I’m not one of those people who hates New Year’s Resolutions and/or gives them up after a few weeks. I love the feeling that every year is a fresh start, and I’ve never had a problem keeping a resolution. To be sure, my resolutions tend to be broad — I make a sweeping resolution, and then I spend the rest of the year figuring out the habits and hacks it’ll take for me to meet it. All that advice about measuring and quantifying and tracking your progress? Not my thing. I figure I’m either doing better or doing worse, and it’s usually pretty easy to tell which.
In January 2014, my resolution was “simplify,” born out of desperation after completing my first semester as department chair at the university — an appointment I didn’t want and don’t enjoy, but that I’m stuck with for a six-year term. I realized after that first highly stressful semester that I needed to cut back on other things to accommodate all my new responsibilities. So 2014 became a long search for ways to simplify my environment, my duties, my commitments, and my thoughts. I gave up a handful of long-term projects and social events; purged another, deeper layer of my Stuff; bumped up my morning meditation time and read more Buddhist texts; completed some lingering to-do projects that had been nagging at the back of my mind; and developed systems at work that help me keep track of my new duties. Would I say I live a simple life now? Nope, not at all. My life is simpler in some respects — maybe even simple enough to keep me sane for the next four-and-a-half years — but until this department-chair obligation is off my back, my life will never going to be as simple as I’d like. (If I’d wanted to manage people, I wouldn’t have become a professor!)
So in January 2015, my resolution is “let go,” which was inspired by identifying my biggest day-to-day stressor last year: myself. ….I can’t tell you how many times a day I say to myself, “I should—”, “I have to—”, “I’ve gotta—” And not later; now.
However, it turns out that very few of the things I tell myself I need to do are necessities, and even fewer need to be done right now. So in 2015 I’m going to let go of some of the many demands I put on myself. It will be challenging, because those demands have gotten me a long way in life. But I’m already making a few changes — like deliberately correcting myself from saying “I should” to saying “I want,” “I’d like to,” or “I choose,” instead. Or asking myself, “do I need to do this right now?” and, sometimes, calendaring it for later. I’m also trying to let go of my expectations of other people.
The deeper challenge, of course, will be to dismantle those core expectations about myself and the world that make me think I “should” or they “should” be one way and not the other. While I certainly don’t expect to achieve it any time soon, if I spend the year asking myself how and why my beliefs are driving any particular pressure I’m putting on myself, I think it’ll be a step in the right direction!
So that’s my 2015 resolution: Let go.
Image Source: Red Lotus Mama