As the new year arrives, we hear all sorts of advice. We need to eat better, exercise more, be nicer to people, travel more often, spend time with people we love, find a new job, save more money, and the list goes on and on. Most of these goals are big ones. They can feel scary. They require us to dive in full-force to them. We plan to quit things cold turkey. We will make decisive choices.
I don’t know about you, but rarely do I wake up on New Year’s Day with more motivation, more energy, more focus, or more knowledge than I had yesterday. While the year I write in my checkbook or in my calendar is different, I’m not a fundamentally different person on January 1st. Yet, in some ways I expect myself to be.
We treat the new year like we’re going to be new people and automatically be able to do new things. We look at the midnight countdown clock like it possesses some fairytale magic – when the clock strikes twelve instead of turning into a pumpkin we turn into more motivated versions of ourselves.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news – but we don’t live in a fairy tale.
That may sound like the opposite of what you want to hear on the first few days of the year when you are trying to find motivation to tackle your goals. You want to believe that you are different. Because if we don’t, then we remember our flaws and our failures. We remember our fears of what kept us from moving forward in the past. We remember our “old” selves. And all of this is frightening because it’s the very thing that can keep us from becoming our new, “better” selves.
What if at midnight instead of changing ourselves we use it as a beginning. A beginning of a mindset shift. A first step. Much like a toddler learning to walk, what if we give ourselves grace to fall here and there and not be ready to run a marathon the moment we take our first step. What if we grow into new people and not just wake up new people.
Beginnings can be scary. You might not know where to start. Take a baby step. If you’re scared, invite someone along on the journey. Sometimes it takes more than just you. Reach out to a therapist or a pastor to help you get connected with someone who is skilled in walking your new adventure with you. You don’t have to be alone as you face the unknown mountains and dreams you see ahead. Someone with a fresh perspective can give you a new angle to try your first steps. Or that person on the journey with you can serve as your cheerleader, encouraging you when you trip or feel as though you’re falling behind.
So, as you take your first step, I encourage you to focus on the beginning (not just the end goal) and find someone to journey with you. Remember, you’re not magic – you’re human. And that’s okay. We won’t be perfect in our attempts towards our goals, but it’s about continuing to move forward.
When the clock struck midnight, don’t look elsewhere for the magic. It’s about the first step. You’ve got this.