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In Roman times, craftsmen would cover the imperfections of pots and statues with wax. The derivation of the word sincere comes from two Latin words: sine (without) and cera (wax). As the cracked waxed pots looked similar to the naked eye, it became important to test the quality of the pottery. Buyers would hold the pottery up to the sunlight and, if wax had been used to fill cracks, the bright light of the sun would highlight the imperfections. Makers of genuine pottery would mark their pottery sine cera so that buyers knew the pottery was authentic.
But Romans began to see the beauty and value of authentic pots and statues without the wax. They liked the genuine article; flaws and all. Today, the definition of sincere is ‘free from pretense, proceeding from genuine feelings.’
So, what have these pots got to do with the New Year?
New Year, new exercise
There's a lot of covering of the cracks encouraged in January. Over the last few days you will have undoubtedly, like me, been bombarded with goal setting articles, Facebook posts and persistent pressure to start the year with a set of resolutions. I have been considering this today after opening up eight different emails telling me to 'Kick Start 2015!' and set goals about my wealth, health and happiness.
Reading these emails made me feel that somehow the dawn of a New Year seems to go hand in hand with telling us we are not good enough. We feel pushed into a corner to set resolutions and do everything better than the year before.
My imaginary world of resolutions includes taking up Pilates, meditating for an hour every day, volunteering time to charity, eating more protein… oh, and to be an amazing mother. This begs the question: why did I not do these so-called important things last year? Just five days in to January and I already feel, frankly, pants.
The key to real change
The word resolution has a big fat ‘re’ at the beginning and implies revisiting old ideas – over and over again. So instead why not focus on solutions? As a psychologist, I believe that the key to making real changes is to start from the point of acceptance.
What if I embraced my imperfections and took some lessons from an old Roman pot? I am enough; I don’t need wax. If I do this then I am more likely to set realistic goals instead of putting pressure on myself to achieve everything all at once.
When I work with children in my role as an educational psychologist, I ask them to describe themselves in three words. I am constantly amazed by their perception, insight and honesty. They are spot-on at capturing their personality in just three words. When I ask adults to do the same, it is remarkable how hard they find it. It’s as if they feel they will be judged in an instant by their response.
2015 in just three words
So on this slightly dark and chilly back to school Monday morning, instead of goals, targets and resolutions, I found it useful to think of three words to describe the way I want to feel this year. I came up with:
Sincere, heartfelt and connected.
What are three words to describe how you want to feel this year? I think that distilling the way you want to feel can really help to focus on what you and your family need.
They help keep us on track and don't get broken or left behind when we miss the first Pilates class of the new term.
It is also a great exercise to do with your children; it gives real insight into their values. I think the words can become powerful in helping our children make choices aligned with their values and overcome challenges they may meet.
When I asked my own boys their three words for 2015, Fred (10) said: listen, enjoy and practice. Tom (9) said: skills, crossing (football) and healthy. They both qualified their words by saying they wanted to get better at football this year.
Whatever you do this year, be sincere. No wax required.