Guilt always attends the New Year, because whenever I make resolutions they always fall short. Failure. Ergo, no resolutions this year. So why is the guilt still kicking in?
Here’s a partial list: Not keeping a close enough eye on monthly spending. Not updating the blog often enough. Not keeping up with friends as well as I’d like. Not being as frugal as I could be. Wanting more, and not appreciating what I have. Not getting enough sleep. Checking certain websites too often. Not doing those projects around the house. Sound familiar? If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve got your own list.
Enough. For me, guilt is the great paralyzer. Once that guilt sinks in, I tend to not get back on track. Instead of plunging ahead, I ignore, and feel even more guilty.
So I’ve decided that it’s time to forgive myself more this year. To provide space to say – OK, you fell short, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay that way. To give myself more grace.
How will that happen? More mindfulness. Being cognizant of my day-to-day, moment-to-moment choices of how I direct my time and attention.
For me, this means putting down my phone more, and not checking it every half a second. I don’t need to check email 58 times per day. Nor Facebook. Nor fivethirtyeight.com.
It means reading more, but also not feeling guilty about books which go unread. I’ve already read a half a dozen new books this year, and skimmed and returned half a dozen others. Before I would feel guilty about books that I knew I “should” read, but couldn’t get into. Now I skim, and if the book isn’t what I need, it goes back. That feels good.
It means being more conscientious about helping my wife (who is staying at home, taking care of our youngest, and working fulltime teaching online) around the house.
It means getting better sleep. Meditating more. Complaining less. Drinking less.
It also means giving myself some slack when I fall short, as inevitably I will.
The list goes on and on, but at the end of the day, these are not individual changes, but rather different branches on the bush whose root is mindfulness.
How do you practice mindfulness? It’s one of the hardest easy things I’ve done. It requires self-reflection, and looking in the mirror (figuratively) at all times. You can find some great articles on mindfulness here and here , but let me give you a few of my own ideas:
Pay attention to what you do, what you think. Find yourself yelling at a driver? Ask yourself why. Are you reaching for a box of snacks at work? Ask yourself: Self, are you truly hungry, or are you doing this because you are bored/frustrated/whatever? When you criticize, why are you doing so? To make yourself feel better about something? To cover up your own shortcomings? (That last one is a big one for me – I find myself getting angry at other people doing things that I am guilty of doing).
If you are looking for a guided introduction, check out this FREE eight week course in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). I took an MBSR course (live, not free) last spring, and gained lots of techniques for being mindful in my choices and actions on a daily basis. I am not perfect in implementing them, but I’m getting over the guilt of not being better perfect, so that I apply them more. If this looks interesting but you prefer to do your learning in person, you may be able to find a live class nearby (for a fee, typically in the $200-$300 range). I’m a big fan of free.
So does being more mindful sound like a resolution? Perhaps to you it does. I can accept that. To me, being more mindful goes well beyond a resolution. A resolution is like a diet. Diets are temporary changes in how you eat to achieve an often arbitrary goal (I need to lose 20 pounds). What happens when that goal is reached? A reversion back to the old way of eating, and guess what…a reversion to the old weight. On the other hand, a lifestyle change means that you are permanently changing how you eat, and how you think about eating, for the long haul. You aren’t worried about a weight goal, because you know that by making changes, you will get to where you need to be.
And so it is with the mindfulness change. It isn’t a diet. It’s a lifestyle change. There is no need to set arbitrary goals, as the necessary changes will manifest themselves over time.
At least that’s how it seems to be playing out for me.
Did you make any resolutions? Have you been successful with them in the past? Do you practice mindfulness?