A new you this new year?

  • Debunking myths around personal transformation in a day and recreating a new life in a healthy way

By Aditi Raman Shridhar

As 2019 is drawing closer, many of you might be getting into the mood to add some sparkle in your life. I know I am. Many of you might be planning to kick-start that new business you have been dreaming about, or creating a new relationship, getting a makeover and looking stunning or simply pressing ‘reset’ on life and starting over. Whatever it is, I want to nudge you in the direction of confidently and whole-heartedly pursuing them. Because one or two goals over a few months is very achievable. But if your goal is all of the above ‘together’ and you wishing to become a completely new person in every way, then I have a word of caution for you. “It won’t work.”

December is that time of the year when we are inadvertently pushed to assess our lives and evaluate the 11 months gone by. Were they harmonious or unpleasant, were they successful or average? While some evaluation may be good for us as it pushes us to change for the better, too much evaluation and the need to create ourselves into new people overnight and leave behind the so called ‘baggage’ of last year may be a little over the top, and frankly impossible.

My own zeal, freshness and excitement is very high during New Year’s because I have been a 12-month planner for the longest time. And I love to foresee what I am about to become as a person in a span of every 12 months. But the change has to occur slowly and permanently. We don’t want to slump into our old selves after a couple of months, do we?

Let me tell you a story around this, which occurred with one of my colleagues in my last job. So, my good friend and colleague Lovely (let’s call her Lovely) was 24 years old when she quit her job as a journalist to become a full-time caregiver for abandoned puppies in the city. She was frustrated with the hectic work in our office and puppies gave her peace of mind. This was one of her New Year’s resolutions. She had just joined the new place as a caregiver when she also decided to completely re-invent herself. She lost 20 kgs weight, she got a makeover, she gained many followers on Twitter, she became a health instructor, and she also broke up with her boyfriend and decided to enjoy some time being ‘single’. She ended ties with everyone in her family who she called ‘toxic’, moved out of her old apartment and rented a new place – a beautiful house overlooking the sea. She also got a new roommate.

I couldn’t recognize her when I met her after three months. She was so happy and so content and not the girl I had known. But did this personality and life continue for long? Not really. She became miserable having donned a new life, in which there was nothing familiar from the past. The change was too much and too fast. Had she re-invented all these slowly over time, say over a year or two years, it would have been sustainable and frankly, peaceful.

 So if you are planning to do something like Lovely, expand it out over a year or two. Keep only a couple of goals that are achievable and which can give you a true sense of success. Complete re-invention is misleading and only sets you further back.

 Slow change based on self-love and awareness can lead to enriched relationships, a more meaningful career and an empowered well-being in the long term. All you have to do is embrace yourself, acknowledge and accept what ails you and be willing to grow from that awareness.

Our human lives are limited since we all come with an expiration date. So the changes you want to bring need to be at a pace that is fast but also suitable to you. Muhammad Ali said, “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.”

Researcher Mike Bulajewski says self-reinvention is clearly a powerful concept. It symbolizes the ideal of the individual who selects a new identity like one selects a Twitter bio, free of context and free of the symbolic chains of the past. You might be able to reinvent your approach to the challenges life throws at you, but you can’t reinvent your whole entire self. And what’s wrong with your whole self? Nothing.

Often people don’t change because they don’t examine their intentions and actions well enough to begin with. Without recognizing aspects of behavior that need to be improved (including the true source of these traits), they might be tempted to blame others or look for quick fixes. But if you can fully accept yourself, flaws and all, you can start to understand old habits and traits, and begin chipping away at them patiently and without judgement, in order to form new habits. It can take a lifetime. The trick is being okay with that and recognizing that it’s worth the wait.

Twelve powerful ways to renew yourself

New Year is the time where we look back, evaluate how things have gone throughout the past year, and focus on how we wish to change or reinvent for the year ahead. It’s a potent time of personal stories ending and fresh beginnings opening up.

  1. Ditch the resolutions

Many of us settle on well-meaning, but lame, New Year’s resolutions we rarely intend to keep. A few years ago, Forbes conducted research that revealed only 8% of us achieve our New Year goals. So, I say – ditch the resolutions and focus on an important area of your life you really want to revolutionize.

  1. Steer life in the direction you want to go

If you truly desire to change or improve some area in your life – your career, relationships, family life, health, financial situation, or your dreams – it’s crucial to take the necessary creative and structural steps to generate positive and purposeful change in your life. Otherwise, you will be buffeted by life’s daily happenings, stress and busyness so both your attention and intention will get waylaid.

  1. Understand what is fueling your desire to reinvent at this time

Before you start, get clear about what is the underlying motivation for you to revamp your life at this time. Did something happen in your external world? Is something emerging from inside of you, the feeling that it is time to re-energize yourself in some way, and refresh your life?

  1. Choose one key area of your life to focus on

Change is difficult and humans are wired to resist change. It will help if you narrow your focus to one main area you want to work on and give it all you’ve got. Once you get started, you’ll discover reinvention has a cascading effect and other areas of your life will begin transforming with no extra effort.

  1. Visualize the change you want

It’s important to be really clear around the outcome you want in this area of your life. Desire to change is not enough, you must really want the change, and be persistent in moving towards it. Visualize the change when you wake, before you go to sleep, and throughout the day when you can.

  1. Be clear about the price of not changing

Make a list of all the ways you would feel if you don’t change. This should be a powerful reminder for you to keep on the path of positive change when the going gets tough.

  1. State the ultimate goal you want to achieve

In one short sentence, write down the goal you want to achieve at the end of the process – ensure you use simple, clear, achievable language.

  1. Identify potential obstacles and how you will manage them

Obstacles can come from within you, or from the outside world. Write a list of both inner and outer obstacles that might sabotage the process. Then take each obstacle and work out how you intend to manage them if they appear.

  1. Create a clear, actionable plan to follow

Your plan should be simple and actionable, with steps you need to take to achieve your goal. Set a deadline for the change to have happened and then write your plan from now until that date. Dumb it down and don’t complicate it. Write actions for each week or month, step by step.

  1. Choose wise people support – don’t go it alone

You may want to keep your reinvention or change plan to yourself. That’s fine if you have strong qualities of inner direction. But a wise way to keep to your action plan is to choose a trusted friend, coach or mentor to be your change buddy. They are there to keep you focused on your action plan, and support you when things get tough.

  1. Reject perfection – See self-criticism for what it is; fear. Yes, you may have made mistakes in the past, but you don’t live there. Focus on making yourself happy in the now.
  2. Stop judging – One of the signs of a harsh “inner critic” is passing judgement on other people. If you find yourself looking for faults in others, stop. Reflect. What is it that you don’t like about that person’s “fault?” Could it be that it hits a nerve with you because of your own self-judgement? Yes it could. Try thinking kind, beautiful thoughts about everyone you come across.

Starting is the hardest part. Renewing and reinventing your life can be an overnight decision, but starting can be difficult. Be courageous. Tune into your heart and intuition. Take the first step, and move life in the direction you want it to go. Until next week.

Aditi Raman Shridhar is an Indian journalist, therapist and health instructor.

Owena Press Limited (Publisher of The Hope Newspaper), Akure

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