Optimistic, generous, elegant, alert and witty. If that sounds like a description of your best self, 2023 could well be the year you achieve your dream. For Sunday 22 January marks the start of the Chinese New Year. This year it’s the Year of the Rabbit, and as well as softer qualities like gentleness and kindness, the Rabbit also represents prosperity, wisdom and longevity.
But rabbits aren’t just fluffy little creatures with twitchy noses and cute bobtails, or those graceful, bright-eyed creatures we’ve see sprinting through the countryside or in Watership Down. Spiritually, they’re known primarily for their loyalty and Rabbit energy is all tied up with love and affection.
The Great Race
And there are also lessons to be learnt from the Rabbit. The animals chosen for the Chinese zodiac are based on a Chinese legend known as The Great Race, which was hosted by the Chinese Emperor. All the animals raced against each other, with the promise that the first 12 over the finish line would have a year named after them. Proud of his speed, the Rabbit knew he was the fastest and he was sure he would win. He mocked and looked down on the Ox because he was so slow.
During the race the Rabbit sped ahead but decided to take a nap while the rest of the animals tried to catch up. However, by the time he woke up, three animals – Rat, Ox and Tiger – had already reached the golden gate, and Rabbit came fourth even though he was, on paper, the quickest.
The last Year of the Rabbit was in 2011, and if you were born in 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999 or 2011, you are known as a Rabbit.
You’re in good company. Famous Rabbits include actors Brad Pitt, Kate Winslet, Sridevi Kapoor and Lisa Kudrow, sportsmen David Beckham, Lionel Messi and Tiger Woods, and singers Sting and Frank Sinatra. Physicist Albert Einstein and former First Lady Michelle Obama are also Rabbits.
So what does the Year of the Rabbit have in store for all of us, no matter when we were born?
Tanya Sibley, a certified hypnotherapist practitioner, who was brought up to celebrate the Chinese calendar, says we can expect an aura of peace and calmness, but we must remain alert at all times.
‘What we are currently experiencing in the world is something that needs to change in order so we can have a better future,’ says Abu Dhabi-based Tanya, who is also founder of the company Rapid Mind Therapy. ‘Not only has the pandemic left a huge amount of sadness and grief among families and individuals, but we are also facing an enormous problem around climate change.
‘For those who follow this spiritual and religious belief, the Year of the Rabbit should bring about a sense of calm. However, just like the rabbit, we must be vigilant and alert about what is going on around the world.’
People born in Rabbit years are said to be quick-minded, ingenious, skilful, patient and responsible. Males born in a Rabbit year are thought to be polite, friendly and truthful, while female rabbits have an elegant appearance and they’re usually pure of heart.
However, Tanya points out the main trait of the Rabbit personality is loyalty.
‘Both domestic and wild rabbits share this trait,’ she explains. ‘Domestic rabbits are loyal to their owners if they get love and attention from them, and a wild rabbit would never leave their colony to join another.
‘Another personality trait of both human and animal rabbits is to give and receive love. Without love, the animal can become sad and depressed. One of their biggest needs is to feel connected, and the human Rabbit is no different. Without connection, we become needy, lonely and depressed.’
Performance coach Phil Olley urges us to learn from the Rabbit and always avoid settling for the status quo.
‘In the natural world, there are only two states. You’re either growing or dying,’ says UK-based Phil, author of Reflections from the White Tunnel (FCM Publishing). ‘There’s very rarely anything that is stationary. Moving forward is important.’
So how can we all harness the positive traits of the Rabbit and get a grip on the negative ones to help us make the most of the Year of the Rabbit?
The Rabbit is thought to be a lucky sign, but what if we just don’t feel all that lucky?
‘Once we change our beliefs, our luck will then change too,’ says Tanya. ‘Our beliefs shape and make our reality. Model your beliefs on someone who has already succeeded in life and take action by following in their footsteps.
‘For example, when she was younger, Lady Gaga was told she was too ugly and would never succeed. But she didn’t let that belief destroy her dreams, nor did she let that belief become her reality.’
Phil Olley adds: ‘People who are positive, grateful and happy tend to attract good luck.
‘It’s hard-wired into us to assess threat, but in the modern world we’re not going to get eaten by tigers. Change the words you use about yourself and change your beliefs about what might happen – imagine positive outcomes and just watch your luck change!’
Feel The Love
‘Love is the one thing that binds us all together,’ says Tanya. ‘Without it, we’d live in a state of conflict every hour of every day. As with animals, humans need love to thrive and survive.
‘Those born in the Year of the Rabbit are known to express love and affection easily to those around them. Psychologists are seeing more and more now that the more love and nurturing given to a person throughout their childhood, the happier they’ll be as an adult.’
Phil says the first step towards showing love and affection is to recognise that we’re emotional beings, but it’s often the part of us that’s the hardest to show because it makes us vulnerable.
‘Start to harness this side of your personality by writing a journal about your life,’ he recommends. ‘This makes you more reflective. The secret is to be yourself and be the most human you can be. As you write, you’ll start expressing emotions such as empathy, compassion and forgiveness, and these can be carried across into your everyday life.’
Face Up To Conflict
Tanya says the Rabbit character shies away from conflict – behaviour which has both pros and cons.
‘Generally, avoiding conflict lowers respect between two or more people,’ she says. ‘People who tend to avoid conflict as adults have often experienced hurt and trauma while growing up and are afraid to break that boundary.
‘However, by avoiding conflict, we’re swallowing our emotions and they will manifest elsewhere, maybe through depression, anxiety or anger. The solution is to be honest and truthful not only to yourself, but also to those around you. This will gain you respect and leave you feeling happier.’
Phil even warns against using the word ‘conflict’ which he says can be misconstrued.
‘Most things that happen in our everyday lives aren’t conflict,’ he points out. ‘We’re not at war. It’s usually a misunderstanding around what’s important to us. The way to deal with it is to be clear about our expectations and communicate our thoughts in an assertive, kind way.’
He also points out the danger of escalating a conflict, especially with people we don’t know.
‘You may get into conflict with a stranger over a parking space, for example,’ adds Phil. ‘And while you might be keen to prove your point, you may not realise they have just had a devastating health diagnosis or lost their job. Practise assertiveness by all means but remain empathetic. Look to resolve the issue, rather than win.’
Don’t Rest On Your Laurels
The Rabbit was overconfident about his speed against the other animals – and he paid the price.
‘Intelligence is measured when you’re confident about your capabilities and honest about your weaknesses,’ says Tanya. ‘Being too confident never ends well. You may win the race every time, but it will cause others to disrespect you. When you’re disrespected, you lose connection, love, loyalty and trust from friends, family and colleagues.
‘The Rabbit knew he could win the race but his cockiness and pride got in the way and it cost him first place in the calendar.’
According to Phil, rushing a job never ends well and multi-tasking is a myth. ‘We can connect with one thing at a time and if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well,’ he states. ‘When we multi-task, it makes us busy, busy, busy and this busy mentality means people miss or avoid the most important things and they create future crises.’
So how do we get off the treadmill?
‘Become time aware,’ recommends Phil. ‘Have a plan for every day and be aware of the most important things. People are so busy doing unimportant things, like watching soaps or reality television, and scrolling through Twitter and posting TikToks, that they overlook what’s really happening in their lives – their partner may be feeling taken for granted, their children aren’t getting enough exercise and fresh air and their own energy levels and general health might be suffering.
‘Work out what’s really important to you and then focus your time there, whether that’s spending precious time with children, getting ahead at work, training for a charity walk or run or writing that book you’ve always talked about.’