Hello, New Year. I see you — all blank and spacious and full of promise. You make me look so good.
But, let’s be honest. I’ve promised my way through so many of you that I don’t trust this feeling anymore. My staying power rarely matches the initial fervor of my intentions, and so I always end up looking like crap.
It’s not that I don’t have good goals. It’s just that every year, the priorities that were so clear that first, clean day…I don’t know, they just get eclipsed by — life. Rationalizations take over. Excuses. Reasons. And because I never say my resolutions out loud to anyone, no one is the wiser when I don’t keep them. So when I make this statement, “This year, for real, I’m going to (fill in the blank),” it’s lost its punch.
Only here I am, feeling that same fervor, wanting to make promises again. And here I am with this seasoned feeling of distrust. What to do? After sitting with it for a couple weeks, a sweet ritual came to me that you might want to try, too: “The Rose and the Rock.”
The rose could be any flower really, just pick the one that you love best. Then appreciate the beauty of this rose, knowing for certain it will die soon, no matter how well you care for it. This rose represents the feelings we have as we make our promises in the New Year. The temptation is to discount them because they fade. But these feelings are crucial. They are the lit match to the kindling of our commitments. Without them, the fire of action would never jump up into the logs. Without them, we’d never make it to the next step. Which is the rock.
I have a collection of small white rocks (you can use anything , but I use these), and a black permanent marker. With a measured mind and a tender heart, take a moment to identify the intentions you hold for the New Year. Write them down on the rocks you’ve chosen. Each promise will live on its own rock. These rocks represent what you will do regardless of how you feel about it in the moment. They represent what you will do after the initial fervor has died down and you don’t care anymore like you used to.
For instance, I want to have completed the second draft of a book I’m writing by August 31st, so on one rock I will write “Book.” And on another, I will write “Yoga” for the daily yoga practice I want to reestablish. You get the idea.
Now that you have both elements, the rose and the rock, tend to the rose as mindfully as possible while she lasts. And keep the rocks in your pocket into March, July, October and beyond. This way, you can honor the dedication felt at the beginning of any good endeavor — and also honor the discipline required to bring any good endeavor to fruition.
One last note, perhaps the most important: plan to fail a little. Plan to execute these promises imperfectly. And plan to get right back in the game, every time you fumble.
And by the way, this isn’t just me talking here. It actually works. I did this last year, and now I have an entire first draft of a novel to show for it. So give it a shot! What do you want for yourself this year, for real? Offer that intention a flower. Write it down on a little rock that you carry in your pocket for the whole year…and see what happens!
May we feel the fervor of our new beginnings. And may we develop a tolerance for tedium, so we can bring all our worthy intentions to fruition.