New Year, New Me? Expectation, Motivation, Exploitation and Appreciation

Sunset over the River Mersey
Sunset over the River Mersey

Instinctively, I am not a fan of arbitrary dates.

If you want to achieve something, why wait until January 1st, or your birthday, or your next promotion?


The most radical, transformative learning of the past year personally was that individuals operate primarily according to one of the Four Tendencies, based on their response to internal and external expectation. What may seem arbitrary to me, a questioner, may provide precisely the external motivation needed for an obliger. For example, when an obliger’s friends all use January 1st as a trigger for Dry January, they find the motivation they need to reduce their alcohol intake.


Motivation is not as simple as understanding our expectations. As a questioner, I may fully understand why I want to do something, or an obliger may respond easily to the expectation of a loved one to complete a task, yet we know that our motivation may wax and wane. Our perception of time is a key element to understanding our motivation, and how this affects our response to expectation.

Just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, thus seemingly-impossible goals can be broken into smaller, achievable tasks. Yet, continued, consistent completion of the smaller tasks cannot be sustained over a long period of time with the motivation of the end goal alone.

A year, then, is a convenient block of time. It is close enough that our achievements can be measured; yet far enough that we can be ambitious. We can see the end and reach toward it. The idea of a ‘new decade’s resolution’ seems absurd; yet a ‘new year’s resolution’ is practiced annually the world over.


New Year’s resolutions can equally be an opportunity for exploitation. No doubt in January our social media feeds will fill with start-up supplement companies claiming to have the latest ‘magic’ weight-loss pill, discounted from the already inflated prices the industry commands. Magazines are filled with ‘new year, new you’ promises. Although seemingly offering ‘help’, exploitation of vulnerabilities and insecurities is rife, as each ad implies that you need helping in the first place.


In October, I attended Shelf Help’s First Birthday Party. This was a highlight of the year – yoga, workshops, self-help, book club all rolled into 1 day. I couldn’t have planned a better birthday party myself! We each left with an affirmation, that had been hand-written by the two resident yoga teachers and handed to us at random. I received: “I love my life as it is right now”.

To quote Oprah, I had an ‘Aha!’ moment. Every time I bought something I didn’t need, I was attempting to assert a sense of control. I was attempting to make my life better. If I just purchase this scarf, this perfume, this make-up, this face mask…. I will look more beautiful, feel more confident….  The purchase would make the image I present to the outside world match more closely the image I wished it were. My ‘dream’ world.

The further apart these two images, the unhappier I am.

The solution is not to change the outside world, but the inside: I love my life as it is right now. Operating from a place of gratitude, I do not consider what I lack. I do not operate from a place of unworthiness, or insecurity. I take pride in my achievements, I take pride in what I have created, the life I have built. I am thankful for those I love who are around me, who support me, who keep me grounded through the highs and hopeful through the lows.

Within the happiness framework I published earlier this year, I acknowledged growth as one of the five key pillars to happiness. Yet it can only be fulfilling if we achieve growth through appreciation. Fundamentally: we are grateful for the opportunities we have ahead, as much as the achievements we leave behind.

As in nature, so in life: progress is cyclical. We need periods of driving forward, and relaxation, across many measures of time. Over a day, we must take breaks to rest and recover. When training our physical bodies, over the course of a week we need rest days, and throughout the year we cannot sustain intense regimes; rather, a workable solution is to push toward a goal over a few months before consolidating, recouping, and pushing onward. Intense drive forward from a place of lack is not sustainable, nor should it be.

Thank you 2018. Onward 2019.