Something about a new year inspires a lot of us to set new goals, embark on a new journey, and leave bad habits behind (as if it’s that easy). It is as if the ball drops, signifying the new year and poof, we change our lifestyle and our priorities.
Sometimes we accomplish our goals but sometimes life is stressful and January is not the dry/clean month we had planned while justifying our eating/drinking at holiday gatherings. And I should mention that while I am certainly not encouraging binge eating and/or drinking, I have been reflecting on self-acceptance, forgiving oneself, and the value of moving on and setting more meaningful goals this year.
Because at least for me, even when I accomplish my (often lofty) goals, I am still not happy with myself. It never seems to be enough and I remain imperfect. And it’s even worse when I don’t accomplish the goals I set!!! But guess what? There is nothing really wrong with indulging and adapting here and there, especially when our goals are shallow and indulging means skipping going to the gym to spend time with an elderly relative or a lonely friend. The only thing wrong with breaking our own rules once the year turns new is our mindset about it. Part of acceptance is being able to adapt and savor those moments of presence with loved ones without feeling terrible about making an exception to your own rules.
I’ve written down ten imperfect goals for people, especially parents, that share in the struggle to accept our imperfections as perfections. I hope they are deeper and more realistic than the typical goals we often set for the new year.
1. Instead of trying to do more this year, try to do less. Say no to hustle and bustle. Slow down.
2. Instead of resolving to change yourself, work to ACCEPT yourself. You are beautiful just as God created you!
3. Rather than focusing on physical inadequacies, as defined by the images of beauty projected by others, focus on TRUE BEAUTY, which always comes from within. Look inward, not outward.
4. When you indulge or don’t meet a goal you’ve made, forgive yourself. Forgiveness means being sorry for wrongdoing and doing your best to repent or be better. But if your goals were unrealistic, shallow, or for the wrong reasons, prayerfully reflect and reconsider your goals.
5. Practice discipline. We are stewards of our bodies, spirits and minds, so it’s necessary to be disciplined, exercise our free will and make hard choices.
6. Pray daily, hourly, constantly and consistently. Let your work be a prayer. Look and listen for God in everything you do and in everyone you encounter.
7. Set small accomplishable goals and celebrate every success, no matter how small.
8. Whether you stay at home or work full time, when you are with your children, say “yes” to really being present with them for at least a few minutes every day. Set a timer, if it helps.
9. Observe your children and take a moment to look for their sense(s) of wonder daily. Pause and try to see the world through their eyes.
10. Ask for help. Be humble enough to ask for help. Love yourself enough to understand your limitations. We were created for interdependence, not independence.
Our culture wants us to believe that our identity and who we are is limited to what is written on our resumes, how many friends we have on social media, how beautiful we are according to unhealthy standards that dehumanize the beauty of our human diversity (including but not limited to neurodiversity that is both visible and invisible). So easily we forget that we are all born naked, vulnerable, dependent on others for home, food, drink, freedom, safety, and for love. We receive so many different levels of nourishment (physical, mental, spiritual) on earth.
When we look deeper than the surface, it doesn’t really matter that you fit into your prepregnancy clothes, had “perfect” hair or skin, kept your house clean, stayed on top of laundry and dishes at all times, had a kick-ass career. It doesn’t matter if you were a respected, well-known, rich, or even famous. What matters in the end is love. Did you put God above all things? Did you love your neighbor as yourself? Did you teach love by living love?