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This year, I’m trying something new. Rather than making a list of short-lived resolutions, I’m resisting the ubiquitous urge to become a “Happy New You” and declaring the current me to be satisfactory, and maybe even better than that.

That doesn’t mean I am getting as much exercise as I should; let’s face it, it doesn’t even mean that all of my clothes are fitting properly at the moment. Nor does it mean that I am reading enough for enjoyment, or that my house is organized, or…you get the idea. So what am I going to do about it? Nothing. Sort of.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the negative effects of always striving for “better.” In our race to improve, the argument goes, we never get a chance to appreciate what we already are and have. Satisfaction is always around the corner, over the next hill. We’ll be happy when we are thinner, or better dressed, or when we get those hardwood floors installed. (Ok, the hardwood floors may just be my thing.)

Chasing better suggests that we are not good enough as we are, and leads to negative, self-punishing thoughts and behavior. We shame ourselves and deprive ourselves, and feel so dissatisfied.

I am not the first to point out that we would never treat someone we love like that. We would encourage them, point out what they’ve accomplished already, and actively support them in a positive manner. They aren’t perfect either, but we love them anyway.

So this year, I’m going to treat myself the way I hope I’d treat anyone I cared about. I will make sure that I am getting enough sleep, eating plenty of produce, and getting outside often enough. I’m going to take care of what I already have, and appreciate it. I’m going to nurture my curiosity and creativity. I’m going to gently nudge myself to take more risks, and accept attention. I’m going to hug my family more, and laugh loud and often.

And if I have to, I’ll buy bigger pants.

February, or as I have taken to calling it, “Mulligan Month” or “This Time I Really Mean It Month” may be my new favorite.  January may be the official start of the new year, but I think we can make a case for February.

In January, the stores are still cluttered with worse for wear holiday markdowns, we’re still getting back to our “normal” routines, and it gets dark too early to feel much ambition. (OK, maybe that last one is just me.)

By the time February rolls around, the sun is staying up a little later, which always helps. The year is still fresh, and there is room for optimism. Conference play has begun in NCAA basketball, but it’s early enough to hope your team will get it together in time for the tournament. (Again, that might be just me- Come on, ‘Heels!)

In February, you get a sense of which of your resolutions and aspirations may have a chance of sticking, and can tweak or add to them before it’s too late. You can also do a fairly good job of catching up with the goals you intended to reach during  the first month of the year. (I tend to spend too much time in January thinking about what I want to accomplish. By February, I am itching to do it.)

Four compact weeks with no messy left-over days:  adhering to an all month regime is easier  in February. And, don’t forget- right in the middle, you are encouraged, if not obliged, to eat chocolate. And be loving.

It’s a short sweet month, and it’s over before you know it, like so many other things. Enjoy, get something done, be loving, and have a little chocolate.

(and Go ‘Heels!)

 

 

 

 

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

Greggory Miller

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