by Jim Herbert
Jim is passionate about life and he explores his individual hero’s journey with curiosity and zeal. Jim is a father, husband, yogi, mystic, storyteller, author, coach, teacher and student who sees himself as a spiritual being having an amazing human experience.
I’ve always loved New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. As a child I remember staying up late and flipping channels back and forth between what my mom wanted to watch and what my dad wanted to watch. That was back in the day when I was the remote control and had to run from the couch to the old console TV to turn the actual knob to tune the channels. Mom and I always voted for Dick Clark’s Rocking NYE, but my dad preferred NYE with Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. If I stayed awake until midnight I would usually get a tiny sip of Moet and Chandon White Star champagne which my dad and I would go and buy at the little party store about a mile from my house that was owned by a nice man named Chris.
By the time I was a teenager I had already started my journey in the hospitality industry, so from high school through college I spent pretty much all of my New Year’s holidays working. Then as a young adult I spent over a decade in retail wine and spirits. New Year’s Eve was not only the busiest day of the year but it also was a huge finish line for me. From Thanksgiving until Christmas I would work 70-80 hour weeks and then on NYE we would close the store at 8:00 PM to restock the shelves as we drank champagne and took a deep exhale.
I realize that New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve are just two days like any other days on the Gregorian calendar, but they certainly are custom built to serve as significant mileposts in the journey of life. Each year with the dawning of the New Year, every one of us is gifted with an opportunity to draw a line in the sand as we decide what to let go of and leave behind. In doing so we create another opportunity, which is the chance to start anew with purpose and intention. It all sounds so inspiring and nearly packaged, doesn’t it? In truth, I find it a bit overwhelming.
For years I’ve read countless blog posts and listened to coachspeak about how New Year’s resolutions always fail unless they are accompanied by a measurable goal set and a willingness to take action. Frankly, I’ve written more than my fair share of those exact types of blog posts and distributed countless beginning of the year goal questionnaires to clients and friends alike.
In reality, there are actually an unlimited number of opportunities to draw a line in the sand and start anew throughout the year. In fact there are even a variety of different New Year’s to acknowledge. Many years ago I used to celebrate Norwuz, the Persian New Year with my long term karate Sensei from Iran. Norwuz typically falls around the spring equinox. Many of my Jewish friends celebrate Rosh Hashana which falls in the late summer or early fall. My people from Ireland follow Celtic tradition which recognizes the festival of Samhain as the Celtic New Year on October 31st and November 1st. Samhain is the time of year when it is said that the veils between our human world and the spirit world are at their thinnest so we can tap into the support and wisdom of the ages as we set our intentions for the year ahead. The possibilities to start anew and reclaim one’s essence by turning a page on the past are truly infinite.
While it’s great to set goals, create plans and make resolutions, these days I find myself leaning into one particular question when I am crossing any major threshold or milestone in the journey of life. That question is, “What is my intention going forward?”
As a yoga teacher, I’ve invited people to set an intention for the day’s practice. In group coaching gatherings or other circles, I will often ask people to make an intention for the time we will spend together and either write it down, speak it out loud or call it into their heart. For some people it has become trendy to choose a word of intention to serve as a beacon for the entire year ahead. Just the other day on New Year’s Eve, I had a fun discussion with my father in law about the concepts of New Year’s resolutions vs. choosing a word of intention. When he asked me what I thought about the differences between the two concepts, I accidentally said something that I thought was fairly profound.
To me, the concept of making a New Year’s resolution has always seemed to be a bit punitive. It’s as if we are looking at something that we have identified as a problem in our life and we are using the mile marker of the New Year to try to eradicate that problem. Common resolutions like losing weight, quitting drinking or decluttering the house/office/life in general make the assumption that the behavior pattern you are seeking to change is a negative part of self. In terms of Jungian Psychology those parts would be labeled as the shadow self.
While there is certainly great value in losing some weight or any other new behavioral choice, too frequently that motivation comes from a place of self or societal shame. Living in a state of self-shame, pathologizes our shadow parts and makes an attempt to run from those parts instead of integrating them, or dare I say even embracing them.
For example, for years I labeled my daily use of wine as a failure to be more disciplined at quitting drinking or more fully present in all the experiences of life without being a bit numb. Year after year I would try to quit or cut back on drinking only to increase my shame levels when I failed. Now that I sit here two years sober, I can actually bless those parts of myself that used wine as a protection from experiencing fear and memories of the past that were so excruciating that I may not have lived to be where I am at today had I not waited to unpack that stuff until more recently, when I have been resourced enough to manage to process.
Let me be clear that I am not condoning or suggesting that it is a good idea to abuse substances of any kind. I am only offering an alternate perspective on how we can try to embrace all our parts of self, even the ones that we don’t necessarily prefer.
Setting an intention for the year ahead on the other hand, can serve as a guiding light. That light can help one stay aligned with their core values and priorities throughout the year and serve as a touchstone in times of challenge or even crisis. I loved the word my father-in-law chose for 2024. He told me that his word for the year is listen. By setting an intention to listen attentively, he said that he would be doing a better job of both following his own intuition and honoring the needs of others in his life to be heard and seen. That to me seems to beautifully honor our MenLiving suggestion to Live Curiously.
I think my word for 2024 is going to be surrender. I am ready to let go of so many of the stories I have been telling and re-telling in my own head which continue to give me the opportunity to stay underneath my victim’s cloak. It can be so easy to live in a place of feeling sorry for myself when I forget that I am the co-creator of my life and that nothing is happening TO me, but rather it is happening FOR me! I guess you could say that I am setting an intention to live more intentionally in 2024.
What’s your word for 2024? I’d love it if you would put your word for 2024 in the comments below, text or email it to me or anything else where you put the word out into the Universe, thereby creating an accountability contract with self.
If you would like to learn more about the five MenLiving suggestions for living more fully, join me on Thursday January 11th at 7:00 PM central when I will be hosting a discussion about the first of the five suggestions, Living Consciously. You can sign up at the calendar link on this same webpage. Until then, wishing you a Happy New Year and an intentional path ahead for 2024.
You can reach Jim at email@example.com