In part I of this post, I talked about how to better define and achieve our New Year’s resolutions. The suggestions work particularly well with very definable goals whose success can be measured (e.g., going to the gym once a week).
I think of resolutions as recommitments to the habits that continue to develop as manifestations of my values. Those aren’t as measurable in the same way and, therefore, require that I be honest with myself as I check in periodically via my mindfulness practice.
Letting go of judgments
This is easily the one with which I struggle the most. Being non-judgmental toward others and myself forces me to take ownership of my positive and negative contributions to my relationships. Even though it’s much easier to judge others in order to distract the blame, I will continue to pay attention to those times when I need to take a look in the mirror.
“There isn’t enough time!” Sure there is. Just as much as yesterday and tomorrow. The lure of technology distractions is strong (e.g., phone, social media) and I continue to work on recognizing when I’m allowing them pull me away from the task at hand.
Ever met anyone who thought they couldn’t benefit from becoming more patient? Me either. My impatience pushes me to find someone to blame, like the slow service at the restaurant or the lady with a bazillion coupons at the grocery store. My practice is to recognize those moments (as they occur) as opportunities to pay attention to how I’m feeling and choosing a healthier response to my negative emotions.
Responding to anger
Anger generally masks fear. I know what my manifestations of anger and fear are. My heart beats a little quicker. My voice gets quieter. I feel anxiety rising from chest up through my neck. Those are my cues to look inward (in that moment) at the source of my fear rather than perhaps lashing out externally toward an undeserving victim. After all, has yelling at a slow restaurant server ever made the service get better?
I can fear taking accountability because, if I find fault with myself, I become concerned that others will judge me negatively. So, as a result, I default to blaming others as a defense. By parsing out those things that I can and cannot control, I’m better able to a) attend to those things I can control and change them for the better, and b) stop wasting time and energy worrying about those things over which I have no control.
I doubt anyone actively listens to others 100% of the time and, as a society, we’re getting worse at it (watch any news channel for proof). It seems almost natural to start developing a response in my head while someone else is speaking. However, the key to being open to learning in any moment is to, without distraction, listen intentionally. This requires constant practice and even asking others to point out when I interrupt or not seem to really listen to them. However, I want to strive to be a role model with this skill since it’s slowly becoming extinct.
I struggle with this as much as being non-judgmental. It’s easy for me to use the line, “don’t worry – no one’s harder on me than myself.” But that’s a cop-out, a way to keep the criticism of others at bay. Like many, I have had my share of neanderthal bosses who wouldn’t know positive feedback if it bit them. While I can blame some lack of self-confidence on them, I know I’m not a slave to that past (see “Embracing accountability” above). So when I drop a plate and break it or fail to foretell my boss’s every whim, I can pay attention to how I might normally beat myself up and remember that I’m human.
Recognizing life’s continua
Speaking of which, I’ll give myself some credit on this one. Our world is becoming increasingly polarized to the extent that opinions are often portrayed in the media as facts. The options we have every day with our behavior fall along a continuum that offers infinite possibilities between the extremes. I will continue to choose the options on those continua that best serve all parties.
I don’t like failing at anything and I doubt most people do. When a motivational speaker preaches, “We must embrace our failures!”, I cringe a little. On a less celebratory plane, however, I do try to remind myself to look for the lesson learned each time I make a mistake so I don’t have to waste mental energy on making it again.
Staying engaged while letting go of outcome
It took me many years to understand that suffering is a choice we make rather than a fate that befalls us. When confronted with the most difficult of challenges, the simple option on the continuum is essentially one of the end points – to give up. However, I’ve learned that I can’t let passivity, or not caring, define me. It’s at those times when I must be mindful to move my focus off the potential outcome and toward the joy of the journey. I have lived with chronic pain for almost 15 years and there have been many times when it’s been tempting to curl up and quit. However, in each instance, I have eventually been able to stay engaged in order to appreciate the wonderful moments along the path that override my pain every time. In other words, even though that pain is inevitable, my suffering is optional. The path is the outcome.
What are your opportunities to bring a greater level of mindfulness to your resolutions?