I love it when a year changes over to the next. I especially love New Year's Eve because for one day people around the world embrace the concept of a clean slate and a fresh start. It's an international day of optimism and the energy is contagious.
New year's resolutions get a bad rap. Some people claim that they never keep them so they just give up on setting them. Other people claim that resolutions are an example of not being content with who we are or failing to embrace our flaws. I think, though, that wanting to change and be better stems not from a lack of self-esteem, but rather a desire to use some of the untapped potential that we know exists in us.
This is healthy. If I am the same exact person I was a year ago it means that I've gone twelve months without learning anything. Nothing from books, nothing from conversations with friends and colleagues, nothing from a TV program and nothing from a joyful (or difficult) experience. This sounds like a pretty boring life. Our one over-arching resolution should always be to be a different person by this time next year.
You can't outsource potential. I forget who first said this, but the thing about your potential is that you're the only one who can reach it. Success changes the dynamics of relationships more often than failure does and I'm convinced that we usually self-sabotage out of a fear of success rather than a fear of failure.
As my own therapist is fond of saying, "people stay in hell because the street signs are familiar." Don't waste your potential just because the people around you may be wasting theirs. Change and growth are hard work, but worth it.
Originally published January 2012