Sins, a New Year, and a “New” You

Tashlich, an important part of yesterday’s Jewish new year, is one of my favorite traditions. The synagogues’s congregation gathers near a body of running water to “cast their sins” in the form of pocket lint or bread crumbs to symbolize releasing the old that does not serve us so we can focus on what does.

We joked with the rabbi that my 9.5 week old son didn’t have any sins to cast (especially because he looked incredibly cute wearing an enormous white kippah, the traditional head covering for males).

Although I don’t believe in “sins,” I asked the rabbi when the “sin reckoning” begins.

“It takes awhile,” he said. “Certainly not at this age,” he smiled in my son’s direction.

And this got me thinking.

When do the negativity, blame, shame, and especially bad habits begin? Because it takes so very long to reverse them. I am continually amazed at the smiles of joy people exhibit when they lay eyes on a young baby. My sister says it’s the innocence. We delight in the innocent and unmarred…the all is possible, my favorite tag line. And it ‘s easier to connect to when it is pure, unsullied by self-judgment and doubt.

You may have heard that our cells replace themselves every 7-10 years. But it’s not all our cells, and it’s not all at once. Parts of ourselves are renewing within our many trillion celled body…at all times. It’s the opposite of black and white. We can draw no distinction between our newly generated, new-celled self and our former self.

The #1 mistake most people make when organizing or trying to build new habits:

They try to be someone else…!!

They try to “change all their cells” at once.

This can take many forms:

  • Throwing everything away.
  • Setting a hard goal to lose half your body weight.
  • Insisting that you must eradicate all debt/extra weight this year (that took you ten years to accumulate…
    Etc.

In a great analysis by about the health psychology researcher Phillippa Lally, James Clear explains that it takes on average 66 days to build a habit (contrary to the famously popular notion of 28). Changing yourself takes time. One little habit takes more than 1/6th of the year to put into place!

Although I don’t believe in formal sins, the greatest sin is rejecting yourself so completely that you try to change yourself all at once, even if it’s for the better.

Rather, get to a “new you” little by little:

  • Make a file for that piece of paper.
  • Call that company that sent you a weird bill right away.
  • Set aside enough time to get somewhere early.
  • Use the food in the fridge instead of ordering out and feeling broke or wasteful (or both).
  • Unpack from your trip immediately.
  • Read one email thoughtfully and respond on time with all the information needed to empower your team…

This year, may you evolve into yourself subtly, completely, and in full appreciation of who you already are.

One Response to Sins, a New Year, and a “New” You

  1. Monique Duval September 23, 2017 at 1:04 am #

    What wonderful, kind, patient words. It takes a lot of self compassion to be so wonderful, kind and patient with ourselves. It can be done. I know it can because I am doing it. However, I had to take a sabbatical to do it – but day by day my life is getting clearer and the poetry of simplicity is filling the place of chaos. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with the world Leah.

Leave a Reply