I remember a particular New Year’s Day in my mid-twenties when I was full of resolve. I was living in a Chicago suburb, where I managed a profitable business in a career I loved, owned a charming country home, and from any other perspective, held the world in the palms of my hands. No resolutions required, right?
Wrong. I was miserable. Over the previous year I’d fallen steadily into a funk that I was unable to define or escape. It just was. Or so I told myself. That year I made a resolution to turn my life around–to really change things. And even though there were obvious external issues at play, I began with the only person I knew would not disappoint me. Myself.
In an effort to improve my life, I joined a health club, worked out relentlessly, and adopted a spectacular Great Pyrenees puppy. I got more fit, made more money, and read more books. I advanced my skills and my career. I made more friends. On weekends, I poured myself into yard work, improving our little country acre to the best of my ability. I sought improvement everywhere and in everything I did.
By the end of that year, I was more miserable than ever.
If my life were a road trip, you could say I was driving without a view. I’d carefully scrubbed off all the gnats and sticky pieces of travel grit, and still come up with zero visibility. Why? Because with all my hard work and good intention, I’d refused to address the chief obstruction on the windshield. At some point I would have to face my hopeless relationship.
We all do this. We make resolutions to improve our lives, to seek greater awareness, to become more compassionate beings, whatever the lofty goal. Yet we work around the elephant, not only in every room, but also splashed across the windshield of our dreams, blocking our potential. In my case, the elephant was an unhealthy relationship. For you, it may be a job, career, education, health, dysfunction in the family, difficult roommate, or an addiction you just can’t (or refuse to) acknowledge or overcome. So instead, maybe you also join a health club, bump up the nutrition, and attend retreats to appease the emotional exhaustion created by the elephant you are so busy climbing over and around. Here’s the thing. It doesn’t work.
You’ll never get where you’re meant to be if you can’t see the way.
How to begin:
1) Make yourself road-worthy.
If you want to make essential progress in your life’s journey in the next year, the first thing you’ll need is a vehicle. That vehicle is you–body, mind and spirit. You can’t get far with a banged up car. Whatever it entails, bring yourself into balance. For me, it’s good nutrition, exercise, prayer, meditation, creative work, and energetic therapies, like acupuncture and Natural Force Healing. These steps are preliminary, ongoing, and crucial. At any given point, if you’re out of balance, your view will be distorted.
2. Define the destination.
Roll out the map of your life, beginning with childhood, and identify the activities that gave you the most joy and stimulation. Prioritize them. These are the gifts and personality archetypes that drive you. If you feel no particular connection to specific activities, your mission this year is more exploratory. Sample new things. Join groups. Paint, sing, dance, hike, travel. Make mistakes. Find your compass by changing direction. Identify the path you’ve walked up to now, however accidental. See how it varies from the one you’d envisioned, and plan how to bridge that gap. If you’ve never envisioned a life path, this is the time. Create it now.
3) Dream big.
Dreams are the unedited creations of the imagination. They represent our best selves. Don’t limit them, at least for now. Place everything on that map that you can imagine would provide fulfillment. For some it will be an expansive, even a global life plan, including travel. For others, it will be an inner journey of spiritual exploration. We’re all standing at different points on the path, and our experiences, dreams and intentions will naturally reflect that. Once you’ve planned your itinerary, identify any obstruction/s or impasses you foresee. Address them before the journey begins. It may delay your trip a bit, but with courage, ingenuity, and perspective, most impediments can and should be overcome.
4) Choose your passengers wisely.
Look around. Are your present companions the people you would take on a lifelong road trip? A single vacation? A night out? None of the above? Do they enhance your life? Advance your dreams? Offer wise counsel and faithfully nudge you in the right direction? Are they dependable? Do they bring you joy? (Do you bring them joy?) Act accordingly. If there’s work to be done in this area, including counseling, do it before you get in the car.
5) Open the windows and put the top down.
In other words, open your mind and prepare to learn. This journey is about authenticity and growth. It’s about becoming who you really are. The people, places and mode of transportation you choose, via job, lifestyle, hobbies, or even recreation, are not only your chauffeurs, they’re your teachers. If you choose carefully, you’ll experience joy, focus, fascination, and serenity, but also the discomfort of having moved beyond the familiar. Feel that discomfort, sit with it, and learn from it. It’s the bridge from your old life to the new. Trust that its invaluable importance will be understood and appreciated when you’re waving to it in the rear view mirror, if not sooner.
When I look back at my younger self that year in Chicago and all the unrest that followed, I see those years as my greatest achievement. Those were the years I broke through my comfort zone and dared to dream. Those were the years I acknowledged my own worth and invested it in the future. It might have taken some waterworks to clean up that windshield, but I’ll never regret it. Everything changed from that point forward.
Most of the time, the view from my windshield is crystal clear. I wish the same for you.
Happy New Year!