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New Year Resolutions: Look Within

Photo by Eduardo Izquierdo

I’m thinking about 2013.

… and have no goals. This is a radical declaration for me.

Historically, I spend a few days in December reflecting on the past year and envisioning the New Year. I would carefully organize my goals into categories of personal growth, finances, career, family, wellness, travel, and refine to ensure each one is specific, measurable and timely. I assess the goal like a test tube subject to be sure that it has all the appropriate elements of a ‘great goal.’

After circulating my Official New Year’s Goal Document to my BFF and husband as accountability allies, I move onto a vision board with inspiring words, favorite quotes, dreamy magazine cutouts.

I take goal setting very seriously.

And this activity of clearly stating my life’s desires has successfully carried me to many check, check, check accomplishments.

So what is this new voice, the one that is now saying: “I have no goals!

Who is that stranger? And who does that serve?”

Since I’ve begun this sabbatical journey, I’m discovering that a life open and flexible to experience is something a carefully accomplished goal – an extrinsic prize – could never satisfy. And this peace of mind is something I am not willing to trade in for a few more accomplishments.

Experiencing each day, open to new possibilities – versus attaching to a fixed plan and a constant chase – is being awake in our human experience. On most days, I feel like I am breathing for the first time.

And honestly, nothing amazing ever happened in the way we had ‘expected’ (our idea of an idea) anyway.

See, we are so obsessed with the weight goal, the career goal, the family we want to start, the places we want to travel, the house we want to save for, the business we want to launch we miss what is actually happening in our lives … and we forget there is a whole other world that exists inside. So busy with our measuring sticks, we forget to open our hearts, to truly connect with others and with ourselves.

The humanity, the ease, the grace and compassion that we each are equipped of carrying with us in our daily lives become buried. Perpetuated by a movement of goal seeking, we operate on an autopilot of checking, listing, scheduling, planning, doing … that our very lives, the one that actually unfolds quite naturally – without the guidance of a fixed destination or frequent control – starts to feel murky, exhausting, unsatisfactory.

We are so concerned with our never ending stream of comfort that the thought of some ambiguity, the plan-less, spontaneous, and openness of life is unwelcomed, hidden by our habitual analyzing, thinking and manipulating.

We actually don’t have to know all the time. We actually don’t have to chase, plan, and control all the time.

Our interior landscape can become muffled by the world out there. We forget that we are individually gifted, equipped with an inner navigation system that goes beyond what the scale says, what the bank account balance is, how we are tracking for a particular goal and who appreciates us on social media.

Here are three thoughts to keep you open as you move into the New Year:

1. Inner Awareness

“Identify with the soul. Not the role.” ~Ram Dass

Do I still want to be fit? Of course. Do I still want to travel? Hell yes! Do I want to make money? Mmm hmm. Do I want to continue to be an entrepreneur? Yep.

But these are not the guiding forces in my daily life. These wants do not pull me out of bed each morning – they are byproducts of feeling in-touch, balanced, well on the inside.

Three personal development superstars have some alternative suggestions to New Year’s goal-setting:

These are all brilliant ways to begin. Each of them conveys that the power of transformation (the reason we set goals to begin with) delivers not through willpower and fierce effort, but instead through a deeper awareness, and a relaxing into who we are.

2. Hold Lightly & Check In

“The truth knocks on the door and
you say ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth.’
So it goes away. Puzzling.” ~ Robert M. Pirsig

If you’re still convinced on laying out goals for 2013 – that’s okay.

Just be sure to do a check-in along the way to make sure that the goal is what is still alive for you. And that you are not simply lost in the chasing mode that you’ve neglected to notice the goal may no longer serve a deeper purpose.

Check-in. Add space.

A wonderful check-in is creating stillness in your life. Set aside a full-day silent retreat on a Saturday where you turn off all your technology, go out into nature for a walk or spend it in meditation at your home. That which is alive in you will present itself.

3. Pay Attention

Take care of the present and the future will take care of itself.”
~Ramana Mararshi

Focused attention seems to be a rare resource today. It is also the most important aspect for meaning in our lives.

Spend more time looking closely at what brings you peace and happiness. And start there – again and again. And again.

Parting Words

“Living life is a participatory art. A path. A journey that begins with you.” ~ Gil Fronsdal

When I began this article, I thought I’d be going goal-less in 2013. But as I wrote and read Tina and Danielle’s approach to goal setting, a surge of energy has come forth and my heart feels more open – I am inspired.

So, how do I want to feel? Compassionate and present.

What is my one-word theme for 2013? Practice (my spiritual and mindfulness daily practice).

There – see, it’s working already. Maybe this is what Leo of Zen Habits means when he says to go with the flow …

There is an organic way, within each of us, to find both stillness and engagement in this life.

I love you. Happy New Year. And enjoy your precious life!

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About the author

Cat is a recent corporate escapee, now practicing as a full-time Zen Student. Her home, for the next year or so, is on various meditation cushions in the world.

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11 thoughts on New Year Resolutions: Look Within

  1. This article definitely falls into the “I thought I was the only one” category.

    An important read I’ll be passing on constantly.

    Thank you.

    Tom

  2. Goals are okay so long as you don’t suffocate them. When you become obsessed with reaching your goals, you miss golden opportunities. It’s one thing to be focused, it’s another to be FOCUSED. When you’re super focused you miss supernatural opportunities that come your way because you’re focused on reaching your goals, your way. You’re not open to the Divine force who probably knows better than you do what’s best for you.

    It’s okay to set goals but stay open. Turn your goals over to the Divine and say, “This or something better.” You never know, the “something better” may be 100 percent better for you and those around you.

  3. This is truly an eye-opener.

  4. Thanks for offering so many ways to think about resolutions and goal setting for the new year in a new way. I too walk the delicate wire between setting intentions and letting things flow. As one way to answer the delimna I came up with W.A.I. (Welcome, Accept and Intend) as my own alternative….and wrote about them on my own blog. Of course for me, the biggest intention is to stay conscious about what I’m doing and being in the first place…and letting myself be guided from the inside out.

  5. Beautiful, beautiful words. Take us into silence and stillness and the flow. The post unfolds so beautifully. It is inspiring. May we all find this ease, this flow to live from. God bless and a brilliant new year.

  6. I love the third one– pay attention and the future will take care of itself. So many of us , myself included, get discouraged too easily. If you focus on the moment and stay clear of trying to see results, results results, I find I get more productive. Thanks for this.

  7. Eva

    What absolutely amazing words. As children we are taught to create goal after goal if we wish to succeed in life. But it is important to enjoy the ride at the same time. I love how you put it: sometimes the humanity, ease, grace, compassion become buried, trampled, if you will, in our frantic race to the top. We must not let our strive for success control us so. Success is only meaningful, if the journey is as well. Great article as usual!

  8. Eric Cartman

    For 2013 Volunteer at Denver’s Children Hospital .

  9. Max

    This is a GREAT read for anyone who is trying to change their life in this year and push their limitations. I for one started the year for a 365 project commitment. I am to post 1 photo everyday for an entire year, and i have to say after 52 photos later, it feels like I am really understanding the word “Practice” lol

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  11. I like to disseminate information that I have accrued with the season to
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