Are you a resolution maker? A word-of-the-year person? A vision-board-maker? There is something about the arbitrary day of winter on which we decide how to behave for another year that makes being a better person sound sensible.
The most frequent resolutions are eating healthy, getting more exercise, saving more money, in that order. The most frequent resolutions are usually gone by the end of February.
Those flaws you have, the ones that look fatal, may not be what you have to pull out and get rid of. In our binary culture, where we see things as good/bad, up/down, go/stop, we miss the nuance of habits.
Let’s take being lazy. Sounds bad, no? Lazy–not getting enough done, not starting early enough, always have work pending.
Now take a look at the other side: Lazy may be another way of thinking a project through. Taking time to weigh a decision. Pausing to process information that could be critical. Not being rushed to a decision that everyone else wants.
Let’s take a look at those resolutions.
First, if you feel that you are not a good human and have to change yourself—resolutions are not a good way to create a self-makeover. When you start with the idea that you are not enough, or bad, or are socially awkward, the road to improvement seems long and hard. Almost impossible. Because it is. Who can fix all those character flaws in a year? Where to start? How to continue without flagging?
All of our faults work like that–there are positive aspects to all our shortcomings. There are times when it is fine to be angry, even to act on your anger. There are times when acting on your anger can cost your a job or a relationship.
The difference is discernment: the ability to judge and sift through emotions and reactions until you find a practical solution. Does this friendship reflect your values? Are you choosing your action just to please someone? Is it time to speak up for what you want? Is it time to focus on others? Discernment is valuable to anyone looking to make some change. It’s the balance beam for your emotions.
I have the bad habit of being a people-pleaser. My clients are happy with that behavior. But often, it is not in my best interest. Last month, a friend asked me to pick up some candles for a party. I was teaching that day and had quite a bit of administrative work to do before I left class.
The right answer would have been to say, “Sorry, I can’t.” But I wanted to please my friend, so I spent an hour looking for the right candles, couldn’t find them, and showed up late for the party. There was no recognition for trying, just frowns that I was late. I was humiliated, but it was my own doing. Discernment would have let me weigh what I could achieve in the time before the party and say “No, sorry, I can’t do that today.” So for 2019, I’ll be working on discernment. Watch this space.
—Quinn McDonald is a training developer, trainer, and creativity coach. She teaches business writing, dealing with difficult people, and creative problem solving.