Another New Year: Tips on Making 2018 the Best Yet
Happy New Year!
Another New year! It seems that the older we get, the faster the years go by.
I remember thinking during graduate school in the 1970’s that the George Orwell dystopia book “1984” was both dooming- and far off. It was actually only a decade away.
Time is short!
Now I hear about the future impact of climate change, new self-driving autos or predicted demographics for 2025 and it feels like they are talking about tomorrow. When I look back on the years that I have lived, almost 70 to be exact, and think about events occurring seven years from now- it seems like a drop in the bucket. Actually, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the (relatively long) span of my years!
So, what do I do with this realization? I know that my years are (somewhat) limited. I know that the new year will roll by, bringing unknowns, opportunities and challenges. Knowing all this, how will I choose to ring in the new year?
Making this year the best ever!
Good question. While I am not prepared to totally answer that question right off the bat, I do have thoughts about how to proceed:
What is it that I WANT in the next year? The question does not revolve around what do I want to HAVE. Instead: What do I want in terms of purpose or meaningfulness? How might I give back, create, learn or share?
What relationships are important to me? Do I spend time with people who don’t fill my soul with joy instead of folk who bring a smile to my face? What can I do to make sure I have more time with the later, and less with the former?
What do I want to say at the close of 2018? This was a good year because…..I forgave someone, reconnected with or made a new friend, helped someone less fortunate or learned something new. Maybe I paid it forward by saving the earth in some small way or I listened with my heart to a grieving friend.
Leaving a legacy
I recently read an article about making the most out of our “aging” years. The words were actually sound advice for people of any age. The author asked us to think about our legacy, as though we knew we were going to die next month. In that case, where would we want to invest our energy? When we stop to reflect back on our lives, when we know that we have little time to waste, everything seems to come into perspective. What really is of greatest value to us emerges as high relief. That’s where I need to focus next year.
The beauty of the new year is that it offers a time to start over, to tweak our lives to make them a bit better. The concept of new year’s resolutions captures that sentiment. Committing to exercise or diet, or devoting more time to reading and mediation, is well and good. These resolutions, however, generally don’t last for more than a month or two. So, what can we do to truly integrate these changes into our lives?
Turning hopes into reality
I’m one of the those who keeps trying to incorporate meditation into my life. When I ask myself, “What is it that I want in the next year?”, one of my answers is “peace”. Meditation is one path to peace.
In the past, I have struggled with generating a meditation practice. I sit for five minutes, fidget and get up. I promise myself- tomorrow; but instead I go for a walk. I read books on how to meditate, rather than sitting. I know all the tricks. This year, what do I need in order to create a successful outcome.
Here is what I know:
Any new behavior needs 21 days to become a habit. Committing to my resolution for 21 days makes it feel more doable—kind of like one day at a time. By focusing on just 21 days, the commitment feels short- term, but it allows the practice to become a long-lasting part of my life.
Structure it in. I need to create the time, daily, to meditate. Write it in my calendar, plan it for right after I come back from walking my dog, set an alarm—all of which creates the structure I need to make it happen.
Reward myself. Making changes is hard stuff. I need to acknowledge that. When the modification seems so obviously good for me, and so simple to do, it is easy to overlook the challenge involved. Rewarding myself acknowledges
how hard this make-over process really is. For instance, every day, after I meditate, I will reward myself by sitting by the pool and reading for a half hour. After a week of meditating, I will take myself out for a special breakfast. Most importantly, I need to recognize that transformation is tough and I have accomplished a lot in adding this new behavior to my busy life.
Put the change in a meaningful context. Why do I want to add meditation to my life? This brings me back to the earlier questions: what do I want out of this year? I want to be more relaxed. I want to be more spiritually connected. When taking this perspective, my mild behavioral modification feels more like a major revolution. I am moving closer to becoming the person I want to be.
It is up to me to make this year the best yet. I know it will go by much more quickly than the last. If I set my intentions NOW, I can savor every moment come January.
That’s my New Year’s gift to myself.