Some New Years Tough Love

Photo Courtesy of  Jeronimo Sanz

Photo Courtesy of Jeronimo Sanz

It’s that time again. The dawn of a New Year.

Everywhere, people are shaking themselves free from their holiday excesses, and they are taking stock of their lives. They are evaluating their choices, their health, their happiness, and their goals, and they are pledging to do better this year. 

2015 will be different, they say, and most of them really believe it. They join gyms, they buy juicers, they read how-to books and they pin projects on Pinterest. They rush to the supermarket and stock up on organic vegetables, and they buy overpriced workout clothes or journals or craft supplies to spend more quality time with their children. 

They approach the New Year with a newfound ferocity, and they swear they aren’t going to quit this time. They are going to cook healthy meals, join a gym, achieve that perfect beach body, become a yoga pro, run a marathon, join the PTA, coach their kid’s soccer team, learn to sew, learn to play the guitar, find true love, rekindle their marriage, learn a new language, make time to travel, start a business, make more money, finally get out of debt, read more books, organize their living space, decorate like Martha Stewart and finally write that novel that’s been living inside their head for years.

Unfortunately, almost no one will actually hold true to his or her New Year’s Resolutions. By February, most people will begin to fall back into their old routines. By July, they won’t even think about their promises, and by November, they will throw in the towel, plunge back into apathy and promise that 2016 is actually the year everything will be different.

Why? Because change is hard. And here is the cold truth you may not want to hear: you cannot have everything you want.

I know, I know. I’m being a Debbie Downer. I’m writing this blog post at a time when almost everyone else is celebrating the limitless possibilities of the year ahead. But here’s another truth: I’m doing this because I care about you. And those plans and goals and dreams you have for 2015? I really want you to reach them, too.

There’s another side to New Year’s Resolutions, the side no one likes to talk about. True change requires two things: courage and sacrifice. 

Courage and sacrifice. These concepts sound simple enough, but the reality of their practice is much harder to accept. In order to reach your most critical goals, you must be courageous enough to sacrifice some of your smaller ones.

You want to spend more time with your children? Forget about sculpting that beach body during homework hours. Or, you want to finally write that novel? You may need to say goodbye to spending three hours a night prepping home-cooked meals. Your commitment to rekindling your marriage means you probably shouldn’t take up too many new solo hobbies this year, and your new business means a travel-filled, debt-free lifestyle probably isn’t in the cards for you right now.

I know what you're thinking: "But I CAN do everything at the same time! I just need to budget my time appropriately. I will take my kids running with me, and then I will brainstorm my novel while I grill free-range chicken and listen to a CD about how to speak Spanish. Don't you DARE tell me what I can and can't do this year, O'Kane!"

I concede; you may be right. You may be one of those freaks of nature who really can juggle everything without losing their minds in the process. But you're probably a little bit more like me, and I find that I can sustain two to three good weeks of 'doing it all' before my head explodes. (When this happens, I usually end up zoned out in front of my TV with a bucket of KFC in my lap and macaroni and cheese dribbling down my face.)

But you know what? That’s okay. That's normal. And this is where the sacrifice part comes in. As soon as you know what aspects of your life you are absolutely unwilling to compromise, it becomes easier to let go of some of the other things.

So, get to work. Do some soul-searching. Figure out exactly what keeps you awake at night. Is it your health? Your hobbies? Your career? Your relationships? How far are you willing to push to see real, sustained change in these areas? And how do you plan to overcome the setbacks you will inevitably encounter during your journey?

Because true change is never easy. And it usually doesn’t happen overnight. It’s gritty, and it’s scary, and it’s raw. It makes you dig deep—to the soft, untested places you never really challenge—and it requires you to say goodbye to many of the aspects of your life you find most comfortable.

But at the end of the day, you must believe it’s worth it. We are only guaranteed this one life, after all. If we keep procrastinating, it will slip right through our fingers.

Happy New Year, everyone. 

2015 is waiting.