The bottles of bubbly are in the recycling, confetti, streamers, and paper tiaras are crammed into over-stuffed trash bags along with the efforts of the end-of-the-year cleanup. You may have even bought a few more vegetables in your first trip to the market, stepped on the scale, or visited the gym. Happy New Year, indeed. Now what?
I invite you to depart from conventional thinking about New Year and the whole “New You” mentality. After trying it out for — oh, let’s say 40 years — (I think that is giving it more than a fair shot, by the way) my observations of self and others reveal that this approach doesn’t work. The whole mentality around “New You” strikes me now as being completely counter-productive. It does not value the wisdom, learning, and value that have accrued over one’s lifetime to this point. If the “Old You” is banished, the “New You” is left without experiences and reference points for future growth. The New You is doomed to repeat all the mistakes of the past. No wonder most people’s resolutions don’t last through the end of the month.
Another flaw is that the New Year’s conversation is almost exclusively focused on perceived personal failure. I’m not thin enough, fit enough, organized enough, financially secure enough, smart enough, you fill in your own blank. The message is, NOT ENOUGH! Is it any wonder that most resolutions fail because people want more of something they are not getting?
Don’t get me wrong. I make my living in the self-improvement biz. The Feldenkrais Method values and promotes continuous self-improvement. However, this self-improvement is not narcissistic, nor is it driven by feelings of shame or unworthiness. We start in the present moment, and we just notice and acknowledge what is here, now. Self-improvement in the Method is based on getting something in life to work a little bit better. Our jargon for it is “improvement of function.” Something that wasn’t working, now works better. Something that was working well enough, is now even better. My own take on self-improvement is that, if I want to make the world a better place (and I do), I should start with myself.
Suddenly, the Feldenkrais Method takes on increased usefulness. While improving the obvious things that people always want for themselves — posture, balance, skill, calm — one learns a process, a method, for improving oneself with increasing relevance and scope. Coordination, intelligence, teamwork, relationships, community, creative thinking, all can flourish in the environment of improved awareness. The Method teaches a way of taking actions that move us consistently toward something that is better. Even just a bit better can be a lot better, both in the moment and in the long run.
So, I encourage you to abandon your resolutions early this year! Rather than re-inventing the self improvement wheel to make yourself into something you wish you were, I encourage you to acknowledge something in yourself, or in your life, that is already going pretty well. Focus on THAT something that actually works. Figure out HOW it works, and do more of that. If you are doing more of what works, you will automatically be doing less of what doesn’t work so well. Voila! You are on a path of improvement.
For example: in the last few months, I have stumbled into better eating habits and exercise opportunities that seem to be working well. No resolution for me! I’m going to build on my recent successes and stick with the program, easing confidently into the New Year on a path that appears to be leading in a good direction. I will keep tweaking and adapting the plan so that it serves me better and better throughout the year, and throughout my life.
To me, this is the essence of the Feldenkrais Method: identify what works, stay engaged with it, enjoy yourself, play to discover the improvements that emerge. Movement is our laboratory in which abstract concepts become concrete. If this makes sense to you, then I invite you to join us for classes whenever you can. We are about the business of exploring how to get life to work just a little bit better.