Sunday, December 30, 2012

No resolutions for 2013, just count your blessings

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures

– Thornton Wilder

On December 1 this year, I decided to stop making any more new year’s resolutions.This wasn’t because I felt I had achieved an ideal state of being. Far from it! The change came from my matured understanding of what motivates me these days. Lectures, self-recrimination and an annual recycling of nearly impossible resolutions no longer make me want to become a better person. I find I get more go-juice for another 12 months from focusing on what is right in my life and in the world around me.

This process is also known as “counting one’s blessings.” Gratitude makes us happier. That’s what many spiritual traditions maintain. Now scientific research backs such claims. And that’s what we can easily observe in our own life and that of others.

This year, as December 31 draws close, I will not only inventory all my blessings, but also try to proclaim as many as possible. My tally sheet for 2012 is going to be long and I am really happy about it.

Need more

One of the driving forces for many people at the beginning of a new year is the need to self-improve. Not just self-reflect, but also to fix the stuff they are not so happy about. It’s an incredibly pervasive urge, all wrapped up in the New Year’s Resolutions. Where does this urge to constantly self-improve come from?

I think some of it lies in the DNA of every Sri Lankan. For better or worse, from our younger days at school up to our workplace, we have been taught and trained to believe that we can always, and should always, be better. And now it flourishes as an entire department in the bookstore … titled “Self-Improvement” or “Self-Help”. And it’s in full bloom with the thousands of blogs being written online, every day.

And so we always feel just a tiny bit inadequate. Especially women! You might be a super-successful entrepreneur, but do you have a flat stomach?

You may be very fit, but are you reading the “right” books? You might be a wonderful parent, but did you map out your retirement plan this year? Is your home, marriage or family blissfully happy, every minute of every day?

If not, you fail. Or at least you feel like you do. Now a strong argument could be made that this is what life is all about … striving to improve. But it’s exhausting.

As for me, I’m tired. And so for 2013, I’ve decided to take a new path. Rather than resolutions, I’ve decided that I’m simply going to pursue a few simple interests. I could just enjoy jogging, which I do. Rather than have a perfectly organised home, I could take up scrapbooking again, and enjoy it for what it is. Rather than trying to have it all, I could just focus on enjoying what I already have, more.

Are interests the same as resolutions? Not in my dictionary! When you make a resolution and veer from it, it is broken. However, with interests, it is different. You have an interest and you work towards it, you fall off the wagon, no problem, just get back on and keep on working towards those interests.

Well, my interests are very simple. In fact, there are only two. First one:

I will take the “fresh start” energy of the New Year and make every day a day of rebirth and possibility. I will find the people that recognise and inspire the best in me and spend more time with them. I will figure out which possessions have real meaning, purpose, and value in my life, and let the rest go. I will revisit happy memories often. I will remember that the best in me is separate from the things that bring it out, so I will capture the experience and incorporate it into my life so that it is present at all times, even in the absence of the things that initially brought it out. I will remember to say, “I care for you” to my loved ones, but most of all mean it. I will give time to love, give time to speak, and give time to share the precious thoughts in my mind.

They say, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. How true!
Time management

Second one: I will organise my time better. This will be necessary, especially with the three “jobs” I do presently, and another exciting project on the horizon.

At the same time, however, I still want to make a difference in the lives of those with whom I interact. I just will have to keep the television off, and get my head out of the computer screen more often – except to do a little journalism, of course! I’ll also try to rest better – block everything out and cut up.

I often wish my brain had a user controlled on/off switch. With these two simple interests, I will develop myself to take care of the small stuff as and when they hit my face. I won’t grimace and I won’t curse.

I will work on the basics with renewed vigour. I believe that everything should be done with purpose, and I want to make sure that I am never professionally set on auto-pilot.
Hearty laugh

Here are some funny quotes on new year resolutions:

New Year is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.
- Mark Twain
Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle.
- Eric Zorn
A new year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.
- Anonymous
Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.
- Oscar Wilde
May all your troubles last as long as your new year’s resolutions!
- Joey Adams
New Year’s Day now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.
- Mark Twain
New Year’s Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.
- James Agate

And now, see what happened to someone’s new year resolutions

2010: I will go to church every Sunday.

2011: I will go to church as often as possible.

2012: I will set aside time each day for prayer and meditation.

2013: I will try to catch the late night sermonette on TV.

2007: I will get my weight below 180.

2008: I will watch my calories until I get below 190.

2009: I will follow my new diet religiously until I get below 200.

2010: I will try to develop a realistic attitude about my weight.

2011: I will work out five days a week.

2012: I will work out three days a week.

2013: I will try to drive past a gym at least once a week.

For the readers who still want to go ahead with new year resolutions, let me offer a little advice. Do you want to make next year, not the year of failed or forgotten resolutions, but the year you made your resolutions come true? Then, remember what James Dean, American film actor, once said,

“Dream as if you’ll live forever, and live as if you’ll die today.” Take time to pursue your passions without becoming a slave to the daily grind.

You will then achieve a new lease on life in 2013. How about that?

By Lionel Wijesiri -