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What would happen if? A new look at New Year’s resolutions

new question for new year

No, it's usually not this bad, but sometimes it is.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a sucker for New Year’s resolutions. I always want to improve myself, to trade this very imperfect human being for a new and improved model.
This year, not so much.

I’m happy with my good habits of workday mornings: early rising, breath practice, 500 words on my book project (only 3,000 to go before I have a very rough, very drafty, first draft).

I plan to keep on improving the decisions I make when the choice is: water or something with caffeine in it; going to bed at 10 or staying up late; setting my timer for a pomodoro and standing up when it rings, or letting myself sit at my computer for a hazy, undetermined length of time.

I wasn’t planning any big changes. But then my resolution for 2014 found me.

I looked at my yoga space and wondered: What would happen if I put my props away after every practice?

I already know what will happen if I don’t put my props away, although the picture above, while true and unmodified as of last Friday morning, suffers from seasonal exaggeration.

The table, on its back like a disabled beetle, has a broken leg, discovered on Christmas Day, just as we were preparing for the family’s arrival. Truthfully, there is no other space in the house that’s tucked out of sight of guests, so it went into my yoga space.

new years resollution elvis radio

A closer look at Elvis, now glued back on his base.

The white box to the right of the table holds the Elvis clock radio, one of those joke family Christmas presents passed around with ritual hilarity every year. The Elvis doll had separated from his base. While we were waiting to buy the right glue for the table, it made sense to put Elvis on it. And while the wood glue was out, why not glue the tip of Ganesh’s trunk back on? The space heater, back there behind the stack of wood bricks, was there because the last time I practiced it was very cold. The jumble of straps and blankets is, sadly, pretty much a constant.

Asking what would happen if I put my props away after every practice felt startlingly new.

Here I was, at the turn of the year, not ordering myself around, but instead trying to awaken my own curiosity. It seemed like a promising approach, since the only way to answer the question would be to keep on putting the props away.

“What would happen if?” is a particularly Iyengar yoga question. We are always checking: what would happen if I extended my inner heel in this pose? What would happen if I took my upper arm bones deeper into the sockets? Would it be good? Would it be useful?

When I looked carefully, I noticed that part of my story about what would happen was one of those grand scenarios that so often accompany New Year’s resolutions.

Perhaps that one act of putting my props away would be the key to making me the flawlessly organized person I so long to be. Perhaps putting my props away is the thread I can pull, and keep pulling – not to unravel my world, but to turn it from a ball of frazzle into a neatly wound skein.

But if I became that flawlessly organized person, would I like her? And would she like me? Does she already think I’m lame?

I’m beginning to believe that not carefully asking “what would happen if?” is one reason why 90 per cent of New Year’s resolutions go down in flames every year, usually well before the end of January.
Yes, we want to change, but underneath, we’re afraid of changing too much, too soon.
It’s unlikely that putting my props away will unleash a tsunami of neatness powerful enough to turn me into someone so different that I wouldn’t know myself. Realistically, what will happen is that I’ll vacuum the floor more often, because it will be easier to do.
I suspect I will become, incrementally, just a little neater. It will be, incrementally, just a little easier to settle into practice when it’s time to start.
So I guess I’ll do it and find out.

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Back in November – really? it was that long ago? – I offered a copy of Sparks of Divinity in exchange for your favorite quote. It was hard to pick a winner, so hard, in fact, that I resorted to writing names on slips of paper, jumbling them up, and picking one at random. The Finger of Fate rested on Susie, who wrote: “A saying that inspires me as I go about my ordinary day:’Do small things with great love.'”
Thank you to everyone who commented.

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If this was your kind of post, you might also like:

Resolve to be Content: Five-Minute Yoga Practice
Pain or Golden Glow: It Matters What You Call It
How to Turn on Your Willpower and Stick to Your Yoga Practice

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • jana January 10, 2014, 6:10 pm

    thank you Susie and Eve: I’m adopting the lucky quote.