If you’re like me, around this time each year you’ll take a short break from work, run yourself a little ragged over Christmas, and hopefully, if you’re lucky, get a little time to yourself to do something for yourself.
In this small window of time, away from the noise of everyday life, you’ll likely take stock of the year that’s been, and what the next year might bring. Maybe you’ll even set some goals.
Well, if you’re in that head space, here’s 6 things to take with you into the new year. These are lessons I’ve learned over the years - sometimes the hard way. You can have them for free - you’re welcome :-P
1. Stop trying to find yourself. If you’re feeling lost it’s easy to fall into the trap of looking for what will “save” you. You look for the solution externally - in a partner (or potential partner), a trip, a change of job. Instead of looking for something, make a decision on what you want and go after that. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing. In fact, small is better. I’ve found that the best way to start finding yourself is to start doing things. Pick something you’ve always wanted to do - learn an instrumnet, write a book, start a blog. Anything that adds to your personal development and can be started right now is perfect.
Doing something in the here and now for yourself builds your self esteem, develops you as a person, makes you more interesting, and takes you from dreaming to doing.
2. Stop being comfortable. A friend and yogi told me how he was due to move out of a share house because the lease was up. Instead of finding another share house he decided to go stay at a backpackers for a couple of months. Not travel - literally move one suburb away in his home town and live with random, come-and-go strangers!
Now that idea would terrify me. I like my own space. When I talked to him about why he just said he was keen to meet a heap of interesting people and this was the best way he could think of doing that.
You don’t have to be as dramatic, but don’t we all get too comfortable at times? There’s an old saying - Nothing changes if nothing changes. If you’re a stay at home person, make an effort to get out more. If you’re a social butterfly spend time with yourself. Do the yin to your yang or vice versa.
3. Be more honest. This is distinct from the Jim Carrey film “Liar. Liar.” where his character was cursed to ALWAYS say the truth. Being honest doesn’t mean you have tell every idiot you meet that they’re an idiot. Hopefully they already know that.
Being honest means letting go of things that don’t serve you anymore - that toxic friendhsip or relationship, a desire to please people, whatever it might mean for you. It doesn’t mean you have to turn into a hermit or an a**hole, it means taking stock of what makes you happy and what doesn’t so that you can give more of your time and resources to the former, and stop being so drained by things that aren’t adding to your experience in this life.
Start with one thing. See how that makes you feel, and then onto the next and the next, and see how quickly you have more time and energy for the things that truly matter to you.
4. Breathe. This one sounds ridiculous. You’re breathing right now right? Ofcourse you are. I’m not talking about that kind of breathing. I’m talking about attentive breathing, conscious breath.
Stop reading right now and notice your breath. Is it long or short? Deep or shallow? Smooth or rough? Left or right nostril dominant? Now take a long, deep, mindful breath. Let the breath fill you to the brim. Hold it a second, and then exhale that full breath real slow, as slowly as the time it took to breathe in. Repeat. And notice the results. Congratulations. You’re meditating.
See how much more relaxed and energized you feel - and that’s after you thought you were already relaxed. Imagine what your breath is like when your under a dead line, or stressed about a relationship, or angry. STOP and notice your breath a few times each day. It will truly balance and enliven your daily life.
5. Connect. Studies have shown that people thatlive longer and are happier in life have more deep connections with others - friends, family, loved ones. We’re not talking about your 1,236 Facebook friends, we’re talking about culitvating relationships. Start with yourself. Get to know yourself. Take yourself on a date - where do you want to go, what do you want to do? Get dressed up. Make an effort. Leave yourself a little note before you go to bed that night - “thanks for taking the time and making the effort to show me a good time last night.”
Then take this idea to your friends and family. Spend some one on one time. Make someone dinner. Take them shopping. Listen to them.
The final frontier is then to take this to people you know less well - a work colleague, neighbour, someone at the yoga studio, in your community. We’ve become more and more isolated and scared of making connections in case… who knows why? Maybe we think it will mean we have to make an effort, or care, or we think it'a a risk to share who we are.
People are fascinating. Everyone has a story. We are social creatures. Who knows? You might hear someone’s fascinating story, and I’ll bet that you enrich not just your life but all those you connect with.
6. Don’t get your sh!t together. That’s right, DON’T. There’s a meme that pops up on my social media every now and then that says “Don’t grow up, it’s a trap.” Can you relate?
There seems to be a lot of emphasis on getting your sh!t together these days. In other words, we are told to focus on sorting everything out, making sure we have the answers to everything, collect all of life’s milestones (car, house, good job, family). All this can make us anxious and forever forward focussed - to some magical destination in the future when we are a fully formed and wise human. This place does not exist. All you have is this moment, this moment, this moment, now.
I read a book in my 20’s called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s quite a convoluted tome on metaphysics mixed in with a guy’s journey to understand himself and deal with a past breakdown. But the background narrative is two dudes going on a motorcycle road trip. One guy has the latest BMW. It’s a wonder of technological advancement. It will never break down - until it does. And then God help you because only BMW technicians have any hope of fixing it, so complicated are its systems. The other guy, the one narrating the story has an old English bike. These bikes are notorious for breaking down. But… you can actually repair it yourself with a couple of spanners and some gaffer tape.
Guy (A) wants to get to each evening’s destination town by the quickest route possible every day. Guy (B) wants to explore all the backroads. Breaking down occasionally not only gives unexpected stops and insights into random locations, but it gives him time to notice what’s around him, time to appreciate the journey.
The point is, when we are so focussed on the future, on everything being perfect and making sure we have it all together we forget to visit the things life is teaching us everyday. We forget to look around and savour the scenery - whatever that might be. And if something does go wrong we find we don’t have the tools to deal with it because we’ve never stopped and taken the time to work out how to fix something.
Try this - next time you take a familiar route - to work or something - look around. Stop. Look at that tree. Gaze down the side street. Look up at the sky. Take it all in and be thankful for it.
Have a beautiful and enriched year. Thanks for reading and see you on the mat soon.