Research: Resolve to just let it go

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Patrick

In most cultures, new year resolutions encourage fresh starts which are meant to last. Yet somehow, New Year’s Resolutions starting with a bang have a way of fizzling out after a month or two.

Maybe the trick is to keep it general. Otherwise, between waning energies and intervening distractions, resolutions fade against that inevitable backdrop of everyday life.

In the interest of more achievable (but still enervating) resolutions, consider tailoring these to your unique life:

1. Do something you’ve been afraid to do.

Fear serves its purpose when it prevents harm, but more often it just screws things up. Has fear — whether of success or failure — stopped you from doing something you want to do? Trying something new? Taking a risk that might just become one of life’s best experiences?

Resolve to change that with two mantras:

“It’ll never happen unless I try.” “How I imagine it is worse than the reality.”

There’s also the rush, that exciting feeling of “Wow — I can’t believe I just did that!” It can be transformative to overcome a fear, because confidence spills over to other areas of life.

That’s what courage is — not the absence of fear, but acting in spite of it.

Little thing, big thing — it doesn’t matter. Whatever fear stopped you from doing, let it go and just do it.

2. Say “I’m sorry” and mean it.

None of us is perfect. Odds are, somewhere along the line there’s an unspoken, overdue apology.

No, this resolution isn’t about responsibility. It’s about growth.

Even if the response an apology elicits is underwhelming, that isn’t the point. Letting go is. And to let go, one must confront.

Owning actions, thoughts, how we respond to others is incredibly liberating. Once I’ve done everything I can to rectify and restore balance, the ball’s not in my court anymore. My conscience is clear, my courage proven at least to myself (facing mistakes creates strength), my lesson learned. With the bonus of improving my part in future relationships.

Exerting responsibility from within is both empowering and affirming.

3. Be your own true, and fair, critic.

Does “She’s her own worst critic” apply to you? Is your inner critic really a fair, and true one?

We rarely see ourselves as we really are, instead letting that inner voice define self-image. Others’ opinions have an impact, but it’s up to us how much or little we listen. Imperfection is universal, but humans tend to beat themselves up with it.

It’s good to review work, behavior, and decisions. It’s helpful to look for ways to improve. Where it crosses the line is deprecation and shame (Dumb! Stupid! Weak, worthless, and unlikeable!). According to psychologists, self-image can direct our choices and relationships without our even being aware of it.

Resolve to have more self-compassion.

That’s not the same as accepting poor performance. It’s healthier and more productive to objectively acknowledge what can be improved, letting go of those negative adjectives. Take them out of your inner vocabulary; reject them when they creep up, replace the habit. This mindfulness-based approach allows us observe both our own actions, as well as others’ responses, without personal judgments, like this:

“I tried it this way. Upon reflection, I could it do that way next time for different results. I accept both without labeling myself.”

If that sounds like a relief, it is.

•••

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network who gets a little better at letting go with each passing year. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.

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