5 Rules for a New Year

I’m not usually big into resolutions. They’re so often forgotten a few weeks in, given up on out of discouragement, or they turn out to be unrealistic. Like many people I know I had a pretty rough 2016 (that it’s been a year and two days since my last post is just one symptom of that), and while I don’t regret removing pressure from myself during that time, I’ve been noticing that I’ve completely lost many good disciplines, and as a result have a good deal of what I can only describe as flab, emotionally and intellectually (ok, I have some of that physically too!)

With that in mind, I’ve created a short list of rules for myself, to help guide me over the next year. I can’t really call them goals, since they’re not very concrete and don’t have measurable success points, really, but that’s not what I wanted out of them anyways. I find that daunting, strange though that may seem. I prefer to operate under simple and positive life rules when starting a fresh year (with a good measure of grace given for those times that I can’t avoid being thrown off-course), and with that in mind, I have written the following five rules in my journal:

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  1. Assume the best in others.
    When you’ve had a rough year (or rough few years…), it’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of negativity. Particularly when you have had to deal with difficult situations and people repeatedly over the course of a short period of time, the temptation is to preemptively start assuming the worst, which of course very often sours encounters and circumstances which would otherwise have been good (or neutral at worst). The only reliable way I’ve found to get out of that cycle is to make a very deliberate effort to turn negative thoughts into positive ones, “taking captive every thought” as it comes along.
  2. Give away more than you buy.
    This year I’m going to try donating, recycling, or re-gifting at least one more item than what I’m bringing into the house (except groceries…of course, with two growing kids the result is the same as if I were including them). The purpose of this is twofold: First (and most obvious of the two), it will cut down the clutter. Second, I believe it will make me consider every purchase more carefully and not just think of myself or my family when I’m out (and not that thinking of one’s family is bad, but it can be all too easy to justify purchases when they’re “for the kids”).
  3. Look for inspiration everywhere.
    The cure for the creative rut, right here. This goes hand-in-hand with assuming the best, in a sense, because looking for beauty and inspiration in even difficult situations is an amazing tool for turning negativity on its head. I used to be quite good at this, I think (maybe better in memory?), but it’s another “discipline” (which doesn’t feel like one, really, when you’re in the process) I’ve lost over the last year.
  4. Spend at least one evening a week buried in a good book.
    I don’t know what it is, but something about how I’ve been doing life since college has made me lose some of the joy of reading. Maybe it was the boatload (courseload?) of reading one DOESN’T do for pleasure in college, maybe it’s that adult life just makes it hard to read at my favourite time (late at night to early morning when the house is dead quiet), or maybe it’s a combination of factors, but where I once could finish a longer novel in a week, I now read maybe two or three a year. How sad is that?! And I know that I really COULD be reading instead of watching TV many nights. This goal may seem small to those of you who have kept up the good habit, but it’s something I need to do more mindfully right now and this seems like a good way to start.
  5. Don’t be afraid of starting over.
    So often I get trapped by the idea that I’ve wasted time and energy when something I’ve been working on doesn’t work out. It happens when I have to pick up a skill again that I’ve lost from lack of use, when I make a big mistake that needs fixing, or when I change my mind entirely about what I want to do. When I fall into this discouraged thinking, the monologue in my head starts to sound like, “why should I bother starting/completing this when it’s just going to end in disaster and waste anyways?” The truth is, though, that no effort is ever wasted. Mistakes can teach us, effort stretches us, discipline is learned from going forward despite obstacles. If there is always something to be gained from our efforts, even if it’s not what we THOUGHT we would gain from them, we don’t have to be trapped by the fear of wasting them. I hope to remind myself of that so often this year that it becomes my default position.

Well, those are my rules to live by this year. Do you write resolutions or rules for yourself when you need a re-set, at New Year’s or otherwise? How do you stay on track?

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