From Dito Sevilla. Email him at dito[AT]borderstan.com, follow him on Twitter @DitoDC.
Happy New Year all. How are those resolutions working out for you? It’s been more than two weeks – have you quit smoking, did you loose the weight, are you living healthier? Did you walk your dog further, drink more water, go to church more often?
Have you cut out fast -food, gone “paleo” or woken-up without the snooze? Are you spending less time on Facebook, have you built new relationships, did you call your mother? Did you start a project, paint a room, clean out the garage, get those thank-you notes mailed out?
No? I didn’t think so. Nobody thought so. They didn’t either.
Every new year is accompanied by a euphoric fresh start. The first days are overflowing with optimism. Glasses are all half-full of promises, declarations, and statements of purpose.
We move from life on Earth to a newly designed universe of possibility. Resolutions are as much a denial of our current condition as they are goals for change and self-improvement.
Years ago I worked for a man who for a time served as a colonel in the Egyptian army. Above his desk, written in Arabic was an idiom I originally viewed as terribly pessimistic. It read, simply, “tomorrow never comes.” It took me years to understand its purpose, much less its inspirational value. As he explained, every day and the next will have a tomorrow but we will never see it. We, it seems, will always live in today. So, don’t let tomorrow be the place you store your life.
A week or two passes, bills arrive, laundry piles up, suddenly it’s been raining for five days in a row, and the morning jogs you had planned are on their way to the resolution list of 2014. It just happens, your life gets in the way of your plans. It’s nothing new. Words penned by Allen Saunders and later adopted by John Lennon explain everything, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”
Resolutions are by definition, “other plans.” Sometimes, plans don’t pan out, actually I find they rarely do. Of course, I’m not suggesting self-improvement isn’t possible or desirable. Of course it is!
Pause and Reflect
However, what I’m putting forth is a suggestion to pause. Take a moment to reflect on the notion that no resolution is new. How different are this year’s promises to those of year’s past? Weren’t you always striving to eat healthier, read more and do better? Look back, because in that pile of life you’ve lived, there are failures, yes — plenty of them, but there, too, are successes.
Rather than approach each year with a list of things you want to improve, which is by default things at which you have failed, or at the very least not mastered, reflect back on a year of life lived, hands held, walks taken and sights seen. You’ve made it, you deserve to feel good about it. Not everything was perfect, no, no, it wasn’t, but you made progress, you gained experience.
New years are not simply a time to gaze into the great unknown of things to come. That’s too simple, too cheap, too much the same for everyone. New years must also be the time to pat oneself on the back, to take that often forgotten moment to be self-congratulatory on a year well spent. Making resolutions often robs us of that opportunity. It focuses too much on the negative, by not recognizing the good we’ve done.
Focus on Today
Focusing too much on tomorrow, we lose sight of the joys of today. Think of it, when do resolutions begin? Tomorrow. The whole process is procrastination.
So, where is your list? I know you’ve made one. Perhaps it has not been written down, but it still exists. Go over it. Review the plans you have for 2013 and picture yourself completing every task, now add to it, “winning the lottery.” Jackpot! All that possibility feels good doesn’t it? It’s nice imagining yourself as the success you want to be and feel.
The difficulty is, it’s not sustainable. The feeling dies with every day our lists don’t get done. The further from complete they are the greater our chances of feeling unsuccessful become. Setting realistic goals is important, but more so is my suggestion that your list is wrong. You’re looking at the wrong list.
Get yourself a pen and paper and start a new list. Write out those things you did last year that made you happy. Reflect back on those moments you felt successful. The beautiful things you saw, the great foods you ate, add those too. Time with friends, moments with family, movies you loved.
Friendships you created, relationships you cultivated all have a place. As your list grows, so will your happiness. Think of the great days at work, the difficult times you overcame, goals you set- and achieved. That is your life. Those are your successes. Don’t focus on the projects you started, focus on those you completed.
Your list is should act as the résumé for your soul. Not so bad is it? Don’t let the goal of happiness get in the way of actually being happy. If all you’re ever going to do is plan, then you better enjoying the planning.
So smile, get up, drink that water, go to the gym, and pay down your debt. Today things need doing, and you’re just getting started.
This is your year. They all are.