It’s human nature to want to better ourselves. This may be particularly true of Americans since it’s inherent in our culture to believe that hard work will enable us to create better lives in all sorts of ways: we can be thinner, kinder, richer, more successful, more fit—you name it. The self-help bestseller lists confirm this belief. <g>
This desire to improve is one reason there are New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never made them—if I want to make a change, I’ll do it now! (Patience is not my strong suit.) Among people who do make formal resolutions, there seems to be a high degree of frustration. New Year’s resolutions seem designed to make us feel like failures, and darned quickly, too!
Which is why I was delighted when my fantasy writer friend Sharon Shinn mentioned a practice she and some friends do. Instead of resolutions, they choose a word for the year ahead—something to guide or inspire or help them make choices for the next twelve months. For example, one could choose:
Sharon says they got the idea from somewhere else, so she doesn’t know the origin, but I LOVE the concept! It’s a theme, a mantra, a gentle suggestion rather than a list of goals that may prove impractical.
So I considered some possible words for the year:
This can be either a verb or a noun. One can make a point of cherishing friends and family that we may take for granted, or one can use “treasure” as a noun, symbolizing the steps that might improve one’s financial situation.
This might be a good choice for someone who feels she needs to speak up for herself more. It’s a sobering example, but a friend of mine who once was kidnapped off the street by three guys and beaten and raped for a couple of days before being released said that after that, things like bullying professors and bosses simply didn’t frighten her any more. This could be a good theme for a year of evaluating what we fear and why. And what we can do about it!
I figure the word can have a punctuation mark without violating the principle. <g> For someone who is always going in too many directionsscattered, starting lots of things but never getting them done, this could be a good keyword.
This is rather like mindfulness. Be alert! Pay attention! Notice what’s going on! (A good one for writers who wander around in a creative haze way too often. <G>)
Be open to new possibilities. Try new things. I’ve never liked olives, but every now and then, I’ll have another one just to see if I like them better. The answer is mostly no, but I have learned that I dislike some types less than others. <G>
This is another concept I really like. How we see our past can really influence how we see ourselves in the present, and how we interact with the world. Think of how very different it is to say, “I was abused as a child and permanent scarred by it,” versus, “I had a very difficult childhood, but it made me incredibly strong and adaptable and compassionate.” Or something simpler, like “I can never understand computers” reframed as, “I haven’t done well with computers in the past because I was insufficiently motivated, but now that I find I can do genealogy/needlework/see pictures of my grandkids online, I’ll figure it out in no time!”
By the way, the picture was taken in a park above Auckland, New Zealand. We had an 8 hour layover on our way to Australia, so we hired a car with a nice driver to take us around.)
This could be a good one for physical improvement. Many of us lead sedentary lives, so moving more can improve one’s health, vitality, and mood, not to mention one’s figure. Park at the far end of the lot, take the stairs instead of the elevator (not if it’s the 88th floor, of course!), find some kind of physical outlet that will make you feel better and happier.
Sharon did something else really fun with this concept: “Last year I got magnets for the five of us who chose words. I went to Zazzle.com and picked my typefaces and color backgrounds and made a set for each of us. They're all hanging on my stove.”
You can see the possibilities of this! Do you like this idea? Have you tried it? Is there a word you’d like to be your theme for the year?
Mary Jo, still working on Patience..