I wonder how many people will start 2017 with the phrase "new year, new me" swirling in their heads. It seems to be the catch-phrase of every January. Search for it in Google and you get about 650 million hits, all dishing out the same old tired advice.
And yet barely a week after the calendar page has been turned on January 1, there's a whole host of tweets and links to articles about "why you've failed at your new years resolutions already" which, I don't know about you, I always find incredibly motivating (note the treacle-thick sarcasm).
Let's face it, motivation isn't something you can bottle and decide to bring out on December 31 like a magnum of champagne. In my experience, it usually appears when you least expect it, at your lowest ebb, when you're skirting the borders of rock bottom. For me, that did not coincide with the first day of the year but a lonely Monday in April nearly twelve years ago when the switch finally flicked. I was depressed, dangerously overweight and desperate for my life to change. I had been searching for a "new me" for what felt like forever.
What I learned that day, and in the months and years that followed, is that the "new you" you've been looking for usually turns out to be the you that's been there all along.
The real you.
Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against new year's resolutions. The quest for self improvement is a journey well worth taking - I would never dissuade anyone from doing so - but, for any of the changes you make to stick, it has to be a journey you make from the inside. Rather than focusing on attaining perfection, real change often begins with self acceptance, meeting yourself where you are, facing whatever needs to be faced, and then moving forward, slowly and gently, with patience.
In principle I quite like the idea of "new year, new you". The freshness of the first page on a new calendar, the months and months of possibility ahead. If only life were actually that neat and straightforward.
The truth is, a "new you" can happen any time. Any time you choose.
Over a decade after my own moment of reckoning (not on January 1 but on April 25 instead) I'm actually still learning about the 'new me'. Just as the 'after photo' is merely a moment in time and not something you can hold on to forever, nor is the 'new you'. The 'new me' I became in 2005 is now long gone. My goal self is now a past self.
Trying to find a new me, it turned out, helped me to find the real me.
So, if you're beginning 2017 keen to make some changes but feel the familiar dread because you've been down this very seductive self-improvement path before, I hope that's a more helpful concept for you. You don't have to eat quinoa or meditate with crystals just because everyone else seems to be. You just have to get in touch with yourself, who you are, what you want, what means something to you, what a good life looks like and feels like to you. When your goals are coming from a truly authentic place, from - as the Australian marathon runner Pat Farmer put it to me all those years ago - your heart of hearts, they won't feel like items on a to-do list. They will make you feel truly alive.
New year? Real you.
I think that's a resolution we can all keep.