Hope-Filled Musings For The New Year From Our Founder
I don’t recall ever feeling like there has been as much noise in the world as there is now. When I say “noise”, I’m referring to distractions, opinions, conflicting messages, etc.
Do you feel it too?
It’s enough to overwhelm, distract and confuse even the most focused of minds. And surely enough to divert a more-than-often scatterbrained mind like my own.
At the beginning of each year, I typically embark on a visualization and habit-forming strategy session to set the tone and create expectations for the new year.
This has always been an exciting and fun practice for me. I enjoy evaluating what’s working and what’s not working, dreaming about the future and deciding which new habits will add the most value to my life.
Even so, I have yet to embark on this practice for the upcoming year. I still plan to, but something else has been on my mind over the last few months in the midst of the busiest time of year with Primally Pure, my family and I moving into a new home, transitioning from one incredible babysitter for my girls to another wonderful new babysitter… and all of the standard busyness that comes with the holiday season.
The thing I’ve been contemplating is - how do we maintain our habits, routines, etc. when life feels super chaotic? How do we make good choices when all we’re doing is trying to keep our head above water and survive?
I’m certain that many of you have felt this way at some point over the last year, whether you’ve struggled with your day-to-day rhythms and routines being thrown for a loop in some way (or multiple ways) and especially if you’ve been confronted with a more deeply-rooted, heartbreaking challenge or tragedy.
Personally, I’ve found myself often feeling frustrated during this busy season for not having a better handle on my work responsibilities, making food choices that aren’t optimal for me, and generally slacking on several of the habits that have helped me to thrive personally and professionally over the years.
And on top of that, there’s the whole “noise” piece I was referring to earlier, and the conflictory voices we hear daily regarding everything from politics to culture to diet/lifestyle and even how to approach the new year.
In one camp, there are those who would have us believe that goal-setting is unnecessary because we are already perfect, whole and enough - no change or growth necessary.
On the opposite side, there are those who would have us believe that perfection and enoughness can be earned through constant and ceaseless striving - that by following this approach or that formula, we can design our life to look exactly like we want it to.
But, as the case often is with just about everything, the key to all of this isn’t in either extreme. The sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle.
THE PROBLEM WITH FOLLOWING OUR INTUITION
Those who emphasize our innate perfection and enoughness also tend to put a large emphasis on the importance of self-love, often defined as indulging in whatever one’s intuition desires in the present moment.
While there is beauty in this approach, it can be lacking in reality. We live in a broken world, and as a result, our intuitions are broken as well.
Our intuition may tell us to soothe a crushed spirit with an entire box of chocolate chip cookies or to indulge in a shopping spree that results in spending more than we can afford (neither of which are ultimately good for us). Intuition isn’t always our friend, and not everything that feels good in the moment is beneficial long-term.
Personally, I’ve come to find freedom within some of the boundaries I’ve created for myself. For example, I avoid gluten 100% of the time. I don’t feel that I’m being “restrictive” in doing this, as drawing this hard line allows me to feel my best. It’s unwise to ignore reality and turn a blind eye to the fact that some indulgences just aren’t good for us, even if we feel like we need/want that thing in the moment.
THE PROBLEM WITH ENDLESS STRIVING
I tend to fall victim to the ideology of striving for perfection more often than not, wanting to believe the lie that I’m fully in control of my own destiny and that the right amount of effort will give me the results I long for in any given area of life.
But the problem with this idea is that (ready for this?) we aren’t fully in control of our lives. There will always be circumstances that are outside of our control, and while we can control our response to those circumstances, the end result still winds up being different than what we planned.
No matter how hard we try, we will never be so accomplished or capable or perfect that we won’t need grace or compassion. And when we put too much emphasis on achieving our goals or fulfilling expectations, we ultimately set ourselves up for disappointment.
A HOPE-FILLED APPROACH ROOTED IN COMPASSION AND REALITY
One thing that the self-love movement has right is its emphasis against wallowing in feelings of shame or guilt. While experiencing these emotions can be enlightening and can carry with them the potential for positive behavior change, living and operating out of a place of shame isn’t helpful.
Something I recently heard on a podcast regarding this topic really resonated with me. The podcast was with Dr. Caroline Leaf and Dr. Amy Johnson, and the episode was focused on how “willpower” can be ineffective and counterproductive.
Leaf and Johnson discussed the idea that the toxic habits many of us cling to aren’t as deeply rooted as we may think. And that although we may have unintentionally trained the brain to do something detrimental over time, the fact that we still feel the urge to do that thing doesn’t mean that we should feel shameful simply for experiencing that unhealthy urge or desire.
We can feel the urge and all of the emotions that come with it, choose not to act on it, and move on. The urge to engage in a toxic behavior pattern doesn’t define who we are so much as it is simply the brain telling us to do what it’s used to us doing. In knowing this, we can choose not to engage in our unhealthy habits (without feeling shame every time we experience the urge to do something that isn’t in our best interest) and instead make choices that are better for us.
Simply because our intuition tells us that we need a glass of wine (or two) every single night to unwind from the day, or that we should binge watch netflix for several hours a day or [insert unhealthy behaviour pattern here], doesn’t mean that thing is ultimately good. Not every thought that pops into our head is true. In fact, most of them aren’t.
But we also don’t need to feel shame/guilt simply for wanting to do the things that we have unintentionally programmed the brain to do over time.
It’s important to have empathy for ourselves (and others) and to understand that it’s impossible to be so disciplined or accomplished that we won’t need compassion or grace. We are imperfect, and we will always fall short some way, somehow.
So how are we to approach the new year, or any season in which we are hoping to do and be better than before?
We should want to improve and set high expectations for the future. It’s great to create new habits, set goals and the like - all while striking a balance between the idea that “you are enough” and the concept that “you must do x, y, and z in order to be enough”.
Do your best. Put forth effort. Understand that positive change doesn’t come easy. Your brain will want to do what it’s done in the past. That’s okay. You don’t have to listen to it.
And when feelings of overwhelm, inadequacy, guilt, shame or [insert negative emotion here] all feel like too much, surrender. There is a plan for your life that’s greater than what you can comprehend in the present moment. Sometimes we must be okay with not having all the answers, and simply choose to do the next right thing.
For me, that looks like approaching the new year with excitement and vigor - evaluating the past year and creating habits for the year to come, continually trusting that God will create a masterpiece out of whatever mess I think I’ve made and doing the will of God as best as I can discern it at any given time - one step at a time.
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