without our having to will it. The light waxes and wanes, the waves ebb and flow, and the flora and fauna thrive when it’s time.

We can take notes from the natural world around us and follow a similar arc in the journey of our souls.

I’ll give you an example that I think illustrates the benefits of this approach.

I was working with a client we’ll call “Jo,” who was feeling really desperate to have a new career in 2017. She created to-do lists, she set ambitious goals, and she gave herself a firm deadline to go by.

And yet, every week, making time to focus on her career changes would get pushed aside. I’d check in with her about her progress, and she’d feel down and frustrated that she couldn’t get to the things she wanted to, but she remained committed to her deadline.

So there was tension: not much was happening in the present moment, which made her feel bad, but she didn’t want to abandon the rigid structures and timelines she had set up for herself.

It was a recipe for failure, and she was feeling like shit along the way.

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutions
Photo via Unsplash

So, through some honest reflection and re-configuring, we came up with a new approach: ditch the lists and the deadline, and put that energy toward one hour of career nurturing per week.

One hour in which she was giving her dream of a new career the space to grow, without the pressure to check everything off or figure it out by a certain date.

When we break out of rigid systems that aren’t working for us, there’s tremendous freedom and creativity released.

And that happened for Jo.

Sure enough, she actually started creating the dream she’d envisioned. She looked forward to that hour every week. She was playful with it and found that it created the momentum she needed in order to do the hard work of transitioning into something new.

Making the changes we want in the new year can be a natural, fun, and enlivening process.

We may feel the pressure to set deadlines and whip ourselves into action, but oftentimes that just paralyzes us in a space of inaction and shame because we’re “not doing enough.”

megan leatherman career coach and human resources consultant winter solstice new year's resolutionsI want to support thoughtful professionals make the changes they seek in healthier, more sustainable ways.

On January 11th, I’m offering a free webinar called How to Work in a Wild New Way, and it has nothing to do with pushing you to make resolutions or commitments that don’t align with who you really are. It has everything to do with making work fit for you naturally, in your own perfect time, and I’d love to have you join us.

Click here to learn more and sign up.

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