Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, at the beginning of each new year I think of three words that represent the growth I want to experience in the coming 12 months.
2015’s words were gratitude, power, and realism. I focused on them as best I could until June, when I lost my job. And then I had the most remarkable summer of my adult life, one that clarified my values, which had shifted on me in middle age while I wasn’t looking.
My 2015 words were no longer relevant. I had gained a whole new perspective on my life, and I spent the autumn exploring what that meant. I discovered that I don’t want to bear down so hard on myself anymore, as if there’s something elementally lacking, something fundamentally wrong in me that needs to be better. I finally see that I’m basically fine just as I am. From here on out, I’d rather enter my days peacefully and enjoy them for what they are, whatever they are.
And so I’m not even sure I need this annual exercise anymore. But it’s been so helpful in the past that I’m going to try it one more year and see how it goes.
Serenity — This kind of serenity, the kind where you accept life for what it is (emphasis mine):
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
Presence — As part of that acceptance, I want to be fully present in whatever situation I find myself in. Not blocking it out, not denying its reality, not kicking up a storm trying to change what is is beyond my control. If I’m in a traffic jam, I want to just calmly let it be and wait for it to clear. If I’m in a bad job, I want to peacefully go to work each day and do the best work I can until I can find a better job.
Goalless — All I mean here is that I want to stop chasing after things, stop striving so hard. I don’t mean to drift aimlessly. But instead of constantly trying to shape my life and world to be exactly how I think they should be, I will point myself in directions that seem right or interesting and work diligently at whatever I find myself doing, but then let life unfold as it will. And then I will see what life has brought, and if needed, alter my direction. Moni Smith wrote a great post about just this idea recently; please go read it.
I’m not checking out on life. I’m just launching a rest-of-my-life initiative to not create my own stress anymore. Life brings enough of that on its own.