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Happy New Year!

...and remember happiness is a choice

"Happy New Year". We'll all hear it, say it, read it, over and over again over the next week or so. But what does it mean?

I'm reminded of Gandalf's response to Bilbo's "Good Morning!" The wizard replied "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?"

I'm also very much aware that some Americans place the emphasis slightly differently to Brits. Where we say Happy New Year, our transatlantic cousins tend to say Happy New Year. It's almost as though they're offering happiness for the duration of the new year festival itself and not a second longer.

Whatever we mean by it and/or read into it 'happy new year' does come over as little more than a wish. Indeed a friend of mine, who'd had a better year than I did in 2018, in commenting that it had been a good year, went on to say that they hoped that 2019 would be even brighter. Hopes, wishes, maybe even dreams.

I'm not hoping that 2019 will be better and brighter than 2018. I have every intention of making it so.

No. This isn't the year that I'm finally going to stick to my new year resolutions. This is the year I don't make any.

I am not in 'new year, new me' mode.

Instead I'm in the mood for discovering who I really am, and giving her a chance to shine her own light – not the one she's been handed by others.

I have no resolutions at all for this year. What I do have is the beginnings of a plan and permission (from myself) to change it as often as I need to during the year. I have ambitions, ideas, objectives, commitments, a support set-up – and my aim for the end of the year is not to achieve perfection, but progress.

I am giving myself this coming year, as a gift, a reward, in recognition of having got through the last one.

I belatedly recognised in 2018 that three quarters of it had been about emotional survival. Recovery. Accepting reality. Dealing with the fall-out. Some of which I did with less grace than I would have wished…but I did it. I got this far, and now I need to say that while grief is still a work in progress I am not depressed, I am not hurt or damaged. I am optimistic. Yes I will continue to mourn what's passed, in my own way, in my own time, and I am beyond grateful for the kindness and support…but now, I need to be allowed to be happy.

Because I intend to be – with or without anyone else's permission.

I intend to work on my growth…to look for beauty…to reach for joy…to seek laughter…to learn…to take my pleasures where I find them… and do what good I can in the world in my own way.

I'm giving myself this year. The whole year, in which to be selfish. To do things entirely for myself. Not a year of pure hedonism, not a gap year. Possibly quite the opposite, a year of focus and work, but a year in which I am my own first priority.

I have often lamented that I have never been anyone's first priority. I realise that that includes my own. Although I have done a lot of the things I have wanted to do, to the point of having no regrets or thwarted ambitions, I have always worked them in and around the things I was feeling obliged to do because of the expectations of others.

I differentiate here between the things we do for others because we personally genuinely want to, and the things we do (either for others or ostensibly for ourselves) which don't stem from who we are, but from some constructed idea of who we should be.

This year, I am coming back to me…not to who I 'should be', but who I was born to be; not a new me but the one who has been here all along.

This year, I'm designing my own objectives, my own timetable, working truly for myself and my well-being. I am dressing to please myself. I am discarding what does not serve me or bring me joy. I am choosing my commitments consciously from a place of strength, not one of fear. I am taking more care of my mind, my body and my soul.

I am giving myself a year of kindness. Happiness. Scattered with exhilaration. And challenge too, because there can be no exhilaration, no achievement, unless there is also challenge.

I am putting faith in myself, in my knowledge & skills, in my perseverance and my resilience (because I know it won't all go according to plan), in my talent and my ability to do the work, in my creativity and my curiosity. I'm going to continue to bolster my Expert, Searcher and Spirit motivators, but also tend my much neglected Friend and Star aspects.*

I am going to honour my own Rule No. 2: cherish your freedom.

I have no regrets, because everything that has gone before has brought me to this point.

I am in a position to do this as the result of painful circumstances, but despite how I came to be here I am willing to celebrate and be grateful for the opportunity in where I am. I would be foolish, churlish, not to accept the gift. Twin gifts: time and freedom.

I started planning at the end of November. I've taken the first steps in setting up my support network - something I have neglected in the past, simply trusting that those I supported would also support me, which transpired to be only partly true, and not necessarily in the way I needed. I am learning not just to ask for help, but to be specific about the help I need – and just as crucially to politely (and grateful-for-the-offerly) decline the 'help' that isn't.

I have 10 priorities for the year: things I want to work on. Some of these are inputs, others outcomes, all of them interlink in some way and several of them are starting points for a longer journey. Some of them are new things, others have long histories. Some are yet to be started, others are work in progress that still needs commitment and focus and action.

Last year I think I wrote something about having only one resolution and total focus. Unfortunately, I found that if life then takes such a side-swipe at you such that you cannot maintain that one focus, you might end up floundering. So this year, I'm taking a much more balanced-score-card approach to things, knowing that some will be achieved and others will not, but that there will always be at least one area in which progress is being made. And that will be enough to keep me happy.

Whatever you are hoping for in the year to come, I will wish you happiness in it, but more than that I'll encourage you to find your own way to make it so – because wishes are notoriously unreliable and happiness really is a choice.


* Expert, Searcher and Spirit are what Cassandra Andrews ( identified as my highest motivational energies, Friend & Star are low energies for me – but even at their low level, I'm clearly neglecting them. These are only 5 of the energies identified in motivational mapping ( Mapping my motivations was one of my starting points for 2019. Check it out.

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