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Tuesday, 28 January 2020 14:00
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It’s still early days, but for many of us our New Year’s resolutions have already started going the way they usually do – south. Well, a pox on them. There, I said it!

Wake-up call coach, Amy Ahlers, says that goal setting rarely works. “You know the feeling of setting the same goal year after year after year with little results. It can actually become a cycle of self-bullying when this happens, leading to lower self-esteem and self-trust.”

So, what does work? Amy says the game changer is focusing on who you want to be and become this year. Only then will your actions, habits and thoughts follow suit and will real change come about.

This change happens from the inside out. Teri Uktena says that all ‘shoulds’, on the other hand, come from outside of us. You should do more of this or less of that; you should be harder on yourself or kinder to yourself; you should have this kind of success and definitely that kind of weight, blah-blah-blah.

Teri says that ‘shoulds’ are messages from others about what is considered normative and we are constantly told that adjusting ourselves to these norms will have positive effects for us. ‘Shoulds’ are sold to us as being for our highest good, which improves the chances that we will integrate them into the tapestry of our lives.  

“They are presented as a means to improve our lives, to make things better, as goals to strive for and as a means to give us a happy life,” says Teri. “They come across as constructive criticism which helps to support us in correcting errors, avoiding negative tendencies, and moving in a positive direction.”

The thing is, when you look closely at most ‘shoulds’, you’d see that they’re not geared to make us better. “They come from cultural sources which create an ideal body image, family and friends making comments, others joyfully talking about what works for them and can work for you, all messaging what they want, what they need, what they think, how they feel. All asking you to engage to affirm their opinion and meet their needs,” Teri says.

What eventually happens is that ‘shoulds’ become a measuring stick that evaluates us as lacking, less than, in need of remedial attention. And this, she says, is often what drives our concept of New Year’s resolutions. You look at all the ‘shoulds’ you fall short of, pick a couple of them and tell yourself that this is the year in which you’ll start measuring up.

“If we relinquish our power to others, accept the ‘shoulds’ at face value and as more important than our own knowing and wisdom, then we will set goals which do not match what we need, which set us up to fail, which reiterate our inabilities and reconfirm our brokenness,” says Teri.

And you are not broken, girlfriend. You’ll see that when you go within rather than moving outside towards ‘shoulds’. Friedrich Nietzsche writes that the individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. “If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

But, you see, even the most independently minded of us needs to belong. It comes from our cave days. We’re biologically tuned into the notion that to be kicked out of the tribe would result in certain death. The answer would, of course, be to find another tribe – your own tribe.

Lissa Rankin writes that she spent much of her life tiptoeing around her desire to find a group of people among whom she could be unconditionally loved and accepted, while staying in alignment with her true nature.

How to do that? The only way to find “your people” is to be yourself. If you’re pretending to be someone you’re not, you’re going to find yourself in a tribe that has nothing in common with the authentic you.

But what does “be yourself” mean? It starts with doing the things you love to do. Are you artistic? Then take an art class this year. Do you love animals? Then go volunteering at a shelter. That’s where you’ll find them. The ones you can show your “big ugly tail” to. Together you’ll save each other from a year of ‘shoulds’.

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