Early each January or often even in the late December days between Christmas and New Year’s I see so many posts, photos, and stories in blogs and in my favorite social media feeds talking about goals and plans for the new year.
And each year I think I feel about the same.
While I commend and sometimes marvel at these goals, the carefully chosen focus words for the year to come, and perfect plans shared for our encouragement, I am seldom there yet.
While I am trying to live my life with more intention and fully embrace making goals and plans to succeed in the new year, I usually find myself feeling sad and behind. I hope to be there with my word for the year and some well-laid plans soon, but right now I’m still stuck between my favorite holiday and a fresh, yet slightly intimidating new start.
My mind tells me I should be thinking about starting a new year and planning to do things differently, leaving the holidays far behind, but I can’t quite get there yet.
For one thing, my family and I love to celebrate clear through New Year’s Day. My family has always made a big deal about Christmas and loved all of our traditions. In my books, the party isn’t over until well after January 1st. The Christmas tree doesn’t come down until just before the scheduled special trash pick up about one week into January.
Most years I am still trying to squeeze in a few more fun holiday moments, while simultaneously feeling pushed headlong into something different and new. I usually experience some melancholy moments as well, especially with the still-too-short days where often the sun isn’t shining.
I have almost always just said “good-bye” to my parents as either they or we embark on our five hundred mile drive home again. If we’re lucky, we’re also parting with my sister and family, but our reality is that most years we have to accept that we had to celebrate “together” from afar (our parents usually deliver our gifts back and forth), and that we won’t see each other until sometime in the summer.
It’s hard to love a holiday and my family so much and live too far away and have to wait another whole year.
The other thing holding me back is this. I know that there were many good experiences and some growth and accomplishments in the last year, but it’s easier to remember the apparent failures; the long list of things I didn’t finish or what I don’t feel I did well. Life seldom turns out the way I had planned and I am that imperfect human, after all.
So I’m not ready to spoil my last few precious moments or force my mind to turn a corner just yet. I’m still stuck somewhere in between, while by all appearances, the rest of the world has moved on to a productive and spectacular new year.
I am contemplating a focus word for the year and what I may like to do differently. But I don’t yet have the energy to try to figure out intricate plans, make big, important commitments and force myself into a well-planned new year just yet.
And I cannot think that I am the only one.
I am here to tell us that it’s OK.
Let’s allow ourselves some grace, slow down life’s tempo, and ease into the new year gently.
I don’t claim to have it all figured out, nor do I have studies to show you that this is the best way to plan your life or your year, but I am sure that we’ll be all right if we don’t have it all figured out by January 1 (or even January 15th).
As I do slowly look towards another new year, here are some ideas that may help all of us who are not feeling quite ready for a new year:
1.Celebrate a little more if you need to.
I know there are some folks who are ready to pull down the decorations, throw out the turkey, take down their tree, set new goals, and start a diet or cleanse on the day after Christmas, but that is not happening at our house. If you are one like me who likes to celebrate into the new year and then some, go for it! It will be over 350 days until the Christmas season rolls around again, so what’s the rush to get it over with?
I would rather celebrate “the real 12 days of Christmas”, beginning with the advent season and continuing through Epiphany. That feels about right to me.
And when we finally get that first “real” snow (not counting the light and brief snowfall we had sometime in October), I plan to to turn on my outdoor Christmas lights and celebrate the sparkle against snowflakes.
2. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are actually feeling.
One thing I am getting better at, especially as I get older, is to allow myself to just feel what I’m feeling. I’m not suggesting that I should necessarily stay there (especially if it’s not so positive), but recognizing what I’m feeling is necessary and healthy. While my personality immediately tries to tell me that I shouldn’t be feeling something, the reality is, I am feeling it.
Denying or ignoring our emotional state is seldom helpful and will likely cause hurt and more pain down the road to ourselves and those around us.
3. Quiet your body, mind and soul.
We all need more quiet.
Especially in our culture which seems to thrive on and often glorify productivity and busyness, we need to be intentional about rest.
We need to choose to stop, opt for quiet, and fight for peace for ourselves and our families.
Sometimes calming or inspirational music can help, but there are also times where we just need the rarity of absolute silence. If you are a person of faith, be sure to pray, but also allow times of stillness. We need this space to listen to what God might be saying to us and to pay attention to the truth-telling rhythms of our hearts.
The words of blogger and author Emily P. Freeman often calm, encourage and inspire me. Both her written and spoken words have been a balm to my soul. I found her recent podcast, A Blessing for the New Year , so helpful and comforting that I listened to it every single day for the first week of January. Perhaps it will encourage you as well.
4. Start with gratitude.
Although we need to recognize and allow ourselves our feelings, don’t let yourself stay in a negative frame of mind. I may naturally tend towards the glass being half empty, but I cannot allow myself to live in that mentality.
I need to constantly find gratefulness, for there are blessings all around us, if only we will choose to see. I’m sure most of us have heard and read about how healthy it is to choose to be thankful. Keeping a gratitude journal, singing songs of praise or thanks, speaking positive and grateful words, learning to focus on the good, and working at changing negative thinking are all ways we can become more joyful and positive.
5. Do something you enjoy to celebrate the new year and to help you transition.
I’m not just talking about your New Year’s Eve celebrations, although that could be a good place to start. A quiet, cozy night at home with family or a fun night out with friends may help to lift your mood.
But don’t stop just because the winter day doesn’t have a special holiday name. Create some fun memories around the change of the new year such as rearranging your home and decor after the decorations are put away or getting a pretty new journal or planner. Go out on a date or plan a girl’s night out. Scour some after-Christmas sales or begin decluttering a section of your home.
6. Enlist the help and accountability you need and begin to make a plan.
At some point, it is definitely time to move forward.
You don’t have to do it according to everyone else’s schedule, but it’s healthy and encouraging to be intentional about how we live and spend our time. It’s something that is a work in progress for me, yet I know it’s important and leads to a more fulfilling life.
I’m not naturally highly motivated, although I do like organization and am stubborn enough to hold myself accountable for many actions and habits I feel are important. But I often struggle to use my time well or do the hard things. So I need a little help.
There are countless blog posts, podcasts, books and articles that offer good advice and helpful tips to help us to step boldly into the new year. We can learn how to make realistic goals with good action steps, live more intentionally, declutter and organize. create a personal exercise program and cultivate a more healthy, balanced life.
A couple of my favorite folks who blog and share wonderful help for realistic productivity are Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom and Beth Anne Schwamberger of Brilliant Business Moms. One of my favorite blogs for home organizing tips and encouragement is Abby Organizes. I’ve also enjoyed learning about planning and organizing from Laura of I Heart Planners. And my favorite online fitness instructor is Robin Long of The Balanced Life, who teaches Pilates and runs an online subscription program. I’ve been part of the Sisterhood for over two years now, and it’s helped me be consistent with exercise and make other healthy choices with a group of like-minded, encouraging women all over the world.
Yes, sometimes we need to push ourselves and do difficult things in order to grow and improve our lives, so create some accountability. Join an online group or challenge or simply agree with a family member or friend to check in with each other regularly to see how you’re doing.
7. Treat yourself kindly and give yourself lots of grace.
In all of the planning and “doing”, don’t forget to give yourself lots of grace! We were never meant to be perfect and a successful life does not consist of the things we do or get done.
Growth and change can be healthy, but we need to first accept who we are and our unique gifts, as well as our flaws and weaknesses. They are part of what makes us human and are formative in our life journeys. The difficulties we struggle through truly do make us stronger. And our personal growth and success won’t look exactly like that of anyone else.
In this past week alone I’ve been reminded twice already to be gentle with myself and to be content with the imperfect person that I am. Once was in a podcast from one of my favorite podcasters and the second was part of a sermon at church. I believe this is a good place to start as we head into a brand new year.
Now that it’s already half way through the month, I’m beginning to feel more ready for the new year.
I don’t have all my plans and goals figured out, but I’m preparing to move ahead with joy and hope. I’ve been thinking and praying about what to focus on this year and am starting to want to make changes and plans. I may not be there yet, but I’m moving in the right direction.
I still have decorations to put away this week, lots of Christmas ham to use up in the freezer, and more persistent pine needles to clean off of the floor.
I have changes to make, goals to plan, and dreams to dream for this year.
But I will endeavor to be as kind and gracious to myself as I would be with someone else.
I cannot share the good gifts inside of me with the world unless I am taking care of myself first.
So as we tentatively step into a new year, may this be a year of intentional growth and change. But may it always be tempered with lots of grace, healthy rest, and joy and contentment for all of us.
Maybe we’ll even find a little excitement in this new year.