Happy New Year

Ahhhhhhhhhh. Let me just begin this post with a sigh. This year my company was gracious enough to give us all the holiday gift of a week off from Christmas to New Years and even though it’s now Friday night and the week is coming to a close, I have truly felt about 15% less tightly wound this week. After the deep freeze we had before Christmas, we were able to modify our family holiday plans and make the 2-day celebration all that it was meant to be. For the rest of the week, I’ve been home sleeping in, cooking, puttering around, cleaning/decluttering, watching football (which I totally gave up about 5 years ago only to get sucked in again), visiting with friends and dabbling in that home “editing” project I hinted at a few weeks ago. I’m nowhere near where I wanted to be by the end of the week, but with a final push on Monday, I might have made some serious progress, which is a huge win for me.

In other words, I feel balanced. I am resting and eating well, re-establishing my kitchen creativity and putting good, tasty, healthy food on the (proverbial) table without stressing about it. I am not trying to do too much or forcing myself into unrealistic expectations only to fail and berate myself for either setting unrealistic expectations or failing to meet them. I am just being where I am and I am, for the most part, at peace, which is a great way to start the year.

Now if you know anything about me, you probably know I am not a fan of goals for just this reason. I don’t generally need to name an outcome before taking action if I am in a balanced state to begin with. Just put one foot in front of the other and see where it takes you. Goals, generally, even ones I define myself always feel artificial and forced and tend to trigger my “pathological demand avoidance,” or PDA and then nothing happens; I become unbalanced. And I believe I figured out a few things about this PDA today.

First, I think that naming any personality trait “pathological,” is unnecessary and shaming. There is nothing pathological about my overwhelming desire to avoid arbitrary action. For me to move, to act, I need to be invited, not demanded, to do so. If there is a demand, there must be a related obvious and logical reason for the demand or an extremely trusting relationship between me and the person issuing the demand. And if you think you have that kind of trusted relationship with me, you probably don’t.

But an invitation is nice. Who wouldn’t prefer an invitation to a demand? You can attract more flies with honey, the old saying goes. So this week, I invited myself to fart around the house, mostly in my pajamas, without obligation, and you know what? I got more done with less internal emotional strife than I thought I might. I’m taking this as a lesson and rolling with it into next year.

To that end, while I normally do not make new years resolutions precisely because they are too much like goals or demands, I have issued myself an invitation for 2023. In this new year, I have invited myself to use the phrase “I can’t” less and use “I don’t want to” more.

Notice the framing here. This is not a resolution to stop something or change something, no all-or-nothing. Just an invitation to explore what it might feel like to change my phrasing.

Now this swap will not be appropriate in every context; if I already have plans and someone asks me to get together, “I can’t” still feels like the right phrase. I’m thinking more of a context like doing a task that I am quite capable of mentally and/or physically, but I just don’t feel is worth my time, or would be better delegated, or would be easier done at a different time. In the past, I have used the words “I can’t” to myself and others as a somewhat lazy shorthand to make the conversation go away. I’d like to do that less often.

I don’t want to make excuses for things I simply prefer not to do either as a function of timing or more generally. I am going to try to be more honest and factually accurate in my phrasing. Doing so well retain a measure of control over my situation, my time and my energy so that I won’t miss out on the same opportunity or invitation later.

So you may hear me say “I prefer not to right now,” or “I’m not interested at this time, but ask me again later” this year. And if you hear me say “I can’t,” bring it up. It’s going to take practice, but let’s see how it goes.

Have you given yourself any new years invitations? If you have tried and faltered with resolutions in the past, do you think framing them as invitations might help you make more progress? According to studies, 80% of resolutions are broken and given up on by February each year. I bet we could do better. I’m inviting you to try it out! Let me know how it goes for you!

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