Out with the Old Patterns and In with the New!: How Lunar New Year Traditions Coach us to Transform
There is a rush just before Chinese New Year in any house that celebrates it to spring clean. Massive cleaning occurs and in Singapore — the local town council offers services to remove large bulky pieces of furniture from the tiny apartments. It is a mindset everyone gets.
My favorite time for goal setting and goal attainment exercises has never been the Western New Year. I find the 1st of January falls too near to Christmas for me to really get a grasp of what is going on in my inner world. It is a bit too noisy in a good way for me. I’d rather spend the end of the year reflecting on the lessons of the year and on the love of family and friends and less on self introspection and goal setting for a new year. I actually think too many people on the high of a lovely December festivities or the low of a deary lonely Christmas set goals which are basically unauthentic and unrealistic.
What I like doing and have done for years with great success — is to start the year in January with starter goals. Goals and habits are two very different concepts and most people do not tie their goals enough to habits formation. For example I have for years stated that I would to exercise more — like three times a week and I have failed again and again. The main reason is that my habits of overworking and getting involved in the community have more power and reward for me then my health. This is only because I have been relatively healthy and have not been forced to up my fitness game. However I do want to be exercising three times a week. I believe that to be the case. So how do I use it as a starter goal? I started in January aggressively doing my stated goals of the year. This means I start and ensure I keep my word and make it happen! I do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. (I hope by now some of you will get the setup for what will be next….because we have all been there) Until one day I don’t and then I don’t and then I basically think that I am a failure or it simply cannot be done because (Insert excuse here:…….)
I love setting myself up to fail that way in January because what I truly need and what we all truly need to set goals that actualize is the self awareness that we have competing values and the goals that don’t get done are the ones which hold the least value for us at that point in time.
Busy parents understand this. They love their children so much that they forget to allocate time to their own health and hobbies at times. They know they want to and they should but in the moment years of being a ‘good’ parent take over and they skip yet another massage, dinner with high school friends and the gym for pjs with their children and a bedtime story. You should feel the tension in that image because that is the tension awareness that will lead you to pattern breaking and true change. The tension is being a great parent is a great value and being a healthy happy person is of great value and the tension is we believe we have to sacrifice one for the other. The main excuse we give is there is not enough time or money or resource.
So I love January because I start with a bang like running on a racing track and soon after it becomes clear to me that I am no longer able to run at that same pace and I have slowed down to a respectable not “heart in my mouth” pace which I can keep going on, honestly. I have settled into a goal and habits I can actually live with. They can integrate with my values. And then during Chinese New Year — I simply integrate myself and write down the goals for that year.
The focus on clearing things out of the house actually brings a mental mindset of also clearing out old memories that are attached to the things. The books I kept from college now are cleared and with them ghosts of college stories of Marion of the past. The program I made for my undergraduate students to benefit from in terms of learning to work with at risk teens, though amazing during that time; now are no longer the same life I live in corporate leadership development and in personal financial education. The “me” from even a year ago when I bought a T-shirt with a slogan that spoke to “me” then, is not the “me” today and more importantly not the “me” of tomorrow. And I need to be able to thank the old things, memories, and old selves or older stories of who I am; because they got me to the “Me” I have now. But like the old adage what got you here won’t get you there. What got Marion here is not the same mindset that can get Marion to the next stage of her transformation.
The Chinese New Year is full of such symbolism that makes starting afresh in coaching and in life more evident and in many ways more fun. We can start to build the life we want any day of the year. All it requires is a choice to choose the path we normally don’t or to try a new way of being or a less enjoyable but definitely more beneficial health or fitness behavior. However Chinese New Year in fire-cracking form — starts it with a real big bang! And makes the commitment more real.
I am writing today as I put to rest a beloved Teen Coaching program I used to run. I ran it for Teens and I teach it to teachers and parents and youth workers. I had hoped to resurrect it and make it into an online program or book. And it is has been years lingering on my computer hard-drive and lying around my house. And in the back of mind. Unfinished business. We speak about it once in a while with our other past coaches. I know why it lingered. I enjoyed the feeling of having undergraduates achieve their goals and also teaching high school kids who were at risk to use strategies to achieve theirs. In my first life as a teacher that was the most fulfilling thing for me.
However I am no longer a Psychology professor or a High School teacher, my educator status is now to topics like leadership, coaching, resilience and finance. While I am a complete amateur in these topics, my growth lies in taking them on and building my expertise here beyond my comfort zone. My stretch or even ‘die’ zone as we teach our coachees, the zone of unknown yet the zone of the next success for that next stage in life. Saying good bye to my previous career and my previous comfort zone in conventional education is really hard. It gave me so much recognition and satisfaction and to be honest, control as I could predict what was next.
This Chinese New Year — I upped my game and threw out beyond clothes, old toys and books — I threw out the outfits and costumes of “me”-pasts. The past me and past identities that no longer rang true for me. I had to consciously throw them out — so I could commit to being vulnerable naked and bare. So my new clothes and new forms of identity would form. And Be-Forming — A New Me for a New Stage of Life. I am uncomfortable, out of my league, embarrassed to be a beginner again and also empowered because I am starting from scratch. No holding back or being held back by a ghost of a past I can no longer be.
Wishing you a Dog Year full of “Potential Yous” you simply love to explore. Let go of the past hurts, disappointments and also successes that keep you playing your old tunes. Let your 100% You back in
P.S. I gave my close friend the same lucky underwear for 2018 as she had a terrible year with a divorce, cancer ridden father and teenager crisis. She smiled. Hope you like the pic!