We all – in one way or another, often in a dysfunctional way – tend to evaluate our progress and quality of life by means of externals: endless checklists of accomplishments achieved (or not), our interpretations of feedback we receive from family, co-workers, friends, etc., the state of our finances and possessions, the state of our homes, communities, the world … and what we perceive in the mirror, particularly our assessment of our bodies – their health, fitness, beauty, attractiveness and weight. The lists go on and on. The technologies we use to measure and track those indicators change – from notepads, to sticky notes, to elaborate software approaches – but the underlying motivation is rarely scrutinized. We frequently engage our minds in the busy activity of goal-setting and trying to change those endless externals: a daunting task and it seems to be the unquestioned default mode of our mental activity most of the time.
This isn’t to suggest that we abandon our efforts to make the world – and our tiny part in it – a better place … quite the contrary: giving up on our goals, resolutions and plans isn’t practical or likely to happen anyway, and could lead to an unfounded sense of despair, depression or hopelessness if done in a dis-spirited frame of mind. We also would be ignoring the vast arena of possibilities of what we each can accomplish. We get daily reminders via our ever-expanding media of how amazing the individuals we share the planet with are … and what one person, let alone a group with solidarity of purpose, can accomplish – it is often staggering! There’s no real reason to set our goals, dreams, plans and visions for the future aside. However, the ‘how’ and ‘why’ can be even more dramatically profound than the ‘whats’ that occupy our fridge to-do lists, sticky notes, and reminder software if we are willing to engage in a bit of self-examination.
What if we were to acknowledge the fact that our mental ‘whys’ are a choice and we can be motivated from very different perspectives? If we don’t identify strictly and solely with our own separate interests, goals and plans – which often can conflict with those of our aforementioned family, co-workers, friends, etc. – this opens up a whole realm of mind freedom that we rarely admit is an option. Imagine how different our outlook might be if we, as author Don Miguel Ruiz suggests…
“Don’t take anything personally”
If we aren’t as attached to outcomes – while often still pursuing them – we ironically have more choices, and mental presence available to achieve those same outcomes. This truly sustainable resolve usually is achieved after many years of mindfully noticing that our identity investment in what does or doesn’t happen usually has disastrous results in terms of our peace of mind and overall anxiety level. So be patient with yourself – and everyone around you – as you practice noticing when you are getting upset if the external circumstances (the effects) aren’t always to your liking and gently, but firmly train your thoughts upon the kindness, serenity and truly productive focus that you can bring to bear on whatever confronts you, moment to moment.
This article about mindfulness asks “Why You Should Not Set a New Year’s Resolution & What to Do Instead.” Here are a few gem excerpts:
- “… Give up wanting …”
- “… enter (the New Year) in a mode of being absolutely present …”
- “Stop the ‘I must’ thought mill”
- “remain open to the possibility of your potential, receptive to change and ready to show compassion to yourself for your shortcomings”
As Einstein reminded us: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So we can choose – again and again – to think differently about why we’re doing what we’re doing, and gradually shift our identity and focus from being driven by external conditions … to being guided by a more inclusive identity that automatically makes kinder behavioral choices for one’s own body and welfare, as well as everyone else’s. We can learn to not be upset by seeming setbacks, and find inner peace by shifting our sense of self from what is reflected back to us from the mirror … to the choice in our mind over what we want to identify with.
Here’s another related article about “A Mindful Approach to New Year’s Resolutions” which suggests a focus on process (e.g. the why) rather than blind, militaristic determination. We often just need to stop a moment when we don’t feel quite right and ask ourselves if the deeper “why” we do things could be different.
“I am never upset for the reason I think.” – A Course in Miracles
Have a Happy – Peaceful, Mindful, Productively Forgiving New Year! 🙂