The turn of the New Year is discouraging to me. It always is. I know there are things I need to change, things I want to change. I have made resolutions year after year, but you know and I know that in the end no matter what I do I will still be … me. I can see it in people’s looks when I say, “this year’s going to be different;” they don’t believe anything will change. I have made some big mistakes in my life, things I regret, I really do regret them – they hang over me like a cloud dripping oily reminders that I have ruined my life and am reaping what I’ve sown. I can’t seem to get clean, and I find myself pretty closed up – it’s like I’m a house that’s been abandoned but the closets are stuffed full with old, rotting, dusty, dying clutter. What’s the point in another year of defeat?
Your past mistakes have hijacked your belief that you are capable of becoming a better person. This has nothing to do with New Year’s resolutions. This has to do with your year-round perception that you are damaged beyond repair. That simply isn’t true.
Whether you’re contemplating how you’ll be different in the coming year or for the rest of your life, looking forward too far in the future can be overwhelming. We are too honest about our struggles as humans to realistically believe that we’ll make meaningful and long-term changes in the span of a year.
Instead, I vote you stick with the old adage of “one day at a time.” This viewpoint became popular with recovering alcoholics in Alcoholics Anonymous when they realized that they only had to stay sober for one day at a time. Tomorrow is a new day and they can learn from the lessons of the previous day.
If you only examine your life once a year, you’re going to have difficulty making meaningful changes. I’m all for planning things we want to do better in the coming year; but, in reality, the actual execution of these goals will happen the same way all real change happens – one day at a time.
If your life feels like an abandoned house full of old clutter, then changing your life will happen the same way you would clean up the abandoned house – one trash bag at a time.
For some, even one day at a time seems like a long time, so they break it down moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour. Accountability and progress can be measured in just about any increment that works to show progress.
In fact, I’m thankful day turns into night every day. It’s a visible marker to let me know when to stop, rest, reassess, and try again when the light comes the following morning.
I’m in the business of change and work daily with good men and women who resolve to be better. They show up in my office throughout the year, resolving to change things about themselves and their circumstances that are holding them back. Some have made unspeakable errors they fear others will discover. Others are simply sick of being stuck in unhealthy patterns. Either way, my job is the same: to help them see their potential for improvement.
You can change. It doesn’t matter how bad things are in your life today. There may be consequences you have to live with that are daily reminders of your mistakes. But, the reality is that you are capable of change.
It takes courage and humility to admit our defeat and face a new direction. The New Year is one marker to review your life. Don’t let the New Year’s marker distract you from the moment-by-moment and day-by-day markers that can give you hope as you build a brighter future.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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