How I Feel About New Year's Resolutions
Why I gave up self-improvement
During these first few weeks of January, discussions on New Year’s resolutions permeate coffee shops, facebook statuses, blogs and tweets. Although I hate to rely on social networking, just in case you and I do not have the opportunity to bond over coffee, I have decided that I will divulge my take on New Year’s resolutions right here on Hub Pages.
As a recovered self-help book junkie, I’ve made countless resolutions on January 1st, as well as throughout the year. Perhaps I’ve become old and jaded, but these days, I regard my resolve towards self-improvement with reservation and scepticism. Over the course of my life, I’ve seen myself achieve numerous goals and projects whose achievements I felt were contingent to my happiness and self-worth. I’ve attained perfect grades, followed perfect diets, moved into awesome apartments and arrived at the set benchmarks that were supposed to mark the beginning of everlasting peace and fulfillment. Unfortunately, none of my accomplishments would redeem or heal my life as long as they were inspired by self-deprecation and self-rejection. As I frequently like to repeat, nobody ever achieved inner peace by calling herself a piece of shit.
Every morning, my yoga practice reminds me that no positive outcome or success will guarantee serenity and joy. When I was first introduced to yoga, I saw people going upside down and I thought, “Wow, if I ever learn how to do this, I don’t see how anything in the world could ever bother me.” After a terrifying process of quite a few years, I finally figured out the upside down thing. To my dismay, circumstances in life continued to bother me. For instance, I was intensely jealous of other practitioners at the yoga studio. They could easily, beautifully and gracefully stand up from Urdhva Dhanurasana, the quintessential backbend that begins the closing sequence of Ashtanga Yoga. I realized that I was wrong about going upside down. The real cure for life existed in standing up from a backbend. For several months, I devoted my life to this endeavour. Lo and behold, there came a day, when I pushed off of my hands and down through my heels and I stood up. Thanks goodness, I thought, now life can begin.
I absolutely believe that learning these yoga postures has its physical benefits helped me to develop perseverance and confidence that I can tap into during other endeavours. Nevertheless, it was rather naïve of me to think that “performing” a physical posture would provide me with a cure for life. I mean, maybe once karandavasana becomes less of a gong show, and I can fold into lotus while balancing on my forearms, lift back up again, straighten my legs, jump back into chaturanga… THEN, the unrelenting riches of the cosmos will be mine. However, if I am wise, I will not count on this. Just as nobody ever achieved inner peace by calling herself a piece of shit, nobody ever accessed the unrelenting riches of the cosmos through the possession of something outside of herself.
That said, we all need our dreams. There is hardly anything more exciting than working towards something new and inspiring that you’ve always dreamed of, but never thought possible. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that we renounce all of our goals and surrender to a year of sitting on the couch with HBO. If you’ve always wanted to floss every day, drink more green smoothies, take up a new instrument, write your novel, learn a new language, or stand on your head, I say, make your resolution and go for it. Just be sure to make this resolution, not from a place of inadequacy and self-punishment, but from an attitude of delight, excitement and self-love. Otherwise, the day you can finally stand on your head and speak perfect Portuguese through lovely pearly whites, you will not experience the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that you had dreamed of. For though your mouth will be free from plaque, your heart will be empty of joy.