Even after a career as a human performance specialist and now as a life coach and therapist, I’m still naïve enough to be tempted to implement a dozen or so good New Year’s resolutions. But this year I’m clinging to two principles: “First things first” and “biggest bang for the buck.”
The adage from of the Jewish side of my Judeo-Christian family, “If you have your health, you have everything,” is a wise one. If I’m too ill, or dead, my noblest resolves—and even my bottom line responsibilities—are off the table. So, “first things first” means putting exercise (including qigong), nutrition, and adequate sleep at the top of my to-do list. Boom.
Next: I keep thinking about a post by Buddhist physician Alex Lickerman:
When you feel overwhelmed by your own life, rather than focusing on finding a different set of more manageable problems (as if that were even possible), you should look for ways to raise your life-condition so you can gain access to the wisdom, courage, and energy you need to solve the problems you have. If you don’t have a process or a practice that does this for you, find one. Will power and intellect alone are often insufficient.
That’s brilliant, because my admirably long list of wannabe New Year’s resolutions will—I KNOW—be eclipsed by each dilemma du jour, which will seduce my problem-solving mind with the certainty that the dilemma is horrible and must be solved right now. Everything else, including “wisdom, courage, and energy,” has to wait. Here’s where “biggest bang for the buck” comes in. Dr. Lickerman reminds me of the importance of having a practice that raises my life-condition instead of losing myself down the rabbit hole of endless problem manipulation and damage control. For me, that practice is a form of mindfulness meditation. This excerpt from a Psychology Today article by Emma M. Seppala, Ph.D.on mindfulness meditation speaks to the limits to focusing only outward.
For some, turning attention inward can be distressing, because it may tune us into emotions that are not comfortable. However, constantly distracting ourselves through attention turned outwards will not remove those underlying emotions. By learning to engage with them through our dedicated interoceptive awareness, we may experience the first signs of healing.
In short, my reasoning is that if I can be alive, be well, and cultivate the necessary wisdom, courage, and energy within to confront the problems outside, my other intentions for the new year may actually stand a chance.
Happy New Year!