‘Tis the season for resolutions, to take stock of seasons past. Most of us dust off the old list: lose weight, make it to more of the kids’ ball games. Or we just don’t bother, resolving to plug along. New Year’s Resolutions have become passé, predictable, reliable only in reminding us of failures past.
This year, why not try some anti-resolutions—what you’ll stop doing this year:
1. Stop ignoring what’s around you. Take a good look at the people in your life—your spouse, children, parents, siblings, co-workers, friends. Take a good look at your circumstances. Pay attention to the people and things that make your life run smoothly, more pleasantly. Take a deep breath when you walk out into the crisp air. Develop a child-like curiosity about even the most mundane. Write it down. Don’t use writing only to communicate with others. How about talking to yourself once in a while, see what you’re thinking? Your “journal” can be scribbles on a legal pad or in the back of your DayTimer. Creativity and “flow” expert Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests noting one thing each day that surprises you, as a way to awaken your awareness and broaden your focus. Talk to yourself on paper about how to solve a problem or what makes you smile today or ways to open the presentation you have to make next month. Ask yourself “what if …?” and “why?” You’ll be surprised how it helps you focus.
2. Stop taking the easy path. Try something that scares you—or at least stretches you. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, an object at rest tends to stay there. Conversely, as Matthew Arnold observed, “Genius is mainly an affair of energy.” Accept a speaking engagement, hike up a mountain, take a ballroom dance or cooking or kayaking class for fun, or work on another college degree —or finish your first degree. Any of these requires initiative and risk-taking for the beginner but get easier—once you’ve done them. Get moving, preferably along an uncharted path.
3. Stop being one-sided. Learn the delicate art of balance. Aristotle urged us to seek the Golden Mean, emphasizing the importance of balance. Identify where you are out of balance. Develop an area in which you feel weakest. Read something you wouldn’t ordinarily read. If your bedside books are all history or technical manuals, try some well-written fiction or a book you loved—or wished you’d read—when you were a kid. Try listening to a book on tape (the library will loan you one for free!). Visit a museum. Turn off the TV.
4. Stop sitting in the same seat. Perception if often more powerful than reality. Practice sitting in someone else’s seat, seeing from her perspective, testing your own. Maybe you should, literally, sit in someone else’s seat in a meeting, to break the routine. Or you could look at an issue from someone else’s point of view: from your customer’s or co-worker’s or boss’s or spouse’s seat.
5. Stop being inconsistent. What do you value? What’s important to you? Would someone know your values by what you say, by how you spend your time, by the decisions you make? In trying new things, make sure you’ve grounded yourself, that you know who you are. Take time to nurture your spiritual life. Philosopher William James said, “The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.” What can you overlook to allow more time for what’s important? That wisdom cannot be gained in the push and pull of your busy life. Be still. Turn off the car radio. Get off the treadmill and take a walk…outside. Be alone with your thoughts. Recognize who you are and what you value.
Oh, yeah, and stop promising to get in shape and just get moving. Getting enough exercise is more important than your pant size. According to the latest brain research, not just your body but your brain benefits from a walk. Hit the gym or the sidewalk. You’ll need the energy for all the things you’re going to stop doing this year.
One thing to DO, if you haven't already? Check out Hush My Mouth, the Southern Fried Mystery now available in paperback from St. Martin's. Happy New Year!