New Year’s Day always sneaks up on me. The weeks before Christmas are so busy and exciting that I don’t think much about the upcoming new year. Then suddenly it’s New Year’s Day, so I scribble down a few resolutions that, even as I write them, I know will probably last—at max— a week. Nothing like starting off a new year in a shame cycle, am I right?
But last year around New Year’s, a yoga teacher said something that changed how I approach self-reflection at the end of the year. We were all lying on our backs meditating (everyone’s favorite part of a yoga workout) when the teacher suggested we make a list of things we were not going to change about ourselves. She invited us to look inward and find attributes we love and determine not to lose them.
Isn't that refreshing? I lay there on my sweaty yoga mat and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
As the commercial world begins to blow its promises of a newer, thinner, smarter, more organized, happier you, it is nice to remember that not everything needs to change. Of course goals and progression are important, but in the season of New Year’s resolutions it can be easy to get wrapped up in what Elder Neal A. Maxwell dubbed “the demanding cadence called for by the cares of the world.”
You already have Christlike attributes and talents that are worth protecting. You are good, right now. Instead of jumping into 2022 by trying to address our every flaw, let’s take a minute to enjoy in the positive changes 2021 brought.
I believe the Savior wants us to recognize our goodness because it will help us recognize how He is working in our lives. I love this story this story Sister Cheryl A. Esplin shared once in general conference (we should all be chasing experiences like this):
“One Sunday after [one woman’s] self-evaluation, she began to feel gloomy and pessimistic. She could see that she was making the same errors over and over again, week to week. But then she had a distinct impression that she was neglecting a big part of the Atonement—Christ’s enabling power. She was forgetting all the times the Savior helped her be who she needed to be and serve beyond her own capacity.
“With this in mind, she reflected again on the previous week. She said: ‘A feeling of joy broke through my melancholy as I noted that He had given me many opportunities and abilities. I noted with gratitude the ability I had to recognize my child’s need when it wasn’t obvious. I noted that on a day when I felt I could not pack in one more thing to do, I was able to offer strengthening words to a friend. I had shown patience in a circumstance that usually elicited the opposite from me.’
“She concluded: ‘As I thanked God for the Savior’s enabling power in my life, I felt so much more optimistic toward the repentance process I was working through and I looked to the next week with renewed hope.’”
Renewed hope. Isn’t that what we all want the new year to bring? Not more frustration over the messy garage or missed trips to the gym. Let’s remember to celebrate the steps we’ve already taken forward, not just berate ourselves over what should happen next.
Too often we look back at our younger selves and grimace over things we said, did, or even just thought about, forgetting that we are the ones that got us where we are now. This New Year's Day I am going to look back on 2021 with gratitude the good habits I picked up (even if they might be few), for the friends I made, and the person I tried to become. Not everything went smoothly this year, but there was some progress that deserves my attention.
Here’s what I’m going to do if you’d care to join: Pull out a piece of paper and write down to at least ten adjectives or short phrases that describe your goodness. Simple words like “generous” or “enthusiastic” and little phrases like, “I notice others.” Then make a list of 10 things you did for the first time this year, anything from parallel parking to talking to a new person at Church. And finally, list 10 of your favorite days this year and why they were good ones. (Pro tip: all of this is even more fun when done with a couple glitter gel pens.)
I'll probably still end up making a list of resolutions this year. And who knows—maybe some of them will even happen. But as I set out into the journey of 2022, I’m intentionally inviting all the goodness of 2021 along for the ride.
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