My favorite mindfulness book to read at the end of the year.
I love fresh starts, arbitrary though they may be. I love new years and the opportunity (though no special one was needed) to evaluate the past 12 months, check in with myself and my well-being, take stock of my relationships, and think about how I could make my life and the lives of those around me better for the next 12 months. I really enjoy making resolutions and watching them come together throughout the year (I’m very persistent).
Last year, however, I overdid it–I made too many resolutions and only accomplished two! I finished my book and read 100 books. (105, actually, but who’s counting?!) I’m actually not embarrassed or bummed about the other failures, because I think it’s good to strive for things that may be out of reach, good to discover our limits through failure. Failing means we tried something, right? Early in December I was getting excited to take up old mantles, create new ones, and charge into 2018 with purpose and initiative.
Aaaaaand then I ended 2017 with the most intense and prolonged anxiety I’ve had in years.
I don’t think my resolutions are to blame for my anxiety, but because I’ve been so anxious all year (especially the past couple weeks), I realized that key to all aspects of my health (emotional, relational, professional, physical) was me creating a life that is less conducive to bouts of anxiety. So this year I’m foregoing all resolutions except one: to live in the obligations, responsibilities, needs, and life of the moment. In short, I want to be more mindful. I want to let the year unfold as it needs to, without me trying to shape it or pressure it into anything specific. As my faith unfolds during this time of spiritual uncertainty, I’d like to leave room for and open my heart to God’s leading. I’d like to develop a deeper faith that things will work out. By that, I don’t mean a conviction that things will I will always come out on top or have all my desires fulfilled, but a settled belief that I can always do good and produce good in the situations I am in. The good I produce may be something good for others, or may be simply growing my resiliency and courage in the face of unrelenting opposition (something I continue to experience in one area of my life that should remain nameless). I am at the mercy of a thousand factors beyond my control, but that doesn’t mean I have to let them control me and my inner sense of well-being. This is a year for Buddhism and Stoicism and a letting go of my specific expectations of a future I may or may not have. (Thank you, North Korea.)
I should admit that my year already has a lot of built-in structure and goals, so perhaps saying I have no specific goals is a bit disingenuous. In my job, I am evaluated on a set of metrics, goals which I have yet to meet and desperately want to meet. I can’t disregard those goals, but I can focus on the daily steps necessary to meet those goals, rather than get overwhelmed by some big scary number I need to hit.
I’m also starting graduate school! The Master of Arts program in Philosophy. I could not be more excited. I was given an unexpected opportunity to apply this past fall, and I said along the way that I would keep pursuing this degree as long as doors kept opening. In other words, I purposefully kept myself in a place where if it didn’t work out, I would be ok. (I had a dark week at one point, but otherwise felt quite peaceful about everything.) Doors have continued to open, so I go on. Even with such good news, however, I have lost sleep wondering about the time we will spend here and the cost to do so (including the potential cost of the program in future years). I am going to focus on my classes and let the future aspects of my time in the program unfold as they do, keeping my “pursue it until a door clearly closes” mantra close at heart. So while I will have built-in goals involving my classes, I will keep the focus on the assignments and weekly classes, not some future graduation date or tuition bill.
Also, I’m signed up to run a half marathon in April. But like work and graduate school, I will focus on the run or workout of the day. If I run a sub-2-hour half? AWESOME. (I am not fast, so that would be pretty amazing.) If I don’t? STILL AWESOME. I will have run 13.1 miles. Reason enough to celebrate that day’s accomplishment.
In general, I think resolutions (New Years or no) are wonderful, and important for giving structure and purpose for time. However, I am a naturally driven person, and I think my overzealousness and hyperproductivity and perfectionism mean I need to take a breath this year rather than give into my intense need to “produce”.
So no goal to hike so many Oahu trails. No goal to lift so many pounds. No goal to write a book. No goal even to read a certain number of books! The thing is, I will hike, lift, write, and read all throughout 2018 because I love those activities; I really don’t need a resolution to motivate me to do things. I am looking forward to seeing how a relatively unstructured, unpressured approach to my life and favorite activities will help instill a sense of peace and stillness to my anxious heart, and give me a greater sense of peace in the time between beloved activities. I need to remember my worth is not found in what I can do, but in who I am.
So here’s to resolving not to form any specific resolutions. 2018, I’m coming for you but in no particular way, just kind of seeing where you take me. #motivationalspeaker
I’d love to hear your approach to resolutions, and what you’d like to see for your year ahead. How are you entering 2018? What do you think about resolutions?