Monday, January 4, 2010

.resolutions and revolutions: part 1.

New Year's Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.
James Agate

A new decade has arrived and people everywhere seem to be ready to usher in a new year and a new era. What people won't realize is not much changed between December 31 and January 1st. We didn't change; the earth didn't stop spinning in a different direction; the world didn't get the 'Reset' button pressed. We have the same problems we did in yesteryear and unfortunately, most likely, the same mindset with which we may continue these problems. What people don't realize is, the date is just an arbitrary number in many ways. Our traditions may make us believe otherwise but until someone proves me wrong, January 1st is not a day that is a whole lot different than say August 18th, save maybe the weather.

So, knowing this, I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions. I think it's a great idea except people are constantly evolving and growing (at least I hope they are). So why should people resolve to change only once a year? Change and growth should be continuous; we should strive to better ourselves all the time. Instead of making resolutions this January 1st, I'll review the resolutions I've made in the past few months or even years, see if I've been making any progress, and also make some new resolutions.

My Resolutions:
1) Make the most of every moment.
I've talked about this before but it's an ideal I've always had trouble really understanding and therefore implementing. What does it mean to make the most of a moment? Every moment only happens once, you only get one chance at life--so make sure every moment isn't wasted. But what does that really mean? Does it mean hashing every Monday night and going to every pub crawl and making sure when I'm 80 I have more stories to tell than a Navy sailor from the fourties? Or does it mean enjoying every moment in a way that is true to me, be that lounging in bed all day or catching up on sports news and listening to a game online.... Sometimes I wish I had tales to tell about crazy nights out on the town, but for the most part I just don't and that's just not me anyways. So what does making the most of every moment mean to me?
I think it could also mean making the most of every moment, no matter how tedious or dull.... find a way to make someone laugh in the midst of a hard day at work or to make a walk home more interesting by starting a conversation with a lonely stranger. I think it means not letting life dictate you but you dictating life in whatever fashion is true to you.

2) Be fair-Judge less.
Judging is one of my worst traits and, not to throw my mom under the bus here, but I think I learned it from her. It's a good defense mechanism if you want to keep toxic people out of your lives; profile them quickly and avoid any drama in your life by not letting anyone into it. However, this trait bleeds into other realms of our lives and we don't just judge people for being bad but we judge people for not being good enough. We judge our friends for making mistakes; we judge our families for not being able to acknowledge their mistakes; and we judge ourselves for not preventing mistakes. We judge people based on stereotypes and assumptions; we judge based on word-of-mouth and associations. But all this does is prevent us from fully accepting people; we push people away and we might keep the bad out of our lives but we also prevent the good in our lives from blossoming. So how do we be more 'fair'? I try to observe when I have a tendency to judge; then during those moments in the future (maybe after just meeting someone or after hearing so-and-so's opinion), I try to catch myself before I judge and tell myself to be fair... listen first. Then judge.

3) Accept challenges-embrace failure as an opportunity to improve.
In order to really conceptualize this resolution, I have to first ask myself how I perceive failure. The other night I told Clint about this resolution and we discussed a scenario--say someone asks you to push a rock to the top of a hill. I perceive failure in this case when I cannot push that rock up the hill by myself. I'm just not strong enough to do it--the job is impossible. Epic fail. But, the job is to get the rock to the top of the hill, not for me to push a rock. So he said, ask for help, get other muscles in there, and get that rock to the top of the hill. So how did we perceive this scenario so differently? To me, that is still failure; I didn't do the job as tasked. Currently, I am an intern in Cambridge for an NGO. My manager has just gone on sabbatical for 3 months leaving me and a newbie to pick up where she left off under the guidance of a manager who is managing from DC. When I first heard about her sabbatical I thought two things--1) Wow, I'm fucked. 2) I could learn a lot. 2b) I'm fucked. Of course I can't manage the workload of an Impact manager of an NGO. But that doesn't mean I will fail, necessarily. So why is it that this amazing opportunity has me immediately fearful of how lacking I am in ability instead of embracing this opportunity to learn? I am trying to resolve this by taking each task as it comes and telling myself I can ask for help up that hill if I need to and if I do, it doesn't mean I've failed. What matters is that the task gets done...

4)Recognize what I really want.
Actually, I've been trying to work on this resolution for years now. I'm a very indecisive person so this resolution was supposed to help me make decisions and make sure the decisions I make are not regretted later. When I was trying to decide whether I should stay in the bay area or move and take a chance with Clint back in 2008 (oh-so-long-ago), I spent a lot of time thinking what it is I want. My plans weren't working out according to... plan. And now here was this opportunity to take a chance on love. I had to ask two questions of myself: 1) Do I want to take a chance on love? 2) Is Clint the type of man that I really want? Is anything else distracting this decision or affecting this decision? I had to answer these questions by asking myself a slew of other questions; How important is love to me? Do I want a relationship right now? Will I regret not taking this opportunity? If Clint were different in any way, would I still consider this chance? (i.e. was it Clint himself, all the traits that made Clint who he is, the attraction? Or was I attracted to the idea of Clint?) If Clint's circumstances were different in any way, would I still consider this chance? (If he lived down the street from me would this be an easier decision? If he lived in Russia would it affect my decision?)
To really understand what I wanted, I had to really get to the bottom of who I was, what I was looking for, and where my priorities were... I think I asked myself all the right questions though cause I now have what I really want.

5) Be who you want to be...without denying who you are.
Ok, that one is a bit confusing. This resolution is kind of an umbrella resolution for a plethora of other little resolutions I want to put into place. In Psychology, we learned that the simple act of smiling can make someone happier or at least improve their mood. So instead of waiting for happiness to come and make them smile, people should smile first, and the mood will follow. So, a small resolution I have is to "Smile, even when I want to frown." This relates to my larger resolution because in order to be who I want to be, I have to act on it. I can't just wait to become a person, I have to actively engage myself in becoming someone. If I want to be the type of person who makes other people happier, or makes people more aware, or inspires people... I have to act on it. Part of that entails a bit of sports-psychology. Envision how you want to be this person by envisioning the situations in which you can exemplify these traits. However, be true to yourself, don't deny who you are. I think this resolution requires a two-step process requiring "Learning acceptance" first before working on this (it may be a while until I graduate from this first lesson).

6) Other people don't know everything--and neither do I. How can I improve someone else's understanding? And conversely, how can someone else improve mine?
Patience is key with this one. What I love about this one is it automatically makes you resolve different things without intentionally specifying it--this resolution implies on a certain level that we have to be more understanding of people's backgrounds and circumstances and thus of people's differing perceptions and understandings. I find this resolution to be a more humbling way of saying "Be more tolerant" because that is what this is in effect asking of myself and in a rather humbling way. No matter where you are in the world, this resolution is important both on a low-level scale to a global-political scale.

Alas... these are my resolutions that I've been working on as I try to develop into a more wholesome, patient, and understanding person. The next post will outline ways to keep up with my resolutions!

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