Above all, try something.
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Do anything but let it produce joy.
~ Walt Whitman
January 6, 2016
For many of us the New Year really begins in September but officially it is January 1. And for me, it is the first week in January, marked by the return to gainful employment and the usual daily routines, as the time to start keeping those resolutions in earnest. For many years I drafted a list of resolutions, most of which had to do with eating better, exercising, and doing “whatever” better – or more accurately – stopping those negative habits acquired over time. When I looked back at those resolutions a couple of years ago, I was struck by how similar they were from year to year. What on earth did that mean? No progress? No significant change? No imagination?
So I decided to abandon setting resolutions and focus on one or two things I wanted to do and hopefully that would move things along. That helped somewhat but it is easy to get sidetracked by the usual life stuff. And I have to resist the urge to want to change things all at once. It simply does not bode well for any kind of sustained success. And so, I have been thinking about that list of resolutions and considering a different way of looking at change. The problem with resolutions is that, in many cases, it presumes the place we are at is not good enough – that we have to do things “better”. And inherent in that approach is the notion of obligation or statements of “I have to”. What a burden! No wonder my resolutions were hard to keep. Author Alan Cohen suggests New Year’s Evolutions. We all have responsibilities and things we need to do, but he makes a case for doing things we want to do – that bring us joy. And in so doing, we are far more likely to keep those promises to ourselves. I know I would if I loved what I was doing.
So what would you love to do in 2016? At the end of the year when you look back what would you say brought the most joy and excitement in your life? I think that the responsibilities we all carry in our daily lives would be lighter if complemented by the stuff that ignites anticipation and a sense of play, and in the end creates rather than diminishes our energy. One of the main reasons people are unable to keep their resolutions is that they often try to do them alone. But what if we simply try something new – or at least take some time to thoughtfully consider what we want to do or be – with the support of another person? Maybe finding a trusted friend or family member who we can talk with and who will support us as we consider a different way of being that brings a richness to our lives. It does not necessarily involve a list. Perhaps it is an intention to listen more or keep life simple or get to bed at a decent hour or have more FUN. And it does not matter if what we do is not the one perfect thing but is a step in that direction. We can start very small – but start. Do anything – but let it produce joy.