It’s that time of year again when we make New Year’s resolutions, when we vow to make changes. But often we don’t address the deeper, underlying issues in our lives that prevent us from making genuine and positive changes. Instead we end up paying lip service to that which we want, but ignoring what we need. At best we make cosmetic changes, changes that don’t really satisfy us in the long term. It’s like a ship trying to leave port with the anchor down. If 2016 is going to be our best year then that has to change. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to those parts of us – our lives, our relationships, ourselves – that we’d rather not face. Real, lasting and positive changes are seldom easy, but they’re simple, and they are always worth it. Here are 16 simple ways to actually transform your life in the New Year.
1. Tell the truth. First and foremost, tell the truth to yourself. Are you lying to yourself about something? How you really feel about your relationship? Your job? Lying to ourselves robs us of our true power and self worth, and it’s ultimately a destructive habit that never lets us feel truly at home with ourselves and others. Lying to ourselves saves us pain in the short term, but costs us dearly in the long term. It takes courage to tell the truth, and in order to do so we must first discover why we lie to ourselves in the first place. As Freud once said, “Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.”
2. Face the pain. We lie to ourselves to avoid pain, but the truth is what sets us free. It’s normal to want to recoil from pain – it’s in our biology – but sometimes pain can be the greatest catalyst for transformation. Facing pain gives us confidence and depth, and while it might seem like the single most challenging thing you’ve ever done, and while it might seem like it’s the last thing you want to do, it’s essential if we’re going to make true, lasting changes. As Rumi once wrote, “the cure for the pain is in the pain.”
3. Identify what’s holding you back. Underneath every addiction is an unwillingness to face ourselves. As soon as we turn away from our own light, who we truly are, naturally we try to seek it elsewhere. Addiction can take many forms, some more benign than others: approval, money, sex, power. But if we knew that, beneath the addiction, was a call for love, a call for wholeness and our true selves, maybe we could let it go, maybe it would stop running our lives, and maybe it would stop holding us back. Maybe we could be free.
4. Cut out the distractions. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to distract ourselves in moderation, but when we get so distracted that we lose touch with our real lives – wasting countless, precious hours on social media, Netflix or video games – then we’ll eventually end up feeling empty, frustrated and dissatisfied. And if our lives are so unbearable and boring that we need constant distraction, then we had better starting doing some serious reflecting on how we choose to live our lives.
5. Trust yourself. We’re much more intuitive than we give ourselves credit for. Our bodies are always speaking to us, life is always speaking to us – it’s just a matter of paying attention. The reason some of us have trouble navigating through life is not because we lack the ability to, but rather that we just don’t trust ourselves. When we don’t pay attention to our own inner guidance, we make decisions out of fear and impulsivity rather than out of clarity and patience. We’d save ourselves so much trouble if we would simply trust ourselves.
6. Find what satisfies your soul. What satisfies your soul? What makes your soul smile? We spend so much time on what satisfies our senses, which is fine, but sensual pleasures rarely bring the deep, abiding satisfaction that we’re really craving. If you haven’t found it, then it’s time. And if you have found it, but you aren’t making time for it, then it’s definitely time.
7. Stop running away. 2016 is about being done with avoiding ourselves, period. What does it mean to face one’s self? Stop running. Just stop running. We all have our own unique ways of running, of avoiding those parts of our lives and ourselves that we’d really rather not face. It’s an act of tremendous compassion and self love to stop running, to be still. Because only when we stop running to do we have the ability to see that the happiness and fulfillment we truly long for is right through the center of that which we avoid. We can’t run forever, and this is life’s great gift to us: we’re ultimately unable to avoid ourselves.
8. Appreciate every moment. Maybe you can’t enjoy every moment. But you can appreciate all of them. Each small moment. Because that’s what life really is – trillions of small moments. We want the big milestones, the grand achievements. Because hidden in the small, seemingly insignificant moments is the beauty of everyday life. Not extraordinary, but the ordinary is extraordinary. A human being could go his or her whole life waiting for the “big” moment, never realizing that life in fact was one “big” moment, every moment was a “big” moment, every moment was precious.
9. Stop waiting. We’ve been waiting our whole lives haven’t we? Aren’t we sick of waiting? Aren’t we tired of waiting? Waiting for the “right” time, the “right” person, the “right” condition that will allow us to give ourselves permission to be happy, to be completely ourselves? Life is now. The life we want is now and every change we need to make can only happen now.
10. Take responsibility. This is not for the faint of heart. Taking personal responsibility for ourselves – full responsibility – means that we fully accept that our lives, as they are right now, are a result of the sum total of decisions we and we alone have made. We accept this without judgement or blame on ourselves or on others. Maybe we didn’t get the mother or father we wanted, maybe we didn’t get the head start that others did, but we can’t change that. And if we want to start really living a life that matters to us, then we have to accept that responsibility fully from the heart.
11. Stop taking shortcuts. There is no shortcut to success – in any endeavor. Think about this: when has anything truly beneficial, worthwhile, and meaningful ever been achieved without commitment, without discipline? We want everything. We want the success, the money, the body, the relationship, the friends. But when it comes time to give ourselves to what we truly want, we hold back. Very successful people know the real secret to success—steady, consistent devotion and perseverance.
12. Distinguish between what feels good and what is good for you. Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it’s good for you. It’s so easy to just wander around in circles because we’re only allowing ourselves to be pulled toward what feels good. Sometimes the most important things we need to do or see are not going to initially make us feel good.
13. Give up what you are, for what you will become. Just like the monkey who can’t grab ahold of the next swinging vine until he lets go of the one he is holding onto, some parts of us have to be let go of before we can grow into who we truly are and move forward. We have to be willing to sacrifice things that might seem very difficult to let go of – maybe it’s a person, maybe it’s a job, but usually it’s just our familiar sense of identity that we’re the most afraid to let go of. Who would we be without the old, fearful, repetitive, and conditioned patterns and ways of thinking and being?
14. Live your truth, be your truth. 2016 is about living your truth; not your parent’s truth, not your friend’s truth, and not society’s truth. You want to help save the world? Then let your life be a testament to that truth, to the truth of who you are, every single moment of every single day.
15. Forget about yourself. We’re all more or less suffering from a sort of benign self-obsession aren’t we? This phenomenon is usually called being “self-conscious.” If you want to take the fun out of anything, just be self-conscious about it. Isn’t it such a relief to not always be thinking about ourselves? Everything we do for fun is so that we can forget about ourselves. Notice that anytime we begin thinking too much about ourselves, or the “narrative” of our lives, we totally lose the joy of right now, we lose the fullness of life. It’s an incredibly heavy burden to carry. Just drop yourself and just see how light you feel, how free.
16. Lighten up. Need I say more?