Like most people, for many years I would greet the new year by making various resolutions: “I’ll exercise at least three times each week/eat a better diet/be a kinder person/etc.” Each year starts with the best of intentions, the certainty that my goals are realistic and achievable. January usually goes fairly well: my motivation is high and after writing lists, rota and various diagrams I am usually able to implement my plan with military precision. By February, my interest and motivation have waned and I’ve formulated several excuses for why I can’t follow through. As March dawns, I’ve convinced myself that the resolution was unworkable, not right for me somehow, and that I was deluded when I made such a commitment. April: what resolution?”]
But in there somewhere also comes the faint scent of self-blame, recrimination, a disgust with myself that I couldn’t follow through on the simplest of goals. After all that thought and planning, why can’t I even take forward one simple resolution? The arrival of each year signalled the memory of my previous failures, coupled with the desire to do better, to be better.
After an epiphany of understanding, I began to see this cycle for what it is: destructive rather than constructive. Rather than seeing myself as useless, I noticed that the process of making resolutions was itself unhelpful. Now I no longer make resolutions.
A cop-out? Maybe. But rather than decide “I’m no good at keeping resolutions, so I won’t bother,” I have made a different decision. Rather than make an annual commitment to a single idea or plan, I have decided to simply live.
What does it mean to live? Don’t each of us who have a beating heart and breathing lungs live? Living is so much more than respiring. Living is being in the here, the now, this moment, and joyfully accepting what each moment brings. Living is seeing each day as an opportunity, each person I encounter as a wonderful creation, welcoming the potential of every moment to transform my heart and bring me closer to my authentic self. Living is not wasting my time and energy on fretting over the past– what I did or didn’t say, the people who have hurt me or who I have hurt, the things I could have done with my life. Living is not wasting my time and energy on anxious worry over what the future might hold, where we will be this time next year, or whether I will be able to consistently stick to a particular resolution. To decide to live, and to live this life fully is not to make a resolution, but to accept the greatest gift of all. It is to see each day as a gift, each person as a being connected to me by the deepest of bonds, and to seek to strengthen those bonds by giving of myself every day.
When I succumb to worry or anxiety, there is no need to berate myself for failing to stick to my plan. The only plan is to be real. The movement back and forth between joyful living and instability makes up the weft and warp of daily life. Watching how my mind moves me away from the full experience of this life is an opportunity to move inward and seek self-compassion, to ask the assistance of my deepest resources and my God, and to see myself as an authentic, whole person.
So I say to you this day: throw away your resolutions and LIVE!
Photocredit: By Lourdes S. (Day 14: I Don’t Know ANY of This!) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons