For the last few years, like many others, at the end of December I have set myself new year’s resolutions and grand plans for what I wanted to achieve in the new year: a slimmer body, a business idea I could make happen, a trip I wanted to make…
This time, at the end of a very challenging and insightful year, during which I learned a lot about myself, including that I can lose my temper so much that I scare myself, but that I can also find immense peace and joy in solitude, that I enjoy contributing more than I thought I would, that I found a new passion in writing, and that meditation and the laughter of my children keep me alive… I don’t want to set new year’s resolutions.
Setting very specific resolutions in the past has meant the frustration of failing at them, because I was relying purely on my motivation or inspiration (last year I even made a splendid vision board, but that alone hasn’t brought any real results) to keep them up; because life turned out differently from what I was planning (surprise surprise!), so I got disappointed.
What I want to do differently, this time, is to choose a direction, to follow my values more, and make choices based on those; I don’t want to impose on my life that by September I will have a new business, because last year I did just that and failed miserably. I didn’t put in place the right strategy and structure to achieve that goal, arbitrarily set for a certain date, and of course I didn’t hit the target.
Like almost everyone else, I have overeaten during these holidays, so I will go back to swimming, walking, yoga and the other activities that keep me healthy and strong…however, I don’t need a resolution for any of that.
The only resolution I need this year is to show up every day. Be present. Be here, be now.
This year, I want to be able to simplify and let go more, let go of attachment, and anger, and resentment, be more present in the moment for my children, for my family and my friends, I want to go slow and stop and smell the roses.
I feel strongly about that, because I know that, if I’m present, I will choose at any time the best thing for me (and my children): the healthy food over the rubbish food, the healthy activity over the unhealthy activity, walking or creating over slouching in front of the TV, fruit over chocolate, kindness over anger. In this process, I might even have a bright idea that will inspire me to start a new business. For sure, I want to write more, so I choose to do a bit of writing every day.
Now, the point is, how do I keep it up? We all know how the best intentions (if we don’t want to call them resolutions), tend to fade when the winter blues kick in again, and there is no Christmas to look forward to.
I discovered a few little tricks that just do it for me.
First and foremost, I make my choices a no brainer. I eliminate obvious temptations: I donate all chocolate and sweets to my office when I’m embarking in a health journey; I put my gym bag right by the front door so that I stumble on it when heading out; I read a lot of motivational blogs, and authors that teach me how to do things better and more efficiently.
If I’m lacking motivation, I tell myself I’ll do that thing “for just 10 minutes”. Most of the times, I keep going, it’s just the inertia of human nature, I think.
I also stack habits together: I write after making my coffee; I say a few words of gratitude while having a shower; I write three things I’m grateful for before switching off the light at night; I set my alarm clock at 5am, and when it goes off, I wake up, sit up and meditate for 10 minutes before I have time to opt out of it.
I say no, a lot. I don’t put a lot on my plate anymore – but somehow I still manage to achieve a lot in the process. I don’t multitask anymore. I try to focus on the task at hand as much as possible, in order of priority, then move on to the next task.
I am a fan of James Clear (in his own words: an author, photographer, and weightlifter, that study successful people across a wide range of disciplines to uncover the habits and routines that make these people the best at what they do.), whose work I have been following for a while. James wrote about the Seinfield Strategy, a simple way of tracking visually your progress on your goals on a calendar. I’ve adopted this method for my writing and meditation since October (these are two of my big priorities right now), and the simple fact of seeing a little stamp on the calendar for every time I write or I meditate, and create a chain I don’t want to break, is a big incentive for me.
I’m not super-motivated every day, but habit and showing up make up for lack of motivation, or tiredness, or laziness. And showing up sometimes means that I find my inspiration on the way, and then I have a fantastic day, or a bright idea for my writing, a little gem I wasn’t expecting at all. I’m not aiming at perfection these days (although I’m a perfectionist at heart, I’m learning to let go of perfection) but I’m trying and enjoying the experience instead.
At the bottom of all of this, I’m trying to keep this way of life fresh every day by meditating. Nothing to do with religion, or spirituality – not yet, anyway. Meditating simply keeps me grounded, and alert to my surroundings, and my heart and mind open to the people and situations that I encounter. In an era of constant distraction, meditation helps me focusing on what’s important for me. I recently discovered this amazing app, which is completely free, and full of tons of content, called Insight Timer; whether you are a beginner or a consumed meditator, I’m sure you will find value in it.
So, I hope some of this inspires you to have a simple year with me.
I wish you all a very happy new year.