After all the bustle and festivities of the holiday season in December, January can feel a bit like a hangover. The twinkling lights that brought so much pleasure are the source of frustration and scratches and scrapes as they have to be pulled from trees and bushes, the ornaments wrapped safely so they’ll be there next year, the garland twirled at the bottom of the box to act as a cushion.
Many people set to making resolutions; others seem equally invested in denouncing these promises to ourselves as fruitless, seeing them as an exercise in self-flagellation instead of a call to our higher selves. How and why do our resolutions turn into instruments of self-torture? Why don’t we keep our promises to ourselves?
Janus, the two-faced god of beginnings and transitions
January takes its name from Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions who is also seen as the god of doorways, thresholds and gates. Perched at the beginning of the year, one face looks behind at the past, the next is set on the future. In ancient times, he was invoked at the beginning of most rituals, as he held watch over heaven and all the other gods, and was an important part of harvest and marriage ceremonies.
Janus is also reported to have minted the first coins- a nod towards the importance of our invoking what he represents for all of our transactions and manifestations. Yet how many of us cross the threshold of a new year, open the gate to a new era in our lives, or move through the doorway into a new venture or relationship and want to “never look back”? Does it really work like that? Why don’t we want to look back? Are we afraid of something? Do we think that looking at the past will somehow suck us back in to it?
How does this approach to a new year show up in our daily lives? So often in my work with clients, I urge them to develop a Janus perspective when setting goals. It becomes very easy to get bogged down when only focusing on all that needs to be done. When that to-do list is long, it can be incredibly easy to become disheartened and feel like we’re making no progress at all because the list never seems to get any shorter.
Its when we look behind us and recognize what we’ve accomplished and how far we’ve come that we become encouraged to keep moving forward and empowered to take the requisite steps to achieve our goals. It cultivates gratitude, and builds self-esteem. We’re gathering proof of what we’re capable of, writing a story where we take care of business and figure out solutions to problems that threatened to overwhelm us.
I’ve found that incorporating recognition of my achievements into my weekly goal setting session not only inspires me and builds my confidence, but helps me in setting realistic and attainable goals. How many negative stories I’d get caught in and pull myself down with simply because I wasn’t taking the time to really look at how my time was being spent, how many components were actually involved in a project, and the reality of how I moved through my week and my life!
It’s important to examine our mindset at beginnings. So often, we think that changing our material circumstances is the answer to our problems, not recognizing that, actually, our mindset interprets and thus creates our circumstances. How upsetting it is to see how many people posted negatively about 2012 on Facebook, then layed out expectations for 2013 to be better… sorry, ya’ll, but if you’re not finishing the year mining for the good to bring with you to the next, you’ll find little good to come.
There is a story about a man that was sitting on the porch of a general store at the entrance of a small town. A family on vacation pulled in to stretch and get snacks. The father approached the man and said “What are people like around here? We’re thinking of moving somewhere before the kids start school.”
“Well,” thought the man, “what are people like where you are now?”
“Oh, they’re terrible! They’re cold and selfish and would just as soon kick you in the teeth than help you.”
“That’s what they’re like here,” the man replied.
The father thanked him for his insight and they moved on.
A little while later, another family pulled in to the general store. While the mother took the daughter inside to go to the bathroom, the father wandered over to the man on the front porch.
“You from here?” he asked the man.
“Yes, I am.”
“What are folks like in these parts? Sometimes we think we’d like to leave the city.”
“Well, what are folks like where you are?” the man asked.
“Oh, we’re in a great neighborhood. People are friendly and look after each other.”
“That’s what they’re like here, too.” the man replied.
What stories are you telling yourself about what people are like, who you are, what you’re capable of? What stories have you bought in to about what is possible or even likely? How does that effect what you see and how you interpret what you experience? Pausing at the beginning to take a look back before we move forward can help us to keep what’s working and fix or leave behind what isn’t. It raises our awareness of ourselves and our lives so we don’t move forward on autopilot, then wonder why we keep finding ourselves back where we’d worked so hard to leave behind.