Happy New World. What Next?

Were you almost disappointed that the world didn’t end on 12/21 as supposedly predicted by the Mayans?

After all, now you still have to pay off that credit card debt, make those decisions about your life direction, continue to clean the house and take care of your multitudinous obligations.

A bit tongue-in-cheek of course, but I have heard a conversations like this.

Of course most of us knew that the ‘end of the world’ prediction was really more about a transition into a new world. That’s why I heard the greeting “Happy New World” more than once during the past couple of weeks.

I like it. Happy New World. A New Year, a New World.

New age mumbo jumbo aside, there’s no arguing that 2012 was a difficult year for many. Now that we’re done with all of that end of the world stuff it does feel like a shift has occurred. 2013 is ripe with potential.

Every day, every hour even, represents a new opportunity. Even so, there’s something about hanging up a new calendar that makes a fresh start seem more real, more attainable.

Yet we all know whither those new year’s resolutions often go.

We’re already a third of the way into January, so perhaps yours (if you still make them) have already begun to drift.

How can we make the most of the psychological potential of a new year without deluding ourselves with a bunch of unattainable resolutions?

If, like me, you’ve always been an all or nothing type, you might be struggling with this.

But either/or thinking doesn’t work – not for changing the world and not for changing our own lives.

What does work is thinking small.

What? That sounds so counter-intuitive.

I don’t mean never think big. Your grand vision is important and deserves its place.

But when it comes to taking action to attain that vision it’s time to dial it back into the smallest possible steps you can imagine.

And then break them down some more.

Here’s the other thing that works:  Forgive yourself.

So you didn’t make it to the gym six days last week, despite the firm intention you set on January 1st.

So what?

Forgive. And move on. It’s okay. Go to the gym tomorrow.

One of the hugest ways we sabotage ourselves and our own intentions is by assuming we’ve totally blown it and there’s no point in even trying anymore once we take one little misstep.

Believe me, I’ve been there, done that. And still doing it. That’s why I write about it. To remind myself again and again.

A Different Swipe At Yearly Planning

Super organized people began their yearly review and new year goal-setting in November and December.

And then there’s us overwhelmed/lazy/still-figuring-this-stuff-out types who get caught on December 31st wondering what’s next.

In past years my Decembers have been chock full of obligations both real and imagined, as well as a serious amount of partying. Which I loved. And which did not leave me much time for reviewing and goal-setting.

This year was different however; in the early weeks of December (inspired by the Reset Revive Restart program) I took a little time to reflect on the successes and challenges of the last year and to set intentions.

I chose a different tack this time though.

My MO in the past was to consider all that was left undone in the previous 12 months, berate myself intensively for my failures, and then imagine a future where I became completely organized, efficient, full of purpose and able to execute numerous huge goals – including losing weight, making a far larger income, giving generously, always being available and of service to those in need, getting much fitter, and on and on and on…

These weren’t so much New Year’s resolutions (I gave up on those before I even reached adulthood I think.) They were more like promises to finally be that person I imagined myself to be. To fulfill that potential I could feel in myself.

I’ve realized my biggest accomplishment last year was beginning (just beginning, mind you) to accept the person I actually am.

To accept her, and even to love her. As she is:  often disorganized and scattered, sometimes lazy, always loving, always seeking love, and – yes, full of potential.

Last year I began to forgive myself for the ungrasped opportunities, the times I didn’t push a bit harder, the times I gave in to fear. Last year I walked into the discomfort and fear and made some gigantic life changes. And I’m still in the midst of that whirling vortex of change.

No longer cradled in the secure cocoon of family and community I am untethered and free – a condition I have longed for and feared simultaneously. And now that it’s here I alternate between elation and paralyzing terror.

Despite my new insights, as December advanced and I prepared for holiday travel, the panic started rising. I still had no list of clear goals for 2013. How would I find time to pull all this together while celebrating with family and old friends?

After all, I wanted to hit the ground running, goals firmly in place, on January 1.

A chance email alerted me to a Solstice (12/21/12!) celebration/ritual for women  in Oakland, California – on the very night I’d be arriving there on the first leg of my journey. What a lovely way to spend Solstice with my sister I thought, and I signed us both up.

Alas, a snowstorm prevented me from arriving in time to attend the event live. But we tuned in via the internet. So not the same!

Yet…. (and yes, there is a point to this digression), despite the spotty streaming and distractions in her home I gleaned one important nugget. It comes from Native American wisdom and has to do with the month of January.

Contrary to the common idea that January 1st is the time to dive into all your huge new projects, to power ahead full bore – they advanced the notion that January is a month of frozen tundra, of hibernation, of rest and regeneration.

January is a time when all those exciting projects are incubating before they unfurl and burst into bloom in the coming months.


I can’t tell you what relief I felt listening to this different take on the whole ‘start January off with a bang hype’.

And that relief grew as I progressed through the rest of December and found that I could barely scrap together 15 minutes for myself, much less a yearly planning session.

Now this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go ahead and move forward on your own projects if they are ready to come out of incubation.

But if your ideas are still in that fragile, developmental stage – no stress. Let January be a time of turning within, of gently cultivating that tiny flame. Freewrite. Brainstorm. Take walks on the frozen trails. Sleep. Dream.

And if you didn’t get to it in December, January is a great time for review:  sorting, organizing what’s past so you can make room for the opportunities, plans and projects awaiting you this year.

What does your January look like? Are you in incubation mode? Or a you cruising forward with confidence toward fulfilling your dreams for 2013? Are you a planner, or an allower? Share your thoughts and visions in the comment section.

And, oh, Happy New World!


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Showing 27 comments
  • Carol Hess

    Yes, yes, yes, Sarah.  I so identify with what you said about resolutions being more like promises of becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.  But what a huge accomplishment it is to love ourselves for who we are, warts and all.  I think we all share the same purpose — to figure out who we are and fully express that person, not some unobtainable ideal of the perfect woman.And thanks for sharing the idea that January is a time for incubation.  What a relief!  Not 5 minutes ago, I said to someone that I was disappointed when I didn’t wake up on January 1, 2013 with all the answers to all my questions about where my life was going.  Maybe I’m not a hopeless slackard after all.  Maybe I’m not supposed to know it all by some arbitrary date on a calendar, even if that date represents the first day in a new world.
    Happy New World!

    • saraho

      @Carol Hess  I am so DONE with aspiring to be someone I’m not! It almost makes me wonder if that might me my mission in life: to help other wonderful women (and men) appreciate and love themselves for who they are right NOW – instead of always feeling bad about not being that ideal. It’s not that I don’t advocate aspiring for dreams, or applying ourselves to our creative projects – it’s just that I think we sabotage ourselves from all that when we hold these two opposing views of what we SHOULD be versus what we ARE.
      Glad you found some solace and relief reading this. I started writing it a few days before Jan. 1, when it dawned on me that I would wake up on that morning without all those answers neatly lined up. No, we’re not hopeless slackards, just continual seekers. Dates don’t matter. Honest self reflections does. Happy New World!

  • Priska

    Hi Sarah,
    I spent the whole of 2012 forgiving myself, I had no idea that I’d done so much wrong.
    Especially when prior to that I’d always exuded confidence, I’d even fooled myself.
    Perhaps it is because it is summer in Australia, though off to a slow start, I’m inspired by new beginnings. 
    I would not call it cruising forward with confidence, more an inner feeling that it’s OK to make a few wrong turns, eventually I’ll find my way home.

    • saraho

      @Priska LOL, I felt a little funny making all those allusions to the frozen tundra of January when I knew that some of you are sweltering down under. But in some ways summer is also a time of some regeneration. Sitting by some flowing water and listening to the call of your inner spirit. I hope that is where you can go Priska… and I’m glad you are trusting that inner feeling!

  • Dave Rowley

    Hi Sarah,
    Our neighborhood is iced over at the moment and I spent time with my boys this afternoon, walking around and cracking frozen puddles, ice skating/slipping/sliding around. So it was fitting to see your reference to the new year as a time of frozen tundra, rest, and regeneration.
    I’m a big fan of incubation and giving creative endeavors, and myself, time to grow organically. But it feel like I’m coming out of that phase right now. In  2012 I wiped my old website and all the work I had been doing for the last few years, and started over again.
    6 months or so of settling in has shaken out a lot of doubt and confusion about where I want to go. It’s new for me to start a fresh year with this much clarity and resolve, it feels a little ‘un-seasonal’ but there it is. 🙂
    I love what you said about last year being a time of self acceptance and insight for you, and I’m excited to see where you go this year!
    Wishing you a Happy New World!

    • Priska

      @Dave Rowley Hi Dave, Whilst your slipping, sliding around frozen puddles we are experiencing a heatwave in Australia with bush fires breaking out up and down the east coast of Australia.  A cool reprieve would be nice, but frozen puddles sound a little too cold.

    • saraho

      @Dave Rowley Thanks Dave. I’m excited for you and to follow along with your ‘noticing’ and your writing development! So awesome that you can appreciate the ‘frozen’ energy of January along with feeling clarity and resolve about your direction! Blessings to you in this new world!

  • LoriLynnSmith

    I definitely think that the new world is going to be amazing, there is so much potential for everyone, as long as we make the decision to move in the direction of our purpose.  🙂 I was a bit late you get my goals done, usually they are done before solstice, but I definitely hit the new year running!  super fun so far and TONS of new ideas coming up.   I am really excited and energized by the vibe going on right now.

    • saraho

      @LoriLynnSmith  It’s so exciting to see all your ideas bubbing up and coming to fruition Lori! Clearly you are not one to stay motionless in that Canadian ice during January!

  • HappierHuman

    I’m both a planner and an allower. Your advice is golden – I’ve also fallen prey too many times to making big resolutions, not accomplishing them, beating myself up, repeat, repeat, repeat, etc… 
    Small change means eventually reaching the end – consistent progress is better than sporadic progress. 
    Like other folks – I’m hitting the new year running. I’ve specially decided to stay behind in India for 2 months, so that I can focus 100% on creating some new habits. Then I’ll return to the craziness of the USA. 
    Happy new world!

    • saraho

      @HappierHuman  Ah, I envy you the opportunity to spend a few months in a country where the pace (I imagine) is a bit quieter. I await your report on your new habits, and your new creations! And glad you’re taking a break on beating yourself and making unfulfillable resolutions!

  • BobbiEmel

    I’ve never been a great planner and I stopped creating resolutions years ago because I think they just set us up for failure. However, I have to say I do have some goals for myself and my blog this year that I’ve been keeping in my head for the most part. I think I’ve kept them to myself out of fear of failure so I need to explore that a bit more.
    Although Lori Smith did get me to cough up at least one on the A-List 2013 Goals thread!

    • saraho

      @BobbiEmel  That Lori will get people talking! Don’t know what it is about her. I’m excited to watch you step into your aspirations and goals for this new year Bobbi! Your writing and accomplishments have so impressed me this year!
      That fear of failure thing is quite the bugaboo. I’m so glad I’ve learned the motto “Fail often, fail fast” – although I don’t think I’ve quite internalized it  yet… And don’t get me started on the fear of success – hmm, perhaps I feel another blog post coming on!

  • joanneofgrace

    forgiveness..  seems like i did alot of that a couple of years back,.  of course it is an everyday occurance,  but geeze,  i really went under after my son died,  (although the forgiveness of myself only came recently)  one would have thought i was the worse mother in the world from my own inner demons!  i guess i am an allower,  and would probly enjoy trying just a bit more of planning and doing!  thanks for your insights,  and friendship!!!

    • saraho

      @joanneofgrace Oh sweetie, forgiveness just keeps coming up and coming up – again and again, doesn’t it? For all of us. I’m so, SO glad you were able to come to a place of forgiving yourself. But, for what?? I think you and your demons were the only ones who would EVER think you were a bad mother, much less the world’s worst! In fact, you exude mama goddess energy! I think of you as one of the world’s best mamas!! You did go under after losing Ryan – and how could you not? That is not something to forgive in my mind. Rather, you now have something to celebrate since you are poking your head back up to the light. Your Angels and your purpose are right here waiting for you!
      Big, big hugs!!!

  • JaneRobinson

    I’m in cruise mode this year.  I don’t set resolutions but do use the new year to commit or recommit to goals.  My mind works best to start with big dreams/plans and then drill  down to details.  I do try to do one thing each day (regardless how small) to walk towards my dream life.  Thanks for the post and prompt to examine my goals/promises/resolutions.

    • saraho

      @JaneRobinson  “I do try to do one thing each day (regardless how small) to walk towards my dream life.”
      You’ve hit on it exactly! This is my big new AHA revelation… and one I continue to remind myself of day after day. It’s so easy to get hung up on the big picture and big dream, and to focus on how far it seems. What a difference it makes to visualize it with love and acceptance that it is coming, and then get into it with today’s one small action!

  • joeyjoejoe

    I was in incubating mode in December and now things are starting to bloom. I guess I’m just one of those super organizers you talk about…although it wasn’t always this way.
    January started off with a bang as I attended New Media Expo last week. The potential in the air! The raw intellect of all these awesome people and the belief that just about anything is possible! It’s rubbed off in a major way and I hope it sticks around for a long time.
    My friend Shanna has this great yo-yo analogy where we can prepare ourselves to zoom in to the detailed “here’s what I need to do right now to make things happen” and train ourselves to zoom back out to a reflective, incubating state. You know, like a yo-yo. I’ve since made it a goal – not for 2013 but rather for the indefinite future – to be more yo-yo like. I think you’re developing some quality yo-yo skills yourself Sarah and I’m glad you love yourself. If you can’t love yourself now and can’t appreciate what’s yours at the moment, it’s hard to chase that carrot that promises an even better life down the road.

    • saraho

      @joeyjoejoe That Shanna is a wise woman. I love that analogy! Just hang with being a yo-yo instead of getting all worked up about which state you are currently in (for me I always wonder if I should be in the other state. You’re right, I think I’m cultivating and developing those yo-yo skills. Thanks for the insightful comment, you organizer you!

  • Ciara Conlon

    I start planning at the end of the year but that doesn’t always mean I hit the ground running. I always struggle through January, dark, cold and tired after the holidays I’m slow to start. But I find if I have a plan in place it gives me some sort of kickstart. I think it is so important to forgive yourself the failures and the mishaps. One of my ongoing goals is to rise early to meditate. I haven’t done it once in January due to illness, new puppy keeping me up at night and sick children but no sweat I’ll start as soon as my health is back. I think January is a good time for goal setting as it’s seen as a new start but as someone said to me the other day why don’t we set  resolutions in June ? To which my reply was there’s nothing is stopping you!

    • saraho

      @Ciara Conlon Ah, you’ve set an example right there in self-forgiveness. So, you set the intention. Well, you’ve had sick kids a new puppy… all is well, you’ll start  when you’re feeling better! I think that is so much healthier than the more common situation of feeling guilty and bad and thinking, ‘oh, i can never do it anyway,’ and just giving up. Awesome, Ciara!
      But I don’t know about setting resolutions in June…:-)  At that time of year I’m usually focused on camping trips, vacations, or festivals. So I try to cut myself a break about a big schedule or resolutions. (That’s why I have no idea how our friends in Australia, New Zealand and other southerly places manage to stay focused in January – it’s the height of their summer!)

  • ZenCaffeine

    Oooh Sarah, I LOVE this. For a while, I was annoyed with myself about being in hibernation mode since November. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just muster up some energy and DO! Write, plan, go. I guess sometimes we’re a little hard on ourselves..That’s something I realized in my recap of the year, though: there’s a time for going and doing, and there’s a time for rest, hibernation and incubation.
    I had so much incubation time that the work is completely bursting out of me. It’s awesome! I guess if we give ourselves the time and space, the doing will happen when it’s time. 🙂  I just hope I can sustain this momentum… But like you said, if I screw up, there’s no reason to beat myself up. Thanks for that lovely, gentle reminder, Sarah. I always lovelovelove your messages. 🙂

    • saraho

      @ZenCaffeine  So awesome you could gift yourself with that incubation period! And you’re current creative energy just proves the point that although our culture tells us we’re ‘wasting’ time when we’re still – there’s actually quite a lot going on in the invisible realm. I hope you were able to enjoy some of that time without the Critic’s ‘do,plan,go’ nagging in your head. And, just know that no, of course you won’t sustain this momentum forever. You’ll sustain it for as long as is natural, and then like the yo-yo that Joel speaks of , you’ll pull back in for some for creative spark-building. So – no beating yourself up when it happens, okay?
      So glad you’re riding on the flow right now though! And thanks so much for the love letter comment Kaylee!

  • PaigeBurkes

    I’m starting to question the whole idea of making goal/intention setting some big, annual thing.  A very high percentage of the time, it leads to negative thoughts and feelings, as you’ve so accurately depicted.  I had to laugh at your very big goals that you used to set because my list looked scarily similar.
    As a finance person, I can relate it to the almost meaningless and incredibly time-consuming process of creating and setting annual budgets.  Two or three months before the end of the fiscal year of a company, The Process begins.  Finance people pull together their estimates of what they think the company will do for the next 12 months.  The Process usually takes two to four months.  Given how quickly markets and trends change, can you imagine that a person can know today what things will be like in 12 months?  No matter how calm the market is, it’s an impossible task.  
    Therefore, there’s a huge movement among CFO’s to drop the whole head-banging nonsense and simply create monthly forecasts.  While the forecast looks out 12 months, everyone knows that what the numbers say on paper today have little chance of matching reality at that future date.  Instead we simply make updates to the whole thing on the fly as things change.  The focus is on achieving the plans for the next month or two only.  This makes it a much more useful planning tool.  I can’t tell you how many budgets I’ve created in the past that were obsolete by the second month of the new year.
    So my suggestion for all of us trying to plan out our lives – give up the grand plans and high (and usually unrealistic) expectations of where we’ll be in 12 months.  Instead, let’s focus today on being the person we want to be in the coming month and acting like that today.

    • saraho

      @PaigeBurkes So interesting how even accountants and CFOs are beginningto ‘get it’ that the only constant is change. Life shifts and we need to be fluid and shift with it.
      I totally agree with your conclusion here:  focus on the person we want to be, how we want to serve and how we want to FEEL, and take some action today that makes us feel closer if not there.

      • PaigeBurkes

        @saraho Your last sentence is exactly why I’m not one of those people who hates my job.  I’m learning that I can be the person I want to be, serve others and feel the way I choose to feel in almost any situation.  I’ve just had to learn to look beyond the norms of how people are “supposed to” act at their job, serve co-workers and customers and feel about themselves and others.  I HIGHLY recommend others to try it.  It creates a lot more happiness!

  • Susan Telford

    Hi Sarah

    I think you and I are living parallel lives! I too am so done with being on a constant self improvement plan and I believe like you that the whole reason that I have devoted so much energy to this is because my mission in life is to discover what self-love really looks like and then share that with other women.

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