In the Scheme of Things: Fresh Starts

WinterI like January. As wonderful as the holiday season is, there’s something about returning to “normal” that January invites. I like its flocked trees and wintry adventures, and the fact that I was born in this month.

I’ve heard my birth story dozens of time: my parents needing to follow a snowplow from Columbia Falls to Whitefish, Montana in blizzard conditions. My mother always claimed that was why I was the last child: too much stress making it to the hospital during their first Montana winter. They’d arrived with my brother the previous summer so my father could work on the Hungry Horse Dam project.

But, I digress. Mostly I like January for its psychological reset-power of a fresh start. It represents a new year, a new chance, a new opportunity. Whether you’re a fan of New Year’s resolutions or not, January represents change. Like Janus, the Roman god of doorways — beginnings and endings, as well as transitions and movement — whose name inspired this first month, January brings a choice. We can choose transition and movement, or the status quo and sameness.

That doorway concept crystallized for me several years ago as a result of a difficult work relationship. Returning from a holiday vacation, I was catching up on email on the flight home. “How could that be?” I muttered silently as I reread the message. I was upset to discover my first meeting of the New Year was scheduled with my nemesis. It wasn’t a good meeting and our negative dance continued in my office that day.

Yet that January meeting ignited change for me. I finally realized I could drag the past into the future by continuing to contribute to the detrimental escalation of our work relationship, or I could leave it behind and make a psychological fresh start. I chose the latter.

What changed was the vision I had of my doorway options. That colleague brought my less than positive side out and I’d relinquished to him power to control my reactions. With one choice I took it back. Going forward, whenever I saw him, I’d mentally say, “I wish you well.” At first I forced the thought, but in time it flowed naturally. Wishing him well slowly altered my responses to him and refashioned how I showed up, enabling me to transform a negative work relationship into a professionally neutral one.

While it’s good to remember the only person whose behavior we control is our own, that’s not the power January brings. The real power isn’t in our once-a-year resolutions, but in our understanding that fresh thinking can happen any time of the year.

In the scheme of things, you have the power to start anew with old problems, difficult relationships, limiting beliefs, or narrow thinking anytime. You don’t need the start of a New Year, only your choice of a new start. You can reignite dreams and aspirations any day. You can rebuild relationships any day. That’s the power January brings; the power of an open doorway, to choose whatever change or transition we want to bring into our lives. And that’s why I like January.