I typically avoid re-publishing old posts but while reflecting on the start of 2016, I felt updating this previous new year’s post was relevant to me. I hope it will be for you, too.
As we celebrate the New Year, many of us make resolutions. Some of us don’t explicitly make New Year’s resolutions, but reflect on what the future may bring, making plans, and setting our intentions for our personal, spiritual, and professional lives. Whether we use the label of resolution, vision, inspiration, intention, plan, or goal, we all experience something similar in expressing hope for what is possible.
I recently have heard from a few different people about a perceived risk in setting personal goals in that we can get too ego-oriented and close off to what the universe or higher power may have in store for us, which is often very different than what we have planned. I have also read in some spiritual books (and experienced it firsthand) that thinking too much about the future can cause fear-based anxiety that takes us out of the present moment. There is a lot of wisdom in that spiritual view, in staying open to possibility, in letting go of the delusion of ego control, releasing fear about the future, and accepting the wholeness and beauty of ourselves and the world as it is. This wise view, in my opinion, provides a strong foundation for personal goal-setting. I don’t see letting go of control and goal-setting as mutually exclusive. When I am operating from a baseline of openness, letting go, fearlessness, and acceptance, I am actually able to see with much greater clarity those things that I can directly control or influence through the exercise of my free choice.
For me, the starting point for a personal change comes in a flash of inspiration, someplace beyond ego planning. I feel compelled to change. I have a vision of what that change looks like before I begin to rationalize it or argue with it or strategize how to get there. There is a sense of the power of intent, of positive thinking. Yet how many times have I stopped there? This is the risk in not setting corresponding goals for action that are within my control. For example, a few years ago I had a vision of playing the guitar. It was a very positive vision to want music to be part of my life. When I got to the part that was directly in my control, to get a guitar and take lessons, I would talk myself out of it believing it was too late, that it was something I would have had to learn as a child. For months, I allowed that to stop me. How often do we stop ourselves from acting on our great ideas and intentions?
To move from resolution to action means taking the first step. There is great momentum created by that first enthusiastic step. I got a guitar at the insistence of my spouse which leads me to the notion of enlisting others in your dream. Humbly ask for help. I signed up for a beginner’s guitar class. This is another powerful antidote to any worries you may have about being egotistical. By engaging others to help us, we get outside of our own thought patterns and learning something new becomes possible. We end up benefiting each other — it is not a one-sided situation. The teacher learns from the student just as the student learns from the teacher. And the students learn from each other, too. Want to exercise? Get an accountability partner or join a fitness class. Want to reduce or stop drinking or another habit that doesn’t feel good anymore? Join a support group, even if your ego doesn’t buy into the group’s philosophy 100%, because there will be learning opportunities no matter what. Lastly, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Another reason I hesitated to learn guitar was that I thought things like “What’s the point if I can’t be like Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix?” What if taking an hour long walk every single day is more realistic for you than going from not exercising at all to ultra-marathon runner overnight? Walk with the confidence that it is good (and quite possibly perfect) for you.
Best wishes to you in 2016. May we all experience openness, letting go, acceptance and the fearless resolution to freely choose our goals and take action towards them.