A reflection on the new year’s dilemma
The new year comes with the usual deluge of diet and self-improvement ads. On one hand, people are starting to see through it – are fickle promises and marginal changes to our bodies worth the mental swell of shame? On the other hand, the quarantine eat-sit-repeat routine needs to end eventually, right? Chances are, you’re somewhere on the spectrum of “the new year is an arbitrary date” to “the new year is the date I change my life.”
But, what would it look like to step off the new year’s spectrum completely?
Asking myself this question, I immediately conjured the image of a hyper-confident woman who floats beautifully and unaffected through aisles of carbs, never faltering, never doubting that she is, in fact, perfect as she is. Then I question my own response. Do I believe that confident people don’t question themselves? No – I think they ask themselves useful questions all the time.
The antidote to new year’s resolutions is asking helpful questions. It is possible to step away from shaming yourself into action, while acknowledging there are new and different ways you can care for yourself.
- Helpful questions are thought-provoking, magnetic, motivating, accepting, open-ended. The kind you’d want your best friend’s input on.
- Unhelpful questions place blame, come from a victim viewpoint, refuse to accept realities we don’t like, attempt to erase your uniqueness, or have a definite, easy, closed answer.
That’s what I’m trying now – making space for a big question at the start of each month in my bullet journal. You can click the image to see a quick tutorial on how I set up my journal for 2021.
So the question is, what helpful questions can you ask yourself this year?
a few things to try
If you have…
- 5 minutes: View the guiding questions of other readers, and submit your own here (password is ANTIDOTE)
- 15 minutes: Take out your pen and paper. Write down a question that you haven’t been able to easily solve. Then question the question – interrogate some of the founding beliefs that drive that question. Then question your second-level questions. What insights do you unearth along the way?
- 50 minutes: Meditate in silence. Remove as many distractions as you can (you’ll never get rid of all of them), ditch the meditation app this once, and sit. You don’t have to sit for 50 minutes, but pick a length that will challenge you.
This is from Rainier Maria Rilke, who loves to ask himself the biggest questions. Swap “write” with your passion:
“Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.“
Letters to a Young Poet, 1903