Doesn’t it sound sexy to say what you’re “leaving behind” in the new year? To make a list of what you’re going to stop doing in 2020?
I know it does. I’ve done that before: written down the things I’m leaving behind, burned them in a fireplace, the whole dramatic deal.
But it’s not that simple. We‘re all human – living not just our high highs and low lows but a whole full spectrum of experience every day. Change is never as easy as leaving something behind and never looking back. Even amongst the most “enlightened” of us, it’s very likely we’ll inevitably be confronted with or fall back into an old pattern we thought we were done with. Best case scenario, we learn to mindfully navigate the situation and pattern differently each time around. But even so – it’s a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of deal. Practice makes progress, not perfect.
What’s more likely is what happens to 80% of us: we take that one step back and shame ourselves into submission. When we live in extremes, we don’t leave room for the in-betweens, the lessons learned in those tougher moments. We tell ourselves we’re “so bad,” we messed up, we’re a failure, we can’t do this, and so on and so forth blah blah blah. The moment we create ultimatums in our minds is the moment we set ourselves up for shame and self-doubt in the long run.
In my own work and life, I talk a lot about LETTING GO instead of LEAVING BEHIND. Feels more like accountability to me. Controlling what you can and only what *you* can. Recognizing that something can (and probably will) pop back into your life but you get to choose whether you pick it up or not.
When I coach people to let go of something – a thought, a feeling, a belief, a situation, a person – I always try to frame it so that they’re letting go of it in order to make space for something else SPECIFIC.
Because the thing is: the second you STOP, QUIT, or LEAVE BEHIND…what’s gonna fill that space? If you don’t know what you’re fighting for, you’re going to end up right back where you began with what you’re fighting against…at the most basic level, if only because it’s familiar.
Try this way more productive formula throughout the year, but especially now as you reflect and project in Resolution Mode:
I am letting go of ((how something affects you or why you do what you do)), so I can ((what that thing holds you back from doing)).
- INSTEAD OF “I will stop putting others before myself.”
- TRY “I will let go of my need to please others, so I can make room for myself.”
- INSTEAD OF “I am leaving behind toxic people.”
- TRY “I am letting go of excusing bad behavior at my own expense, so I can live out MY journey exactly as it’s intended to unfold.”
- INSTEAD OF “I will quit negative self-talk.”
- TRY “I am letting go of my limiting beliefs, so that I can feel confident and grounded.”
Notice this formula doesn’t say you will always do or feel or be that thing you say you’ve been held back from doing/feeling/being. Just like there’s no ultimatums for the negatives, there’s no ultimatums for the positives. The point is to make space and define what you want that space to hold. Not to always make room for yourself, or live out your own journey, or feel confident and grounded, or whatever you created space for. But to state clearly: this is what I want, this is what I’m willing to fight for.
Burn your regrets in the fireplace if you want. Make a dramatic statement if it feels good. But make sure you do this, too. Just know that you’re a person in progress – and your life will be one long loop of letting things go and picking things up along the way. You might not get to choose what enters your world, but you sure as hell can choose what you do with it.