Wouldn’t it be great to begin the new year with a brand new way of being? I bet that sounds scary. Just typing this makes me a bit nervous. Would it be better if we committed to releasing unhealthy habits, challenging behaviors and wrong thinking patterns, together?
Have you pondered how much better life could be if you made an effort to change those things that don’t work anymore? There is not magic time to take action. It does not have to be at the start of a new year. But, the new year gives us a reason, a new starting point in a way, to get our act together. It offers a new chance to begin, again.
I must confess, I kinda had an early start on my process (well just a few days ago to be exact). My family and I participated in a winter solstice celebration this weekend. We gathered with a small group of community members and friends to celebrate the first official day of winter, December 21, 2018 (well, actually we met on the 22nd, but who's counting).December 21st was the shortest day and the longest night of the year. That day also symbolizes the rebirth or resurrection of the new sun (son).
We sat around a warm crackling fire, under the soft tones of a live flutist and the gentle sounds of a handmade steel drum from India, reflecting on the things to leave behind. We wrote down what we wanted to let go of on a small piece of paper. Then, one by one, we chanted a Hoʻoponopono mantra (a Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness), placing our small pieces of paper in the fire. After everyone put their paper in the blazing fire, we then set our new intentions on the things, thoughts, and behaviors that we intend to manifest in 2019. With my pen in hand, my intentions poured out on to the journal pages that I brought along with me. I was pleasantly surprised by quantity of stuff I wanted to leave behind and excited about the prospect of bringing forth a better 2019!
In that meditative, introspective space, it became crystal clear that our collective yearnings to release and let go were universal in nature. We all simply wanted to be better human beings.In keeping with the collective spirit of that gathering, I decided to compile a list to help you let go of what could be holding you back. Its apparent that most of us want to be and do better, so wouldn’t it be nice to do it together? After all, “A rising tide lifts all boats” so lets rise together into 2019 shall we?.
Here’s my list of ten simple (but not easy, I admit) actions or behaviors to discontinue and eliminate before entering into 2019. Imagine a world where we actively work to leave this toxic junk behind. Maybe I’m a dreamer but this may be just what we need toward the journey of enlightenment, peace and joy.
Begin with the end in mind~ Stephen Covey
Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Comparing ourselves to others only serves to rob us of our happiness and worthiness. When we compare ourselves to other people‘s success we downplay or overlook what we have achieved. When we compare ourselves to other people‘s appearance we overlook what makes us uniquely beautiful. When we compare ourselves to other people’s actions we discredit our own impact on people's lives.. When we compare our bank accounts with our friends’ we underestimate what we already have and block the flow of our own abundance.
Tip: When we find ourselves comparing ourselves to others, try taking a break from what you are doing, step back (or log off) and write down the things that make you special and unique. Try reciting your unique attributes or character traits out loud. Look in the mirror and stare deep in your eyes every day until the need to compare dissipates. Remember that “Everybody is unique. Compare not yourself with anyone else lest you spoil Gods’ curriculum”~ Baal Shem Tov
We are all guilty of this at some point in time. We live in a society that loves to distinguish one thing from another; categorizing and sorting things that matter to us. We are encouraged (sometimes forcibly) to rate our experience at restaurants, a movie, books we’ve read, hair salons and even our professors performances online. We feverishly look out for likes, thumbs up and hearts on social media. We are encouraged to keep score and then when things don’t line up or benefit us in some way, we cast judgement. But if we are not careful, judgement can hold us hostage to always seeking reasons to poke holes in what people are saying or doing. Judging others says more about us than it does about the other person. It tells others that we are in pain. It demonstrates our own self judgement. Judgement is bondage and does not reflect compassion or freedom.
Tip: Remember to get off of your high horse because no one is perfect, including you. Notice and speak about (with as much detail as you do when you are in judgement) what is good, first. Eventually, that is all that you will notice. Stop judging yourself so harshly. Once you master self compassion, judgement will slowly dissipate.
You better believe that most people who harshly criticize others, harshly criticize themselves. A person who is kind and gentle with themselves is not the same person who judges and condemns others. Criticism tells us a story about the critic, more than it does about the criticized. It’s likely that your family was highly critical growing up. Yeah, I get it, but you are all grown up now, and you can determine how you move in this world. Your family’s behavior (no matter how ingrained) doesn’t destine you to a life of criticism unless you allow it.
Tip: Evaluating a situation is not the same as criticism. When we evaluate, we stick to the facts and not attack the character of the person, such as ,”Mary was 15 minutes late to the movies” versus “Mary is always late, it’s no wonder she doesn’t have friends!”. Take notice of your criticisms of others (no, really take notice) and work toward decreasing how often you criticize others on a daily basis. If it is challenging to come up with your criticisms, try asking a close friend or family member. Ask them to give you a signal that you are being far too critical, such as a soft tap on the shoulder or a raised eyebrow when you criticize others. Make a list of your criticisms each night, you just might be shocked how often you criticize others. But whatever you do, don’t criticize yourself. Just recognize that you are working on yourself and like anything worth doing, it takes time and practice. A mantra that you might find helpful is “Every day in every way, I am getting better and better”.
Procrastination is a form of resistance and self sabotage. We sometimes resist moving forward despite saying that we want to reach goals. We create long to-do lists before we attempt do the very thing that we desire. We constantly take long winding detours that make it almost impossible to reach our stated goals. We make excuses, lie to ourselves, and build barriers that push us further away from what really matters. Procrastination may also be a sign of perfectionism. Perfectionists seek to do things perfectly and if it doesn’t happen perfectly, we put it off for a later time.
Tip: Keep in mind that “done is better than perfect”. Try imagining that you have the courage to go directly to your goal. Explore what life would be like if you were to obtain your goal(s). Create a mental movie of your life as if you are already at your goal. Notice any barriers and destroy them. Now, notice a clear road to your destination. Ask yourself what purpose does procrastination serve in your life. Notice what you are feeling. Scan for any anxiety or fear that may come up when you see yourself manifesting your desires. Remember that the shortest distance between point A and point B is a straight line. In other words, get rid of the detours and go straight there, it doesn’t have to be perfect! Remember that “Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.”~ Napoleon Hill
This is the cousin of judgement and the aunt of criticism. Talking about other people in unflattering ways, incidentally lowers our own self-esteem. Not just that, but it informs people about how we really feel about our own selves. Gossiping is a very low vibrational activity. It lowers our vibrational frequency, sending us into a downward negative abyss of guilt and remorse. This behavior can also cause energetic harm to the person on the receiving end of the gossip as more and more people buy into the lies, creating a toxic energy around the victim of the persecution. Gossiping detracts us from looking within at our own junk. We avoid healing our own problems by focusing on the perceived flaws of others. When our loved ones realize that we are a gossiper, they will not truly reveal themselves to us. They will fear judgement and persecution even if we assure them that we would never gossip about them. They won’t believe us.
Tip: My mother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice then, shhhh.. say nothing”. This came from a childhood Disney movie and still rings true today. There’s no need to broadcast someones shortcomings or flaws. Remember, it says more about us when we gossip and spread unflattering information about someone. Stop wasting your time and energy berating someone else, but instead read a good book, learn a new hobby or join a club. Keeping busy will distract you from what other people are doing and it will bring the focus back where it belongs, on you!
Shame is when we think, “I am bad” versus guilt that says, “I did something bad”. Shame is not being able to separate ourselves from wrongful acts or behaviors. We become what is wrong or bad. Shame can cause us to feel damaged beyond repair or that our whole self is wrong, broken or defective.Sometimes when we are reared in families that make us feel unwanted, devalued or undeserving, it creates shame. Other people's behaviors can create shame too such as molestation, sexual assaults, etc., if you blame yourself for what happened. Shame can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as substance use, domestic violence, verbal/physical abuse, eating disorders and even road rage.
Tip: Practice loving kindness meditation; practice self compassion and self acceptance; practice self forgiveness; establish your worth by doing things that bring out your creative genius; and see a therapist to process your feelings of shame.
7. Inner Critic
The inner critic is the child of shame. When we are criticized as youngsters we grow up to internalize our own inner critic. The things once said by someone else have been taken over by our subconscious mind, which does it automatically and repeatedly. If left unchecked, your inner critic can and will run amuk and cause dissatisfaction, dis-comfort and dis-ease in your life. Sometimes the inner critic is there to keep you away from harm. It may have been there initially to protect you, but if not dealt with, it can become pathological, causing more harm than good.
Tip: Become aware of your inner critic. Listen to what is says or wants you to know. Tell it that you no longer need it to keep you safe. Tell your inner critic that there is no reason to be afraid anymore. Deliberately change your inner critic into your inner coach. Teach your inner coach how to encourage, applaud and cheer you on. The more you engage your inner coach, the quieter your inner critic becomes.
8. Scarcity Mindset
Some people refer to poverty as a generational curse. I think about this when I watch the old television sitcom, Good Times. No matter how kind they were, how much they prayed, how hard they worked, they could not get out of the ghetto! It’s no wonder that a scarcity mindset runs rampant in some families.Limited access to resources, financial illiteracy and institutional racism all play a major role in the development of our money mindset. It determines our relationship to money and the lack thereof. So what is your money story? Our experiences help to create our money story. What did you believe about money and wealth as a child? Was your parents relationship to money healthy or not? Did you learn that money was unattainable and only for the wealthy? Were you taught that rich people were greedy? Did your parents struggle and complain about money all of the time? Did your mother say things like, “I have to rob Peter to pay Paul”?
Transforming the scarcity mindset takes time and a little bit of effort but it’s well worth it. Hey now, it won’t happen overnight because feelings of lack can run pretty deep down into our cellular memory.
Tip: Commit to daily affirmations to shift how you talk and think about abundance, such as “money is always flowing in my life” or “I am a money magnet”. Create your own money rituals around the house. Read books about the energy and vibration of money. Give thanks every time you pay your bills (remember that you consumed the electricity, gas and water, so pay for it with a smile and be grateful that it was available to you!). Remember that what you track will increase, so track your money daily (check bank account for deposits and balances daily, know where your money is going, etc). Give thanks for every coin you find lying around in your home or car. Begin managing the money that you have now, don’t wait. Collect random coins with gratitude and give thanks for even a penny. Speak with an abundance vocabulary and get rid of old sayings we learned from our mothers and grandmothers like, “money don’t grow on trees”. To help shift a scarcity mindset practice saying Stephen Covey’s quote, “ I am not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions”
9. Road Rage
Road rage is when we overreact to another driver with excessive aggression, hostility or rage. When we experience road rage we may yell, curse, and drive rapidly to avoid or cut off the offending driver. We lose ourselves in road rage and forget our loving and kind nature in those moments. We think that the other driver is deliberately trying to hurt us. We forget that the other driver could be driving hastily because a pregnant wife is about to deliver a baby at the hospital or they may be driving a sick parent in need of medical attention. Sometimes drivers are simply not in a good emotional head space after being notified about an impending divorce or learning that a loved one just died. When we have road rage, we forget our humanity. We forget that there is an actual person in the car and not just a lump of heavy metal on wheels out to disrupt our morning.
Tip: Don’t take it personally, people are doing their very best to get where they are going, it’s not about you.Try sending love and compassion instead of giving them the finger. See the the driver as a real life human being just like you. Remind yourself that the driver could be your neighbor, doctor, therapist, minister or aging parent. “If you are irritated with every rub, then how will you ever get polished”~ Rumi
Do you operate from a fear-based perspective or strength-based one? When rooted in fear, we come from a place of separation and lack. Separated from who or what you ask? For some this means being separated from Source Energy, Universal Consciousness, God, Holy Spirit, etc. Living in constant fear can be toxic to our energy field. It drains us emotionally and spiritually and keeps us from attending to our highest and best good.
Neuroscience says that fear is activated in the amygdala, the fear center of the brain. The amygdala is wired to detect threats. It is linked to the major parts of the brain including the hippocampus which affects how we form memories. Our memories affect our motivation and our decision making (ie, fear of failure). Fear can drain our mental energy. We cannot be in a space of fear and peace at the same time because one ignites the amygdala (fear center) and the other stimulates the prefrontal cortex (CEO of the brain).
Tip: Marianne Williamson said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”. When we activate positive emotions, we can neutralize our fear brain. Thinking positive thoughts and having positive emotions help to calm down the amygdala in the brain. Remember that when we experience fear, it cannot coexist with love energy, so try choosing love when fear shows up. “Do the thing we fear, and death of fear is certain.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
So as you go into 2019, remember these words, "Let go of yesterday. Let today be a new beginning and be the best that you can, and you'll get to where God wants you to be".~Joel Osteen
Gena Golden is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, professional development trainer, certified life coach and author. She received her Bachelors of Social Work (BSW) from Temple University and her Masters of Social Work (MSW) from Clark Atlanta University School of Social Work.
Mrs. Golden has a holistic therapy practice in Atlanta, GA. that embraces a mind, body and soul centered approach to healing. She uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Solution Focused Therapy to help her clients defeat unhealthy thinking patterns and learn new behaviors to reach desired goals.