New Years Resolutions & Some Personal Enlightenment

It’s that time of year when people make resolutions to start over and become a new and improved versions of themselves, usually with a side of encouragement from the advertising and media world, so they can sell you a ton of things that are about as guaranteed to help you reach those resolutions as you’re guaranteed to still be keeping them two weeks or a month later.

The New Years Resolution tradition is alive and well in Japan, too.  In Japanese they’re called shinnen hōfu. I suppose everyone has resolutions.  Or more specifically, everyone has things they’d like to change about themselves to become whatever perfect ideal of themselves they’ve conjured up that only exists inside of their heads.  With New Years Resolutions, I often find myself straddling a fine line between that ideal and reality, or between self-improvement and not being able to accept and love myself the way I am.

I guess you could say the biggest motivation behind wanting to improve myself is due to the responsibilities I have to others in my life.  Especially in Japan, the concept of duty is a very strong one.  I have a duty to my husband, family, friends, and job to be better so I can do better.  At the same time, I’m only human and as a human I make mistakes and have my own faults.   Even though I’m not perfect, I still want to be loved for the way I am at this moment and not for some perfect ideal that I have the potential to be, or may never become.  So like most people I usually find myself making resolutions at the beginning of the year in order to find some kind of common ground between the two.

Occasionally I get disappointed at myself for not being anywhere closer to perfection, and fall into a funk.  This is the point I was at during the end of last year.  That point where the amount of things I want to change about myself causes me to take for granted all the great things I can do and have in my life.  All those things turned into a mountain of pesky first world problems that I know were trivial, but I couldn’t stop from piling up.  Then everything came crashing down and I felt like I didn’t have any motivation left to even do the most basic of tasks like going to work and taking care of the house.  Of course I did these things because I had to, but just fulfilling basic expectations alone seemed to suck most of my energy up.  I needed a break and was desperately counting down the days until the holidays so I could work on getting out of my mind mess.

When the holidays finally came I think I slept for about two days straight, until I was too bored not to do something, and then started to read.  When I read I feel like my problems don’t have time to swim around in my head if I’m enthralled in another world somewhere else, and novels have a way of revealing better insight than I had going in on the reality of my situation.  Like killing two birds with one stone, as the famous Japanese proverb goes.  So I did a lot of reading over the break, including a book called The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty, and this gem of a quote seemed to jump right off the page.

Love is a decision?

That’s right. A decision. Not a feeling.

Although this particular quote was describing staying married, I think it can be applied to the process of making resolutions and changing yourself for the better.

In past years I’ve made many resolutions to myself, but never written them down.  Some people think that showing your resolutions to the world somehow makes you more accountable for them if you know people will be watching for the results.  I’ve personally always felt that showing them to the world doesn’t validate the possibility of accomplishing them any more or less than keeping them to yourself, because the only real obstacle to anything is yourself.  So I decided to put that fact in perspective.

Only I can decide whether the things I want to improve will improve by the end of 2014, and only I can decide whether I can love myself and appreciate everything I have (my assets and flaws) or if I’m going to let my feelings try to hold me back.  My feelings or good intentions aren’t going to get me where I want to go.  My feelings and good intentions aren’t going to decide whether I’m worthless or valuable in the eyes of the important people around me who matter most.

Therefore, this year I’m going to decide to do my best and not let my mood get the best of me.  Hopefully with this state of mind, my best efforts will yield the results I want them to.  If I stumble along the way I’m going to pick myself up again, accept my faults for what they are, and keep on going.  Perhaps this is the most challenging “resolution” I’ve ever made, but I also think it’s one of the most important.  It’s only once I get past the obstacle of myself that I can start attaining my goals.

For all of you who visit my humble blog, I’d like to extend my sincere wishes that you have a “Happy New Year!”.  May you be blessed with the peace to carry you through this year safely into the next.  And may peace stay with you, even if you don’t accomplish everything on your resolution checklist. 😉

– J

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