New Year’s Resolutions: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

With the beginning of the year, people often make New Year's resolutions, or at least consider it. If you did make some resolutions and you are anything like me, you've probably already broken your resolutions. That is not only common, it's expected. We stick to our new year's resolutions for a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks, but by February, we can't even remember what the resolution was.

What if you could actually have your resolutions stick? It requires taking a different look at resolutions. It takes looking at the good, the bad and even the ugly :)

The Good Stuff – Resolutions by themselves aren’t bad. They actually come from a good place, a place inside us that likes to start fresh, to start newly. That feeling shouldn’t be dismissed, but celebrated that it reminds us that we want to grow and change.

The opportunity to start fresh is important to recognize and take advantage of. When we do look at how we want to grow and change, it’s important to pay attention to see if it’s something we truly want, or what we think we “should” have. We can often get caught up wanting to change to be like someone else, instead of being our true selves. Be sure that whatever resolutions you make, it’s something that YOU really want and you stay true to yourself.

The Bad Stuff – We often make resolutions that we know we can’t keep, setting ourselves up for failure. One way that we set ourselves up for failure is by focusing on the doing, rather than on how we want to feel, successful, healthy, powerful, happy, loved, etc. We think that if we do this particular action, we will feel a particular way. For example, I have made lots of resolutions where I won’t eat chocolate so I can lose weight and feel healthy. It’s ridiculous because I know I can’t give up chocolate completely. I usually last about a week before I have a piece of chocolate in my mouth.

However, what if we flip the resolution on its head and make a resolution not about the action, but about the feeling, what we truly want. If I focus on being healthy, I have more flexibility in the actions I can take. I can eat more vegetables, drink more water, exercise or not eat chocolate. You can take little steps or big steps. You get to choose. More choice means more power. More power means more success.

The Ugly Stuff – What can make resolutions most dangerous is how we treat ourselves after we break the resolution. We can judge ourselves harshly; maybe even call or label ourselves unreliable, weak or even worse. When we make promises, like resolutions, and don’t keep them, it can be difficult not to judge ourselves. However, it is crucial to have compassion and patience when we don’t live up to our promises. Remember we are human. As humans, we make mistakes, lots of them.

When we are trying to change a habit, it’s especially challenging because the old behavior is so automatic. Even as I am writing this, I am scarfing down a chocolate, chocolate cookie, after making a resolution to be healthy. I have to forgive myself for eating the cookie and start again. If we practice patience and compassion, our resolutions will be much easier to maintain in the long run. The resolutions will stick around and become more automatic.

If you have made resolutions or goals for this year, or still considering, remember you will be more successful and much happier if you stay true to yourself, focus on your true desires and practice patience and compassion. Good Luck in 2012!

Reflecting back on 2011- Preparing for 2012

As the year comes to an end, people often reflect on what has transpired over the past year. How is my life different from 2010? It is an important question to ask and ponder. Are you getting closer to your goals and dreams? Perhaps even achieving them? Can you measure growth? . If you haven’t done this before, or you haven’t done it so thoroughly, I highly recommend starting the tradition.

When I reflect on the year, I look at the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s important to look at ALL that has transpired. If you only look at the good, then often the bad and the ugly hangs on like dead weight and baggage in the new year. It’s important to let go of any baggage accumulated from this past year – starting fresh in 2012. It’s also important to consider, if we only look at the ugly, then we miss the growth that has occurred. The good stuff is just as important as the ugly stuff.

When you reflect on the questions below, I recommend taking the time to write it down. You can be more thorough and visually see your year on paper.

The Good Stuff – What have you accomplished this year – professionally, personally, financially? What were the pleasant surprises of the year? Did you learn any lessons about yourself? About life? Celebrate this good stuff and share it with loved ones!

The Bad Stuff – What disappointments or regrets did you experience this year? What were some of the not so pleasant surprises? What mistakes did you make that you learned from? Try to bring some compassion and forgiveness to these moments, so you can let go and move on. If there are some lessons to learn from these experiences, be sure to take those with you into 2012.

The Ugly Stuff – What were the moments of 2011 that you would rather forget about altogether? The important part is that you have survived the ugly stuff. Although challenging, I invite you to bring up the memories, the feelings, and judgments, so you can let them go and move on. What’s also important in letting the ugly stuff go is finding the lesson, the gift, in these experiences. While this too can be a struggle, it helps in moving on so that they don’t linger or hold you back in the future.

Reflecting on the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2011 will give you the opportunity to celebrate all your successes, learn the important lessons, and let go of any excess baggage to make 2012 the best year ever!

Loving Your Ugly

To really love ourselves fully, we must love all of who we are – the good, the bad, and especially the ugly.

For me and many people I know, it’s much easier to love and embrace the good – the best parts of us – our talents, positive personality traits, and the most attractive parts of our body. The bad parts are a little more difficult to love. Our ugly parts, the ones we often want to ignore or forget, are much more challenging to accept and appreciate. However, it’s these ugly parts that are the most crucial for us to love in order to be authentic and at peace in our life.

When we think of these ugly parts of ourselves, they’re often things we’re ashamed of, feel guilty about, and try to hide from others (and sometimes even ourselves). They might be parts of our personality, aspects of our body, or even actions or experiences from our past.

The ugly part of myself that I’ve been learning to love is the aspect of my personality that bulldozes people. This “bulldozer” comes out when I want something to go my way and there are others who think it should go another way. My actions and attitude will flatten them and silence their voice.

We are taught from a young age that we can only show our good sides, and we must hide the bad ones. Because we usually hide these ugly parts, we often think we’re the only ones who have them. If we start telling the truth about the ugly parts, we will begin to see that we are not alone – it’s just part of being human.

If we can embrace our humanity with compassion and forgive ourselves for these ugly parts, we don’t have to be driven by the need to hide them. Doing this allows us to become more authentically who we are and also allows us to regain the energy that we’ve used to hold down and hide this ugly stuff.

Sometimes, people confuse “loving” with approving or condoning, especially when our ugly parts hurt others or ourselves. The bulldozer part of me is definitely not something that I approve of or condone. However, “loving” can mean that we give up making it wrong and become more neutral about it. In other words, we accept it as part of being human and part of who we are. I can accept and embrace my bulldozer as one part of the spectrum of my humanness. I don’t have to beat myself up when it comes up, but just own it and apologize when it squashes people.

Here are a few steps to help you love your own ugly and to accept yourself fully:

1. Tell the Truth to Yourself – Before we can shift or change anything, we need to know what we are dealing with. Examine all the thoughts, feelings, and judgments you have about your ugly parts (or some specific ugly part you want to make peace with). It often takes a lot of courage for us to shine a light on something we try to keep in the dark. However, we can’t love or embrace what we can’t see.

2. Be Willing to Give Up the Judgment – Our thoughts and judgments about an ugly part of ourselves can often seem like the “truth.” However, they are just our thoughts and judgments. If we can begin to separate our judgments from the truth, there is space to see something new.

3. Find the Value – Everything has some positive value, even the ugliest stuff. There is a gift, something to appreciate, that this ugly aspect of who you are provides. This is often a difficult step since we have spent so much of our time and energy judging this part of who we are. Although it may be difficult to find, seeing the value of your ugly is the key to finding compassion and forgiveness for yourself.

4. Embrace and Integrate – Once we find the value, we can begin to embrace it for what it gives us rather than hate it for what it takes away. The protective walls containing the ugly part start to fall away. The negative charge around it diminishes. When you embrace and integrate the ugly, you will find more freedom and ease to be your authentic self.

5. Share with Others – Sharing with other people can remind you that you are not alone. Friends and family can also support us by reminding us to love that ugly part when we forget. Sharing can also inspire others to do the same – to love and accept all of who they are.

Please be gentle with yourself as you do this work. It can be quite challenging and vulnerable, but can have a powerful impact on your life in the process. Also remember that you don’t have to do it alone. I often do this work with people I trust since it can be scary to look at the ugly. But, the freedom and peace that comes from doing this, makes it worth it.

Sara Nowlin is a speaker and life coach, specializing in authenticity and self-expression. Her signature program, The Truth about Ugly – Redefining Self-Image, focuses on embracing and owning all of who we are so we can be free to be ourselves. For more information – http://www.saranowlin.com