New Year’s resolutions are known more for their grand ambition than their rate of success. Most of the time, we make resolutions to change ourselves: lose weight, get fit, quit smoking, make a career change, learn a language, and so on. But research shows that many people scale back their goals almost immediately, fewer than 50% are still working toward them after 6 months, and fewer than 10% after a year. I’m not much of a believer in those kinds of odds.
But I’ve been thinking that this year, I might resolve, not to change, but to accept change more gracefully, especially those changes that are thrust upon me. What kinds of changes am I talking about?
- Changes in the best-laid plans
- Changes in my neighborhood such as new roads, traffic lights and buildings
- Changes in my body that come with age
- Changes in my work life
- Changes in the people I know and love
- Changes when a loved moves away, or … moves back
I can choose how I react to the events, big and small, that upset the balance of everyday life. Do I kick and scream, or do I invite them in? Most of the time, these events are out of my control, so why waste valuable energy fighting them?
Soren Gordhamer says this concept of inviting can be applied to challenging situations. He writes, “…we can think, Why are they doing this? …. Or we can look inward, pay attention to our mind and body, and inquire, What creative response wants to arise in this situation?” Inviting “makes more room for clarity and ease of mind”, even in the presence of “strong emotions”.
One of those strong emotions is often fear, because the unknown can be powerfully scary. Dostoyevski said that change is “What people fear most.” But instead of asking, “Why is this happening [to me],” ask “How can I benefit from this change, or at least make the best of it?” Calling upon past experience, learning everything possible about a new situation, and having faith in your ability to handle it can ease the transition.
Much like the practice of mindful meditation, this way of approaching change is an ongoing process. When we meditate, we are encouraged not to judge thoughts that arise, but to notice them, and then turn our attention back to the breath. Even if other thoughts come up hundreds of times, we always go back to the breath. In the same way, most of us will never reach the point of accepting change with grace 100% of the time – but that doesn’t mean we stop trying.
So I resolve in 2012, to continue to:
welcome the opportunities that come with change,
look for the silver lining in adversity,
meet challenges with courage and creativity,
allow other people the space to change,
appreciate my ability to learn and adapt,
and be happy just as I am.
Happy new year!