New Years Resolutions that Actually Matter

Resolutions that matter aren’t usually made at New Years. Let’s change that.

Too many of us struggle to manage overly demanding and stressful lives. Sooner or later we can’t manage the pressure of all we’re holding onto and all we’re holding in. I met with an amazing lady this week who told me she had a “tsunami is a shoe box.” This is a great working metaphor – a way to manage the things that have the potential to overwhelm her. She holds them in this space until she can share them with supportive people.  Then she lets go.

The very best folks will encourage us to share what we hide from the world and then help us put ourselves back together afterward. We experience a lot of relief and then wonder why we waited so long to do it. Reaching out for help is like going to the doctor’s office. Only when we accept that this isn’t going away on its own and there’s no denying that it’s getting progressively worse, then and only then will we make the call. Funny thing about people; as long as we can tolerate it we probably will.

Pushing our limitations doesn’t move them. Many of us seem determined to flood our lives with people, places, and things because it ensures we don’t have to look inward. Some of us feel a sense of obligation to others because they are family or because we identify with their feelings and needs and wish to protect them from suffering as we have.

We gravitate toward selfish people because this is what we are familiar with. We derive a false sense of security from knowing how they want us to be, what they want us to say, what they’d like us to do. We’re intuitive people and so we don’t even need to be asked.  We consistently show them that we can move mountains and then get resentful when they come to expect that we will. The list of things we “gotta do” grows and grows.

I’m fond of the old expression that, “When you’re up to your ass in alligators it’s time to clean out the swamp.” Alligators are selfish others who consistently take from us and give little or nothing in return. I encourage folks to take stock of the people is in their life and to notice who they make time for and who they don’t. Good intentions don’t nourish relationships. Spending time does.

“Deadlines and commitments – what to leave in, what to leave out.” Bob Seger – “Against the Wind”

Notice who and what you feel obligated to do. Catch yourself saying, “I just wish…” or “If only…” Write out what you’ve scheduled, what you’ve committed to, and what you expect yourself to accomplish in the coming months. Now take a bold step – write out everything you know you want to do that you’re probably not going to find time and energy to do. Write a list of people you miss, goals you’ve neglected, dreams you’ve forsaken. To ensure change, share these with someone you love.

Reciprocity is what we want and what we are fear asking for/expecting. Make room in your life for good friends and kin by letting go of selfish people, toxic relationships, and unhealthy expectations. Make room in your heart for more love by releasing past pain, shame, and anger. Release your perfectionism, your false beliefs, false hope, and your quest to become “good enough” (you already are).

Be rigorously honest with yourself. Don’t excuse or explain away the hurtful behavior of others. Don’t justify or rationalize your decisions. Do what you do because you damn well mean to. Live a life of purpose and live it passionately. This is the resolve that a balanced and satisfying life is built on.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.