compassionately keeping a New Year’s resolution

Happy New Year everyone! Given the New Year was approaching, I wrote about creating a compassionate New Year’s Resolution a few days ago. I said that “your resolution is a communication to yourself about yourself and what you value. A compassionate New Year’s Resolution articulates and strengthens your personal values and interests. It is likely to be open-ended and capable of accommodating your humanity.” I then offered a few ways to create a compassionate New Year’s Resolution.

In that post I also said I would write again about how you might compassionately keep a New Year’s Resolution. When I said that I had no idea how to go about that. I just thought there was no use creating a compassionate resolution and then being forceful with yourself and stressing out over keeping it. Nor would it be in the spirit of compassion to abuse yourself when things don’t go as you planned.

So, I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few thoughts.

Compassionately keeping a New Year’s Resolution means…

At the core of your compassionate resolution are your personal values including care for yourself. So, compassionately keeping your resolution should entail:

  1. Keeping your needs and your values at the centre of any actions — or ‘inactions’ if your resolution is written that way.
  2. Making sure you don’t sacrifice your other needs and values to achieve your resolution. For example, you can’t add hours of gym to an already over-scheduled day. You still need to sleep.

1. Keep your needs and values at the centre of your actions (or ‘inactions’)

This would involve checking in on your resolution as it is written. You’ll need to be creative about this. Here are a few ideas I came up with:

The first idea is to write your resolution out and stick it somewhere it will surprise you from time to time. The inside door of the linen cupboard; in your glove-box; behind your credit card: those places would work. Read your resolution and be reminded of what you want to create — and why. Read your resolution slowly until you start to smile.

Another option is to schedule a regular ‘resolution date.’ Would daily, weekly, or monthly work well for you and your resolution? Make some time to read and connect with your resolution, to celebrate your accomplishments, to mourn any setbacks and to consider: What next?

To keep your needs and values central, you may also like to leave some space for growth: as you work on your resolution, new goals and values may emerge. You wanted to lose weight and now you want to focus on getting strong. I say go for it. Your initial resolution is merely part one of your year!

2. Manage your resolution to allow you to take care of your other needs

I do not do well at this part. I tend to take on a million things and end up overwhelmed, worn out, grumpy, resentful. And of course getting mad at myself for making another mess. So, I brainstormed some ideas to keep me out of trouble this year… I welcome you to chose one or two if you wish…

Some Strategies

Here are a few strategies you could try to keep your resolutions. The first few involve some planning but I would recommend being flexible and adjusting your approach to changing circumstances.

Start with research – maybe January could be about investigating ways you might like to go about meeting your resolution and planning how this may look in your life. Will you have to make any changes to accommodate your resolution? Are you willing to make those changes? Who could help you? Who might resist? I am going to start with research this year.

Snowballing – take one action in January and add a new thing each month. By the end of the year you will have 11 actions you are taking. Yes, 11 — because — December!

Small steps – take one step a day, week or month toward your goal.

‘Being’ resolutions – if your resolution is more about being than doing or having maybe you don’t need a strategy. Or you could think of places and circumstances where your being is easier than others and consider how to extend that experience to other places and circumstances. Thanks Bernd for reminding me of ‘being’ goals in your comment.

Resolutions about contributing to others – To achieve something for a group of people, you may be able to work alone. But it could be powerful to recruit your group. If you are working on building harmonious relationships, you may like to explore what others think about the situation: what do they feel and think about it? Is there space in your resolution for them? Thank you OrchidWhisperer for reminding me about contributing to others.

Letting your resolution work its own magic – just write your resolution, own it and go with whatever happens. My second example below illustrates how this can work (even before the year began!)

What might this look like?

I am going to give two examples. The first is my ‘real resolution’ the second is one that I seem to have accidentally taken on as a result of creating an example in the last post.

1. My ‘real serious’ resolution

Ok, here is my official resolution:

“I apply presence and mutuality to reduce greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere.”

In 2018 I gave my car away and started walking or taking public transport. I had my house insulated and installed solar panels and solar hot water. I’m still working on my personal carbon footprint but this year I want to go bigger.

In 2019, I want to work with government bodies, community groups, and/or businesses to assist with larger-scale carbon-reduction processes. I have no idea what that might look like, so I am going to spend a month or so doing some research. I’m hoping to find local groups that I could work with and uncover priority issues in my area (Ipswich is traditionally a coal mining town, so I should not have to look too far.) I will also explore what my workplace is doing (I think we are pretty good, but there may be some project to join.) I suspect this will turn out to be a small steps type of year, with each step leading to another week-by-week and month-by-month. I may have a little plan in place by the end of January. It may all remain open-ended all year long…

2. The ‘accidental’ resolution

This is an example of a let it work its own magic resolution. So, in my previous post, I created this resolution as an example:

“I love and appreciate myself and I live life to the fullest.”

I wasn’t meaning to take it on, but I read it and it really moved me in the moment.

A few hours later, I found myself dragging all my size 12 jeans from my wardrobe. Now, I was size 12 for about 15 minutes in 2013. I have hung on to these lovely, still new jeans ever since. I made a small clothes mountain on the floor. I added all the shirts that I must wear with shoulders hunched to prevent the buttons popping at the front, plus the stuff I don’t wear because it is old, ugly, scratchy, gives me a wedgie, or is just ‘not me.’ Then I loaded it into my partner’s car, drove it all to a Lifeline donation bin and deposited it. When the little door to the donation bin closed I just started laughing. I felt so good!  I felt wonderful, free, liberated. I am smiling now.

The next morning, I spontaneously unsubscribed to a heap of email lists: craft supplies I will never use; online courses on philosophy, history, creative writing I ‘should’ do, store advertising… I cleared my inbox of the negative clutter that was reminding me I need to do this or that to be acceptable. I unsubscribed to it all and felt so light and free. I don’t have all this stuff hanging over me, I can just get on with things! I am curious as to what might happen next…

Your resolutions and how you might work — or play — with them

That’s me done — I am all out of ideas. I would love to hear from anyone who would like to share their resolutions and/or how you might fulfil them. Please add to the comments. 🙂

Cheers! Rowena.

create a compassionate New Year’s Resolution

Today, I provide some reasons to create a compassionate New Year’s Resolution. I provide two ways to create a resolution that will inspire you throughout the year. I ask you to share any alternative ways to create a compassionate resolution and share your resolutions if you would like. ❤

In a few days I will write about compassionately keeping your compassionate resolution…

take some time to create a compassionate New Year’s Resolution

Your New Year’s Resolution is not only a promise and a commitment to take — or not take — certain actions. Your resolution is a communication to yourself about yourself and what you value. A compassionate New Year’s Resolution articulates and strengthens your personal values and interests. It is likely to be open-ended and capable of accommodating your humanity.

If you take the time to create a compassionate resolution, you will create a powerful resolution, one that will uplift you and inspire you to act throughout the year.

Although it may take a little longer to write a compassionate resolution, the process is enjoyable. The two methods of creating compassionate resolutions provided below will also avoid resolutions that come from a place of self-loathing, from comparisons, and a feeling that you should be different to what you are.

“I resolve to eat only 1500 calories per day”

“I will run 100 km per week.”

Such generic New Year’s Resolutions can become empty acts of violence against yourself. These resolutions lock you into one or two strategies to meet the goal underneath the resolution. They imply that you are only worthy if you succeed in those strategies. They do not take into account the wonderful beauty and messiness of our humanity. This may lead to failure, frustration and defeat. Don’t go there.

I value myself, therefore, I take the time to reflect on my values and create a resolution that is personally meaningful and exciting to me. Here are two options to create a compassionate New Year’s Resolution that work for me.

Option 1: A values-based New Year’s Resolution

This is my preferred way of creating a compassionate New Year’s Resolution. It is suitable if you have not already created your resolution.

  1. Pick an issue that you would like to focus on. The issue could be anything important to you: your well-being, relationships, adventure, education, whatever is important to you in this moment.
  2. Consider what values might help you make progress in that area. Underpinning your work on the issue with your values will help you stay connected to your resolution and motivated to continue with any strategies you create. A great resource for this step is the CNVC Needs Inventory (needs and values are the same for this exercise). You may find that one, two, or three jump out at you and resonate in the moment. Choose those values. I take a little longer — I usually download the list and highlight a dozen or so that appeal to me and then whittle it down to a maximum of three.
  3. Write your resolution with the emphasis on the values you are bringing to your issue.

What might that look like?

I will give my process as an example.

I chose the environment, specifically greenhouse gas reduction as my issue. When I considered this, the values that most resonated were: presence and mutuality. From this work I developed my compassionate resolution. It naturally fell into two parts: reduction and capture of greenhouse gasses. The two parts are:

“In 2019 I will apply presence and mutuality to reduce greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere.”


“In 2019 I will apply presence and mutuality to carbon sinking.” 

I have some new and existing projects in mind that will bring this resolution to life. More about that in the next post on keeping a compassionate New Year’s Resolution.

Option 2: Communicating to yourself that you are worthy of love and compassion.

This is an option for people who are already set on a specific resolution. It frames your resolution with self-compassion. This technique is heavily influenced by Louise Hay.

  1. Write your resolution.
  2. Reframe your resolution by reading “I love and appreciate myself, therefore I…” and then write down what comes to mind. You might like to do this a few times.

What might this look like?

Lets return to one of our example resolutions:

“I will eat only 1500 calories per day”

When I read the statement above a few times, the resolution transformed through a few iterations…

“I love and appreciate my beautiful body and provide myself with delicious, nourishing food to keep me healthy and strong.”

“I love and appreciate myself and I live life to the fullest.”

“I love and appreciate myself and I take loving care of myself and of my home, the Earth.”

Even though I had no intention of creating a diet-focused resolution, these really speak to me.

Your resolutions

I would love to hear your resolutions, of alternate ways to create a compassionate resolution, or of your experiences using my techniques. You are very welcome to share in the comments. ❤

What to do about Christmas presents?

So Christmas has rolled around again and I am starting to feel uneasy about a little unresolved conflict that has been slowly developing over the last decade or so… what do we do about gift giving?

I know I am not the only one facing this dilemma, but for those of you without this problem, this is what it looks like in my family:

  • I would prefer to spare the earth’s resources and not give and receive gifts at all but this has not caught on.
  • One of my sisters gives practical, sustainable presents – but I’m not sure everyone receives them in the spirit they were given.
  • Some of my brothers and sisters travel from interstate or overseas. They may be concerned about their budget (and how much they must pack and take on the way home).
  • Some want presents given just to kids. Those without kids don’t see this as fair.
  • Some want their kids to have less presents as receiving a whole load of presents can be over-stimulating and can remove the focus from family time to competition.
  • Some enjoy the tradition of the tree surrounded by an absolute sea of presents and than watching everyone unwrap their gifts.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. With eight in my generation plus spouses, and eleven in the next generation, a consensus seems unlikely. But it is a really important issue to me and one I don’t want to give up on.

So now I’m preparing to start the conversation again for next Christmas and looking to use nonviolent communication to do this. Because there is an emotional charge around the conversation, the first thing I need to do is create space for empathy by considering what needs and values might underlie the various feelings and strategies around gift-giving.

Human needs of those who want to give and receive gifts

What values are people wanting to establish and maintain by giving and receiving gifts? What needs are they wishing to express? I came up with the following possibilities:

Connection, belonging, fun, love, joy, & self-expression

Human needs of those who are seeking an alternative to our current gift-giving practices

What values are people wanting to establish and maintain by not giving and receiving so many gifts? What needs are they wishing to express?

I came up with the following possibilities:

Sustainability, love, ease, peace, & self-expression

When I look at these lists I feel a bit more connected to those in my family who have different opinions to me. I can see that this is not an either-or situation – it is possible to belong to both groups. It is even interesting to see that the lists have love and self-expression in common.

a conversation guided by nonviolent communication principles

There are many nonviolent communication resources that can help resolve a conflict. I’m working my way through the ONGO Book at the moment, so I will try out the pattern they suggest. This looks something like

When I see|hear|experience ….

I feel ….

Because I would love to be have|experience ….

Would you consider….

So I might start a conversation like this:

When I see all the Christmas presents piled under the tree and imagine all the paper and plastic wrappings that must be thrown away, I feel uneasy and sad because I’d like to do Christmas in a way that is warm and fun and does not create a lot of waste – and I have not figured out a way to do that.

Do you think we might do Christmas a little differently next year so that we can have fun and  be kind to the environment?


I was going to add a list of strategies we might consider BUT it would totally undermine the conversation if I was to come prepared with all the answers. I need to slow down and let any answers (if there are any) arise in the conversation.

More on the ONGO Book

This really seems to be an excellent resource. There is a whole rich, deep element of being connected to your body as you go through this process that I have not written about. If you are interested in nonviolent communication I recommend you get a copy. Maybe for Christmas 🙂

Catherine Cadden & Jesse Wiens (2017) The ONGO book: Everyday nonviolence.

Photo attribution

Frank Tellez. Christmas Presents. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Writing a eulogy or special occasion speech: #1 getting in touch with your feelings.

This is a bit of a change of pace for my blog – I am writing this post because a couple of people have asked me for a hand when writing a speech and I want to pop my thoughts somewhere where they are easily shared…

so, you have just been approached to speak

… at a special occasion. It may be a wedding; it may be a retirement party; or perhaps a funeral. You may have anticipated this moment, or it may be a surprise. You may be a confident speaker, you may be feeling overwhelmed. In any circumstance, if you want to give a beautiful speech, one that is real and comes from the heart, it will help to consider and bring together the following aspects:

  • yourself: your feelings and experience
  • the person you are celebrating: their life, accomplishments, and relationships
  • the people who will receive your speech: their needs and expectations.

This post talks about how to consider and acknowledge your own feelings and experiences to prepare yourself for the writing. I will link to posts that will help you get together your thoughts about the person you are celebrating and connect with the folk who will receive your speech as I publish them.

your feelings and experience

At any special occasion, you may be feeling a lot of feelings. There may be joy and anticipation. There is also likely to be a surprising element of grief. You may be about to lose a valued member of staff to retirement, a family member who is relocating to a partner’s hometown, or you may be grieving a loved one who has died. Many of us are familiar with Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief . We expect to be working our way through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, it may come as an unpleasant surprise that these emotions may hit us at a happy celebration, or that they arrive several at a time, or in the ‘wrong’ order or that some may linger, or come and come again. This is actually all normal and ok*. Kubler-Ross herself did not suggest that one needs to spend a certain amount of time in any stage, or advocate trying to rush through grieving. Nor did she suggest that there was an orderly or predictable progression through the emotions of grief.

This is important because to write a eulogy from the heart you will need to be connected to your heart, to be vulnerable, open. Acknowledgement of all of the emotions associated with your grief as you are experiencing it also allows you to more fully explore what your colleague, friend, or loved one means to you and the significance of their place in your life. There may be surprises in this.

The following exercise can help you acknowledge rather than rush through your emotions. I was introduced to it by nonviolent communication teacher, Thom Bond.** Read through the exercise fully before you begin.

an exercise to help you connect with your heart and feelings

Find a time and a safe and comfortable place where you are not going to be disturbed by noise, light, or activities around you.

Set a timer for five minutes.

Sit down, close your eyes and ask yourself: What am I feeling?

As the feelings arise, answer the question honestly and simply. “I am feeling…”

This may sound like: “I am feeling nothing, I am feeling bored, I am feeling a little upset, I am feeling curious, I am feeling anguished. I am disappointed, I am bitter, I am bitter, I am scared, I am jealous, I am ashamed, I am weary, I am feeling a deep, sweet sadness.”

You may find you get stuck on a particular feeling for the entire five minutes. You may cycle through a number of feelings. There are no wrong feelings or wrong periods of time. There is only you feeling your feelings.

Just sit for 5 minutes (or longer) and keep asking yourself: What am I feeling?

If at any time you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, open your eyes and do what you need to do to feel safe and comfortable again, then resume the exercise.

You may find yourself overwhelmed by thoughts of what you or others could or should have done/said/been. Approach these thoughts especially gently. If you find yourself berating yourself or others, acknowledge the emotion and the cause. This may sound like:

“I am feeling really yukky because I wish it was me having the baby and I would like to be happy for her, but part of me is just stuck in feeling mad and sad.”

“I am pissed off – I spent all that time training her and now she has accepted a transfer!”

“I am feeling awkward because really my brother was there to help her and I rarely called.”

“I am angry because I spent all those years looking after her and now that she is dead everyone else turns up! I wish they would acknowledge how hard that was for me instead of making excuses.”

“I am afraid. I have never lived alone, I don’t know that I have what it takes.”

I find that just acknowledging this stuff can loosen its grip on me, but I have called a counselling service a few times, when I needed help to work through something. For this reason, I have included links to sites in Australia and New Zealand where you can find information about free services, should you need them.

so, what do you do with all this emotion?

I would use it as a starting point to think about what the person I am going to talk about really means to me. You may get connected to how much the person has contributed to your workplace, to your community and your life. Some of it might make its way into the speech: “Geez, when Mary told me she was leaving, I actually panicked a bit but only because I realised how much she does around this place and I know replacing her will be impossible,” followed by a list of wonderful things Mary contributes to the workplace, of course!

However, the real value of the exercise and connecting to your emotions is that this genuine connection will underpin your speech, making it easier to be real when you are standing up in front of all the people. Please try it and let me know how it goes for you.

This post covered the first of three aspects that I believe you need to consider and integrate to write and deliver a beautiful eulogy or special occasion speech. When I write about the other two aspects: the person you are celebrating; and the people who will receive your speech, I will update this post with the links.

* this is totally my opinion, I am not a counsellor and am not qualified in any healing or therapeutic practices other than sport massage but I don’t tell people about that.

**I would totally recommend Thom’s online course – and a reminder – taking a few courses in nonviolent communication does not make me an expert, or qualified.

counselling: Australia and New Zealand

I’m happy to add more sites, if anyone wants one added, please provide the information in the comments.

Lifeline Australia or call 13 11 14

Australian National Mental Health Commission

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

references and photo attribution

Bond, Thom. (2015). The Compassion Course online. Thom’s website:

Forsberg, Samantha. Forest [photo].CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Kübler-Ross, E., & Kessler, D. (2014). On grief and grieving: Finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. Simon and Schuster.

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