I gave up making New Year’s resolutions several years ago. “My resolution is to have no resolutions!” I would joke with my friends. This year, however, when I was asked to share my resolution, it suddenly occurred to me that I could have one that would be unbreakable. Since the making of resolutions is so popular, I thought a healthy, forward-thinking, spiritually enlightening option may be something many people might like to adopt. Every worthwhile resolution under the sun could be an extension of this resolution without anyone ever experiencing disappointment for not meeting their goal. It is the simplest of ideas and ties in quite nicely with this blog: My goal is to practice more kindness.
Kindness is something that starts within ourselves. When we practice kindness, we can more easily forgive ourselves for our imperfections and mistakes. Once we begin being kinder towards ourselves, the ripple effect is that we become kinder towards those around us. By practicing kindness more consciously, we set ourselves up for a “no fail” goal. Allow me to elaborate:
Did you lose your patience with someone today? You can be kind by forgiving yourself for lacking empathy in that moment and the next time you interact with that person, you can let them know you wish you had been more patient with them.
Did you skip going to the gym today after promising yourself you would? Kindness means that you acknowledge you lacked motivation and that that’s alright because you are allowed to be human. It allows you to see that you must lead a balanced life and perhaps the schedule you have set for yourself needs to be tweaked in order to make it work better for you.
Did you indulge in foods that you swore to yourself would be off-limits? Kindness allows you to recognize that maybe the constraints you have set for yourself are not realistic. You must give yourself permission to change your approach without feeling as though you have failed.
Did you break your savings goal by spending money on a trivial item? Practicing kindness allows you to see that the frame of mind you have created for yourself may actually be attracting the opposite behavior.
You may notice in the examples given, that part of being kind is being able to forgive yourself and others. I believe it is safe to say that kindness and forgiveness are inextricably linked. It is a sacred relationship wherein one cannot fully exist in its true meaning without the other.
It may be tempting to view this resolution as a cop-out. I beg of you to not fall into that negative-thinking trap. (Forgive yourself if you do.) The reason I stopped making New Year’s resolutions was because it seemed like an unhealthy practice. Something seems scarily wrong to me about January 1st being the magical day when millions of people pour money into gym memberships and vow to replace cookies with miracle health shakes blended in $500 machines. It seems to me that in a way, that approach is the opposite of kindness. While the holidays are intended to bring us together with loved ones and celebrate life, two weeks later we are punishing ourselves for having over-indulged. We go from being generous to others in the giving of our love and gifts, to drastically withholding indulgences and prohibiting ourselves. I am suggesting that the pendulum need not swing so far. Rather, we could choose to appreciate whatever opportunities we had to indulge our loved ones, including ourselves. I firmly believe that the more we promise to prohibit certain activities in order to be healthier is an unhealthy construct and sets us up for failure. Somehow this practice has become ingrained in our culture, but like anything else, we can choose whether or not we wish to participate.
Once you begin to experience the beautiful feeling that practicing kindness towards yourself can bring you, it becomes that much easier to share it with those around you. Each time I forgive myself for not meeting my self-imposed beliefs on how I ought to be living my life, I quite literally feel lighter, as if a weight has been lifted from me. The shift in energy within my body is so tangible, so uplifting, that I cannot help but want to share it with others.
It is at this point when we recognize that not only does this particular resolution benefit ourselves…it actually benefits all those around us. Is that not the best kind of goal? Just think of a time when a conversation with a child, a friend, a colleague, or a lover, has left you feeling like your contribution has someone improved their life. You can feel it in your heart and soul that whatever issue it was that you addressed with that person shed light on their situation and helped them move towards a positive resolution. That is the feeling that consciously practicing kindness brings to you on a heightened level and a more regular basis.
As you witness others struggling with their New Year’s resolutions, I invite you to put this one into action. Demonstrate your kindness by letting them know that they too could adopt this resolution for themselves. Rather than beating themselves up for breaking their goals, they could recognize that perhaps setting up ultimatums for themselves is akin to self-abuse. We are the only species on the planet that punishes ourselves for our failures. We are the only ones who allow ourselves to replay a painful, shameful or embarrassing experience over and over again in our minds. Kindness frees us from these chains and allows us to see each new moment of our day (there is a new one every second!) as a gift. We are spirits having a physical experience on Earth. Let’s allow our spirits to shine and soar and connect with one another.
The next time you find yourself judging others for what you deem to be inappropriate behavior, remind yourself of the following two things. First, practice kindness by forgiving yourself for being judgemental since it can be a powerful habit that is hard to break. Second, forgive the person you have judged since you cannot know why they are behaving the way they are. Our life is ours and ours alone to live. The journey can be as joyful or as painful as we choose to make it. The Dalai Lama said it best, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”