't Is the time for New Year's Resolutions for many. But it's very likely that, even while formulating them, we know we will probably not be able to realize them, just like last year and the years before. There are several ways around that, according to the resolution proponents, such as setting smaller goals, including more patience, refraining from giving up, setting intermediate goals, collaborating with others, etc. The problem is, that all those extra support mechanisms require extra time and effort, which many of us can't afford. There is one way to ensure success: no new year's resolutions at all, but a simple, continuous, personal improvement cycle that enhances awareness, and helps us improve from moment-to-moment. Want to know how that works? Read on!
A brief scan through major news and blogging sources taught me that one of the talks of the moment is, "New Year's Resolutions." As with everything, we can choose to be amused, aggravated, or neutral about that. I am pleased to see that a number of the articles and blogs make some valuable points in this regard:
- If you insist in making resolutions, don't make them too challenging, because you'll only be setting yourself up for failure.
- Why wait till the New Year (or whenever you set the date) if you could start making a change right away?
Just think about it: we don't only change on January 1st. We change continuously! Our thoughts, experiences, and the lessons we learn daily keep altering us, and there should be no need to wait with the implementation of a positive action for any amount of time.
Inspired by one particular article that presented a number of great reflective self-examination questions, I started contemplating on my own stance regarding resolutions of any kind, and I came to the conclusion that the need to formulate resolutions stems from an overdose of mindless living. In more down-to-earth wording: we feel the urge to make pledges during special times, because we're addicted to sleepwalking. It's as if we wake up during these particular moments, such as at the dawning of a new year, and use that time (and only that time) to seriously examine our actions. Then we plan, and promptly fall asleep again, only to find next year around the same time that we didn't keep our promises to ourselves, which of course doesn't make us look very good in our own eyes. Worse: it makes us realize that we couldn't expect others to keep their promises to us if we are incapable of keeping them to ourselves, right?
Thanks to a management-based post-doctoral study I started a few years ago about the use of Buddhist practices in the workplace, I came across the ancient practice of meditation. What attracted me was the fact that it had nothing to do with religion, which is right up my alley, but everything with focusing on one of our most foundational actions, our breath, and on gaining inner-peace. I enrolled in a 10-day Vipassana course on a mountain in Northern India, and learned a lot about myself in those 10 days of meditating without talking. I realized the uselessness of torturing myself with feelings of guilt from past wrongdoings, as well as the sense of grandeur from things I achieved. I realized my connection with other living beings -- not only humans, but animals and plants as well-- and understood the pointlessness of ever thinking that I was anything more than anything or anyone else.
As a consequence, I gained an enormous respect for life in general, and all that lives in particular, but also realized how difficult it would be to maintain this sensitivity as I would pick up the hectic pace of my daily life again.
Since hectic is as steadily a part of my daily life as it is from the majority of yours, I read about and trained myself to engage in walking, driving, and sitting meditation, in order to remain mindful more often: sort of a Moving Meditation Mindset. Now, almost three years later, I can conclude with confidence that it can lead to Magic, an unending process of trying to do well at any time. I cannot say that I am mindful all the time, but I am better than I was in that regard. I also find myself thinking more about the impact of my actions, seeing through shallow motives more easily, letting go of things I considered valuable with less regret, and refraining from expecting any immediate rewards from my efforts.
Most importantly, I learned that improvement is a moment-to-moment thing. Not something for January, June, or December.
Evaluating the cycle that can lead toward continuous improvement without the need for any resolution during peak times, I came to the following: