I know my list of New Year’s Resolutions is a little late, and that’s okay (see my Resolution #1). This is not a laundry list about getting that promotion at work, or climbing Mount Everest, or losing weight (although I could stand to lose a few pounds). There are only three goals on my list and, while they may sound simplistic, that doesn’t mean they will be easy. If I take them seriously, they will require that I constantly have to stop and refocus my thoughts. These resolutions will take effort, discipline, and patience. But, hopefully, if I stay with them, they will change the way I think and act. In 2013, I want to slow down, be more mindful of my present circumstances, and invest more in people.
1. Slowing down for me is a personal challenge. I tend to rush. I can eat two to three bowls of cereal before my wife has finished one. I’m in a big hurry to get to the next place, even though there’s almost never any real urgency. Yes, I can be that obnoxious guy who honks his horn when the person in front doesn’t instantly see the traffic light turn green. My excuse has been that my internal clock just goes at a faster pace and, while there may be something to that, I don’t think it’s polite, healthy, or even productive. When I’m rushing around or multitasking, I tend to miss important details and make mistakes. More importantly, I don’t enjoy the journey or the bowl of cereal as much as I could. So, I want to practice slowing down. Maybe a yoga or Tai Chi class would help. Whatever gets me to smell the roses and savor the flavor of my bowl of cereal (I recommend Ezekiel 4:9 Golden Flax).
2. Slowing down is necessary for my next resolution: being mindful in the moment. That means not necessarily reaching for my cell phone or the TV remote the instant I get a little bored. In other words, I don’t want to just remove myself from whatever situation I’m in; I want to get more out of it. I suspect daily life is filled with interesting tidbits and tangents that are waiting to be discovered and explored – only I miss most of them because I’m distracted with my own thoughts and worries. What would I find if I just stayed in the moment? For example, it may sound weird, but I enjoy doing the dishes and mowing the yard. These mundane tasks provide a restful, almost meditative quality in their repetition. When I’m finished, I can look at a clean kitchen or a freshly mown lawn and feel a sense of accomplished. I can either view these tasks as items to check off a list or something to enjoy. And I think I need to learn to like more of life’s little tasks, because life seems to be filled with them.
3. Within all the moments that comprise our life, it’s the time with people that give our lives meaning and the relationships that often enrich us the most. I want to really see and hear the people that cross my path. Again, that means slowing down long enough to give my full attention to the person in front of me; whether it’s the cashier at the grocery store, or the friend who I talk to all the time, or even the highly opinionated person at a party. I may not always like what I hear, but I probably need to learn to judge less. No doubt, there will be some people I want to invest more time with than others, but I may not find them if I’m not more open with everyone. At the end of the day, I think I’ll wish I’d been a better friend, listened more to others, shared myself more honestly, and given my time and resources more freely. So, maybe I should get started now.
Slowing down, living in the present, and investing in people all may sound well and good, but they are not very quantifiable. Since I won’t be able to keep a record of my success, how will I know if I’m actually achieving my resolutions? Obviously, these are disciplines that take a lifetime of practice. But I believe all of these aspirations originate from and, ultimately, lead back to the same place: the state of being at peace. Peace is a rare commodity in our busy world. It cannot be acquired through hard work alone or bought by the highest bidder. It’s elusive and sometimes comes when we least expect it; after a hard day’s work, witnessing a sunset, hearing a moving song, or saying a heartfelt prayer. I know I’d like to experience more peace in my life and, maybe I can find it, if I look for it, one moment at a time.