As that clean slate of a new calendar year approaches I can’t help but think about how I want to spend the next 12 months. More specifically, I’m tempted to make resolutions that I hope will somehow bring about a Better Kevin – one who exercises, eats right, gets up early, meditates, flosses, and does a whole host of other admirable things Good and Successful People do.
Of course, when I do make those resolutions they’re forgotten by mid-January, as time-worn habits reassert themselves. The reason that happens, I’ve come to realize, is that when I make resolutions I’m focused more on visible actions rather than an actual reason for doing those things. There’s no inner awareness or intention underpinning them, so they just don’t stick.
A few years ago, a friend of mine named Mike Vardy, a productivity consultant, started posting a word or two to Facebook that summed up his intention for the coming year. His reasoning was that establishing an intention provided a solid base for any changes he wanted to make. Inspired by Mike, I began doing that last year. My words then were “show up,” because I wanted to be more present in my life in 2018.
This year, I think my word is going to be self-compassion. I tend to be really hard on myself and I’ve become aware of an inner judgmental dialogue I’d like to curb. I know it sounds like a Facebook motivational cliché, but I say things to myself I would never say to someone else – or even allow someone else to say to me.
Not only is that stream of inner negativity not based in reality, it’s also what, I think, prevents me from doing things that are good for me. It’s not very motivating to make positive change when all you’re telling yourself is “You’ll never keep up an exercise schedule,” or “There you go making bad food choices again, you’ll never learn.” If I went to a dietician or personal trainer who said things like that, I’d fire them. So, in 2019 I’m going to let my inner critic go.
It’s tough to figure out how to tone down that inner voice, though. Someone else I know, Dr. Alexandra Kovats, a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, often talks about the fact that we all have an inner community made up of different parts of ourselves. In the middle is what she calls our “God Centre,” which is, ideally, the internal space that’s most helpful to be in most of the time. When another member of the community takes over – like the Inner Critic – and we act from that voice, things get unbalanced. So, the invitation is to gently thank that member of the community for their input and then request that they sit down so we can move back into our God Centre.
Those other community members are not bad parts of our personality. They’re there for a reason – to keep us safe, let us know when there’s a problem, etc. But living from their perspective exclusively is not healthy. So, it’s helpful to get in the habit of recognizing in the moment which member of that inner community is in control and try to shift back to our God Centre.
My intention for 2019, then, is to practice self-compassion and ask my Inner Critic to please not be quite so loud. That shift and acting more from my God Centre may just lead to lasting outer changes in the coming year.
Kevin Aschenbrenner is a Victoria-based writer, poet and communications professional. He holds an M.A. in Culture and Spirituality from the Sophia Center at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif. He blogs at www.dearpopefrancis.ca.
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, December 29th 2018