How are your resolutions going? January always represents a fresh start and a time to make goals for the year. But sometimes—not far into it—I've seen many well intentioned plans or rigid resolutions fall by the wayside and the inevitable frustration that follows.
It is hard to make all the changes you want in your life, and disappointing when you had planned that things would be different. So, in the midst of it all, we often say things will be better. We roll up our shirt sleeves and get ready for the yearly overhaul, only to find the plan has lapsed or the system has fallen apart.
It's okay, because today is January 30th. That is all it is. And January 30th isn't the day that represents the seventh day of going off your New Year's plan. No, it is just a Thursday. So, be in Thursday or whichever day you are reading this. Be in the moment and simply make your plans for today. Leave the "could've, would've and should'ves" behind!
I am a mother of a five-year-old, so although I try to keep up with the latest literature in therapy, I sometimes get my pieces of wisdom from what my daughter is watching. Thank you, Pixar. The American Jackalope might be the wisest sage of the bunch. He shares this piece of mindful “bound and rebound” advice:
"Now sometimes you're up and sometimes you're down.
When you find that you're down, well just look around.
You still got a body, good legs, and fine feet,
get your head in the right place and hey you're complete."
It's true, we need to get our heads in the right place. We need to be more mindful in our day-to-day. It is tough when a plan isn't reached. Believe me I get it. Not just as a therapist, but in my own life. Like The A-Team's Hannibal—I love it when a plan comes together! I seriously love it—so much—it is sometimes hard for me to not toss the whole plan out if it isn't being followed exactly. I also know this isn't healthy, necessary, or very mindful. So, perhaps you can join me on a new plan where we set our reasonable goals with lots of room for changes, patience, and acceptance. Simply try, and if it's not perfect? Try again and bound and rebound!
How do you wake up in the morning? Are you having some self reflection? Thinking about dreams, goals and aspirations? Processing and planning with a clear and level head? Or does your alarm come in the form of a child jumping on your head, followed by you staggering down the stairs only to be greeted by a million demands and questions?
If it is the former, you can skip my article. If it is the latter, and I am guessing this is most of you, you just might think my article is insane. It can't be done!—might be the collective exclamation. But hear me out, Perhaps this can be goal for one day, something to try when your kids have moved out—I jest, or maybe daringly you can try this now. What I am going to suggest is for you to carve out a little sliver of self-care and time for yourself in—get this—the morning!
Yes, the morning! A time when everything is getting started and your house is likely at its most chaotic, but maybe just maybe, if you really try you can make these few intentionally executed minutes a reality.
Your bedtime might have to shift back a little bit and an alarm might have to be set to get a head start on the family rousing but it will be worth it. Here is what I want you to do: as soon as you wake up, grab a pen, a notebook and write three page. No more, no less. Write about anything and everything that crosses your mind. It doesn't matter. You can write about how ridiculous this assignment is for several lines, write a partial grocery list or maybe you will write about your hopes and dreams. The point? Not to save it, interpret it or use it again, but rather to process. Author and artist Julia Cameron wrote about the idea of morning pages in her book The Artist's Way. She calls this tool “the bedrock... of creative recovery.”
The point of morning pages? To “provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand.” Julia started the morning pages as a way to find and retrieve creativity. and it is one of the key ideas outlined in her internationally known book.
I have used the morning pages and found it excellent in sorting out my thoughts. I describe the process as similar to how I experience an early morning run, during which I am often having such a meeting of the two minds, or rather my left brand and right brain, that I am dying to pull off the road and find paper and a pencil. Starting the day off writing helps me sort out my day, process issues my subconscious has been working on through the last day and night and provides a place to work out some ideas. I have found it immensely helpful and I hope you find it helpful too.
So whether you are working on a large artistic venture or just wanting a little more creativity in your day this might just be the good in good morning you have needed.
“Of course there is no formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.” ~Arthur Rubinstein
Life is challenging. These challenges can be taxing on us, not only because of the situation or issue itself, but also because of the stress taken on when ruminating about our problems. We become paralyzed by fear, anger, and sadness, and don't know what to do. Other times we tell ourselves things will get better, saying this January will be different or by the spring the predicament will be over. It is disappointing when you have tried to resolve situations hoping that by certain markers things would be different. This leads to frustration, getting bogged down, and being unhappy in our circumstances.
We might yearn for health issues to be resolved, want to own our own home when finances are tight, wish to be at a different place in our career, or long for Martha Stewart-esque organization when family life is chaotic. These are all reasonable wants. In response to our desires, we stress, scheme, and lie awake wishing things were better. The reality is, a scary health report might have to be addressed with an equally scary treatment, home ownership might be a 2016 realization, a new baby in the house might not be the time to advance in your career, and the toddler years might not bring with it a picture perfect living room. We need to examine what resources/energy/time we have or don't have at this moment, and by acknowledging this, we can let go of some of the expectations we have on ourselves that aren't working.
Today, I want to throw out a challenge to make room to accept where you are and who you are, and the reality surrounding it all. This doesn't mean you can't have initiative and make plans, but do so without the frustration, struggle, and disappointment. Acceptance of your circumstances can take the pressure off and provide you some space and energy needed to invest in your goals realistically. It is often the unmet expectations that cause frustrations and rob us of our peace.
In the business book Good to Great, Jim Collins interviewed James Stockdale—a POW survivor during the Vietnam War. James said this of how he survived: “I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade." James added, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."
You are likely not reading this article as a POW, and your circumstances might pale in comparison, or maybe not. Maybe you are in the fight of your life. Whatever your situation, I think the idea is relatable. It talks about the power of accepting your reality, and having faith that you will make it out of the circumstances. Acceptance of our reality can help us live within it in greater peace and even enjoyment.