Happy 2018! Do You Have a Theme?

When I was a pre-teen, I would spend New Year’s Eve with my grandmother.  She would sleep over to be with me and my younger sibling while our parents celebrated with friends.  For me, it was a highlight of the holiday season.  After everyone else was in bed, Nana and I would spend the evening watching TV–alternating between Guy Lombardo and Dick Clarke’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.  At midnight, we’d “be” in Times Square watching the magic of the ball dropping and a new year beginning.

Snap Shots of Our Lives

Certain life stages often become equated with a particular event.  For some people, hearing a certain song will immediately transport them back to memories of a high school friend or their first summer job. For others, the smell of a favourite food reminds them of summers at a cottage or time spent in a grandparent’s kitchen.

Annual events, like New Year’s Eve, can lead us to revisit past times.  If you’re old enough to remember the more than a few opportunities that you brought in the new year, you can track your life stages by your memories.  Each stage has its own flavour–from being the child allowed to stay up and watch the ball drop, to the parties with friends or extended family, to sharing the event with the children in your life.  This is just one example.  Everyone has their own story.  Not all the chapters may be happy ones; in fact, some may be very painful–but they are our own personal stories, and looking back at them can provide insight into how we arrived to this place.

An Alternative to New Year’s Resolutions

Last year at this time, I wrote a post about the problems with setting New Year’s resolutions.  This year, I offer an alternative–The Annual Theme!

The idea behind having a theme is that it sets a course for the year, without tying us down to specific actions.  Instead of “thou shalt not”, we can be kinder to ourselves by choosing activities that fit into an area where we would like to focus.

An Example

One of the big resolutions that come up at this time is about losing weight.  If we follow the “resolution” way of working on this goal, we might banish junk food from our cupboards, hold ourselves to a strict gym schedule, and count fat grams and/or calories…we may even try the latest trendy diet.  Often, by the end of January we find ourselves to be tired, resentful and craving large doses of sugar, fat and salt. We are left feeling that we have failed yet another resolution, with a plan to try again next year.

But what if?….

Let’s take the same goal (losing weight), and instead of being fixed on this outcome, took a look at the bigger picture–health.  Maybe our motivation to lose weight is from a beauty perspective (and that’s ok, we all want to look good!), but for a lot of us, there is also a health component to this desire.  We want to feel better, be able to run up a flight of stairs or go for a walk without running out of breath.

If health becomes the theme for the year, then we look at all our decisions through that lens. By doing this, we change our actions because we are comparing possible outcomes of choices against improving our health.  Walk a block to the store or take the car?  Which will improve my health?  Eat the second piece of cake or walk away from the table?  How will this effect my health?

Over time, looking through the lens becomes easier and the choices second nature because we start to see how those small, daily choices reflect our annual theme.

Another Reasons Why a Theme is a Good Idea

When we set resolutions, we often spread ourselves very thin.  Sometimes we “resolve” to change every bad habit that we own.  We’re going to quit smoking, lose weight, get off the couch, rid our homes of clutter…the list is endless.  It takes a lot of energy trying to keep up with all those plans and activities.

When we pick a theme, we focus on one area–and then make individual choices–usually one at a time.  For this reason, I recommend not choosing more than two themes for the year.  If you are going to have more than one, it’s important that they can co-exist (for example, health and spending more time with family members).

This New Year’s Eve, I encourage you to take some time and think about the stages you’ve gone through as you’ve rung in the new year (past and present)–celebrating the joys and sorrows.

As I wish you all the best for 2018, here’s a slice of nostalgia from Guy Lombardo as he and his Royal Canadians rang in 1958…and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 1974 (hosted by George Carlin)…Enjoy!