By Maggie Lyon Varadhan

Can we take a minute to seriously reconsider resolutions? Why do they so often make us feel worse when they are meant to help us feel better?

The word resolution carries with it such grim determination and hard-jawed tenacity. It is firm to excess and often breeds an unnecessary harshness that we turn on ourselves. Especially now, after the initial excitement of the new year has dulled, and the spirit of the transition is not so pulsing, our so-called resolutions often become suffocating, punitive even. The positivity embedded within our promises for bettering our lives goes sour or flat.

In winter, we see rigidity in the natural landscape. Our bodies and minds tend to match this and get stiff. Best not to aggravate this inevitable stiffness by tightening our resolved fists in our moves to improve our lives. This kind of steeliness rarely makes for peace or contentment.

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In this new action, we face ourselves, our humble imperfect amazingly original selves, softly, with more kindness. Imagine being slack-jawed and relaxed about our hopes for the year ahead. This doesn’t mean we want to change less, but that our attitudes toward change are suppler, more inspired. Without instigating stringent rules, we take exciting steps towards a more joyful way of being. This is a smiling effort, one loaded with sprightly anticipation, not expectation, and a fresh curiosity about what will come.

Designate this stretch as a time to look keenly on our lives and at what we’d like to see different, without any forcefulness or powering through. From this state of mind we can get more in touch with our natural rhythms, and become more receptive to intuitive hits about our futures. We make room for our true natures to emerge gently, with fluidity, and not so resolutely.

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In case this all sounds too far out, be precise about your intention setting. Map out your dreams on paper. Paste up big vision boards. Whatever you do, don’t clamp down. Don’t be too unyielding or fierce. Make goals that are free of underhanded criticism. Drop the fixation on external ideals of body shape, style, career, and reputation. The most valuable player is your internal space, not the mind that hustles your body to the gym 5 times a week or the same mind that agonizes over whole grains, refined ones, or no grains at all.

Remember, change is a long, beautiful, unruly thing. It happens whether we want it to or not. When you are feeling lousy and far away from your goals, ask yourself, moment by moment, what is going on in the space inside? Then, move out into the world with a sweeter, more aware and sensible approach, one that is grounded in and proud of the inner beauty of this unresolved you.

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