January never feels like a natural time for me to make life changes or start new things. Although I’ve fought this contrariness for many years, I’ve finally realized there are several reasons for this, and I should pay more attention to my instincts.
First, January is the middle of winter, and it’s impossible to deny all the implications of this. It feels like a time to rest and recharge, maybe to do some retrospective reflection But I never feel motivated to initiate growth and change when the days are dark, short, and cold.
Second, I’m usually mentally worn out after six or more weeks of preparations and celebrations around the holidays. I push myself to prepare special food, select and buy gifts, decorate the house, and do entertaining. As an introvert, I need some serious recovery time before I feel motivated and energized enough to think about any new undertakings.
This year I realized that September is a more natural time for me to think about resolutions and changes. After so many years as a student, I can’t help but get a bit of that “back to school” feeling. It feels like a time of new beginnings. And after the summer months, which tend to be more relaxed and lazy, it feels like a time to get serious about starting something new.
As I get older, I realize it’s important to recognize and leverage the times I feel inclined to initiate change. We can’t control when the Spirit may be calling us to change. It’s tempting to ignore what may be just a quiet but insistent whisper that invites change and instead plan to act at a more convenient time. But trying to force change at a time that seems better for my schedule or on someone else’s idea of when to make changes (i.e., January resolutions) never ends well. I’m more likely to be successful if I act on my instincts when I notice them. And since I’m often caught up in my current plans and schedule, many times I don’t even hear the prompting from the Spirit until that whisper gets quite loud!
So this year, I’m going to use September as my virtual January. Because September doesn’t have the January baggage of over-optimistic expectations and social media comparisons, I feel free to initiate more modest changes and see how well they fit over the next few months. Who knows, maybe September will end up being a January jump start, and I’ll feel more motivated to make further changes at the beginning of the new year. Or maybe not, and that’s fine too. Mostly I’m just curious about how this approach will work to get me moving in a direction that I think would be helpful.
Maybe you’re also hearing some call to change and feeling a bit of new autumn energy and motivation. How about doing something that leverages that energy to get you moving in the direction you want to go? You can likely accomplish something with a tiny investment of time and effort (for example, 5 minutes of meditation 3 days a week, reading for 10 minutes every weekday, doing 3 yoga poses every Saturday and Sunday, writing a sentence in your journal every day, setting aside 5 minutes at night for prayer).
If your September experiment is a success, you already have some positive changes as the days get shorter and winter arrives. And if it’s not what you consider a success, then you have more data to help make better plans for January or whenever you again hear that whisper calling you to change.
A Closing Prayer – For Those Feeling the Need for Change
Bless all of us who are transitioning away from summer schedules and those days of living at a slower pace. As fall arrives, help us notice if we feel stirrings of change. Let us pay attention to what we are yearning for and consider if we feel increased energy to try something new. Without the pressure from January resolutions, may we make minor changes to move us in the right direction. May we be curious about how these changes serve us, rather than being rigid or self-condemning if our changes don’t work out. Help us trust that our best desires come from You. And give us the courage to pursue these desires and grow into the person You created us to be.. Amen.