By Dr. Mara Karpel
Happy New Year! Today is January 1. What dreams will you make come true this year?
Today is really just another date on the calendar. Whatever problems you had yesterday or last week may still be problems today. Babies will be born and people will die on this day. The calendar is, after all, man-made. So, what is so special about the start of a new year?
Many cultures celebrate the New Year with rituals to bring good fortune and good health. After my move to Texas, I learned that eating black-eyed peas is a tradition throughout the south that is believed to bring good luck in the coming year. In Ecuador, a common tradition is to burn last year’s events “in effigy,” creating straw dolls to represent the events you may want to cleanse from and then burning them at midnight on New Year’s Eve. In some cultures, people jump into a body of water to cleanse themselves of the past year. A frequent guest on my radio show, Laura Gelezunas, who reports in about the retirement community in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, told us that a New Year’s Eve tradition in Mexico is to place 12 grapes in a glass of wine or champagne and to eat all 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, after toasting one’s loved ones. These grapes are said to represent the months of the old and new years and, while eating the grapes, it’s traditional to make a wish on each one before eating it. In Italy, it’s believed that eating lentils, raisins, and oranges on the New Year will increase good luck and love. Here, in the U.S., we like to kiss those whom we love at the stroke of midnight. This tradition is based on an old English and German superstition that this will bring good luck in our relationships for the rest of the year.
We all know of the global tradition of making resolutions at the beginning of the New Year. Setting New Year’s resolutions is based on an ancient tradition. The earliest, recorded New Year’s resolutions were said to have been made by the Babylonians over 4,000 years ago. They set resolutions to return borrowed farm equipment at the start of a new year. Soon after that, the Romans, apparently, set resolutions to accomplish more in the next year than they had in the year before. I wonder if the Babylonians and the Romans had as much trouble sticking to their resolutions, as we seem to have in our modern world.
Who hasn’t had the experience of seeing their New Year’s resolutions end up in a dusty heap with their newly purchased gym clothes by the first of February? But there’s still something about the idea of starting fresh, setting new goals, “out with the old and in with the new,” that’s very appealing, exciting, and filled with hope. I have a feeling of anticipation when saying out loud, “This is going to be a good year, the year that I realize my dream!” For me, this excitement injects new energy into any goals that I’ve already set and it helps me to generate new ones.
The challenge, of course, is sticking to our resolutions throughout the year. As we go about our more mundane daily responsibilities, we often lose the energy and excitement or become frustrated by obstacles. It’s easy to get sucked back into life-as-usual and to feel too drained to devote time to new goals or to exert energy into changing habits in order to achieve a healthier life-style.
In spite of these obstacles, I believe that it’s worth our time and effort to stay focused and to keep moving toward our goals. It’s obvious that resolutions involving creating improved health, are certainly worthwhile. But, what about making this the year that you finally realize a dream that you’ve always had? “Somewhere inside you still lives a dreamer who is ready to dream again,” writes an anonymous Facebook author. In his book, The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks refers to the time when we are in the flow of following our true calling, our dream, as being in our “zone of genius.” When we’re in our Zone of Genius, according to Hendricks, we feel excited, fulfilled, and that our life has meaning. Not pursuing our zone of genius, he suggests, can cause what he refers to as “diseases of un-fulfillment.” As Hendricks states, “When people are not expressing their full potential, they often get illnesses that have vague, hard-to-diagnose symptoms…Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia are good examples. I’ve seen both of those illnesses disappear when people began to break out of their sub-Genius zones and move toward fulfilling their true potential.”
How do we continue to work toward our goals and dreams when the excitement has dissolved in the midst of the winter blahs? One obstacle that I’ve seen people run into time and again, myself included, is that our goal is too big to achieve in the time that we’ve set for it. This usually causes us to become discouraged and we’re more likely to give up. This definitely does not mean that I don’t continue to have big dreams for myself. In fact, I’ve been going all-out and shooting for the stars, lately. However, it helps to cut these big dreams into smaller, more easily achievable, goals along the way. These smaller, short-term goals make for more realistic resolutions for the year, while the next group of steps along the way to realizing the bigger dream might be next year’s resolutions. One very simple and achievable, and also extremely valuable, resolution is to become more conscious of how we treat our fellow inhabitants of this earth, as well as how we treat ourselves. Another, very do-able and powerful resolution is to be more conscious of our food choices, as well as the thoughts we choose to think, and to make the effort to make better choices. These modest-sized resolutions can, in themselves, change our entire life and can help to make this world a more peaceful place.
Having clear intentions throughout each and every day is essential for us to get into the flow of life and to reach our full potential. Often, I state my intentions for the day to myself when I first get out of bed. I was given this idea by one of the guests on my radio show, Jihan Barakah, founder of The Global Quantum Shift, and have been doing it ever since. There are particular intentions that remain constant for me every day. Those are to accomplish what needs to be accomplished during the day, easily and joyfully, and to do my best to bring joy to whomever I come into contact with. This fills my day with purpose and meaning no matter what’s in store. My intentions for the day also include specific goals or steps needed in order to achieve my larger goals. I remind myself of these intentions throughout the day, whenever I remember, to keep myself, or get myself, back on course. This is especially helpful when I’m not feeling at my best because these moments usually indicate that I’ve begun to veer off track.
Another powerful way to stay on track is to write down goals or resolutions for the year and read them often as a reminder. For myself, I have found this to be an enlightening practice to do throughout the year, not just at the start or end of a year. Spending time writing down goals helps us to re-evaluate these goals, deciding if they’re really what we want to achieve and if they will create value in the world. This also gives us a chance to look at the goals from last year so that we can decide if they’re still desirable and how far we’ve come toward achieving them, as well as what obstacles were encountered and what might be the best way to deal with these obstacles. When practicing this throughout the year, we may have realizations about inner desires or passions that we might not have been able to put a name to before, insights about why we’ve run into certain obstacles, and discoveries about our priorities.
Having said all of this, let’s keep in mind, that we can talk about intentions and goals until we’re blue in the face, but nothing will happen until we actually take action. Sometimes, action consists of “baby” steps. That’s really quite alright, as long as those steps are moving forward, rather than backward. The ancient spiritual teacher, Lao Tsu, advised, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Writing down markers along the way that will indicate that we’re moving in the right direction and then celebrating each step taken and each marker achieved, can help to keep the excitement when we lose sight of how our small achievements will lead to our larger goals.
Making our intentions known, announcing them to those friends that will support and encourage us, helps quite a bit. Becoming part of a supportive group that sets intentions together, then checks in with each other, regularly, in order to keep one another accountable, and celebrates each others successes, is also very powerful and it’s something that I’m about to try this year. Doing this can bring about quantum leaps toward making our dreams come true.
Finally, if you make the commitment to set resolutions for the New Year, it’s important know that you will likely not achieve all of your goals completely within the year. You might even decide that you aren’t interested in some resolutions that you’ve set as the year goes on. Others just might take a bit longer than one year to achieve. Remember, you can always modify, re-set, and create new resolutions for the next New Year!
Ghandi told us, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” What change will you be this year? And what will you dream into reality? Please join me, throughout 2015, right here on this brand spanking new blog page, for my weekly posts. Together, let’s make our dreams come true and create a peaceful reality. Wishing you all a joyous New Year!
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