The turning of the calendar page often brings reflection, even personal inventory. Here, I offer you a collection of thoughts, meditations and lessons from this hard fought life. Feel free to sample, test, and take what meets your hunger for this present time.
Everyone changes, everyone grows
Seek growth in yourself, acknowledge it in others. Think how different you are from where you were 5, 10, 15 years ago. Aren’t you wiser now? Different? Would you always, forever, want to be viewed by how you were then? No? Then allow the same of others. Let your view of others escape from those carefully-guarded pigeon-holes. Extend grace.
Whatever you are looking for, you will find.
If you continue to look for evidence that things are bad, or that others are falling short, that’s all you will see. But if you assume good will, good intent, and ask yourself “what’s good about this?” or "what does this make possible?" then you will readily begin to see hidden gifts and the potential for joy.
Give spontaneous tributes
Have you given a tribute lately? Give it now. Tell others what you appreciate about them. Even small things. Say it while that person is able to hear what you love about them. Set aside the petty trivialities of how they aren't doing things "the right way" (read: your way) and praise them for what you'd miss if they were gone. Say it now. Today. Repeat tomorrow. Don’t wait for their funeral. Trust me on this one.
Even to strangers. Your server, that harried clerk, the bus driver, the people who are usually faceless. See them. Tell them something specific about how nice they look, their kind smile, their patience, their efficiency. I've even told strangers they look amazing, and you should see them blossom.
Youth and beauty are not accomplishments.
Let’s eliminate the practice of judging whether or not someone has “aged well.” Youth and beauty are temporary by-products of time and DNA. You can’t control either. (1)
Beware the double standard
We are apt to be far more severe with others than ourselves. We judge others by their performance, which is clearly seen to be faulty, while we measure ourselves by our intentions or ideals, which, while undoubtedly excellent, often result in no performance at all. (2)
Strengths can become weaknesses when overused.
Strengths, taken to their opposite extreme, can compromise performance, sabotage relationships and even derail a career. (3) My strength of "problem solving" becomes a problem if I walk into every situation thinking, “What’s wrong with this?” and then begin to internally criticize, or worse, actually give unsolicited advice.
We often get so mired down in the process of “doing it right” (whatever that means) that we never get started doing it.
Keep a Joy Jar.
Grab a scrap of paper and write the date and one sentence about something positive today. Put it in a jar, box, container. (something you already have). Do the same tomorrow.
Or whenever something good happens. Put in the ticket stubs from that great concert or movie. Then at the end of the year, on New Year’s Eve or Day, dump them all out, read through them, enjoy the flood of memories and surge of gratitude for the joy-filled life you’ve had this year. (4)
Keep your own solemn vow. And keep it to yourself.
Promises or resolutions spoken out loud may trick the brain into thinking it's already accomplished what was spoken. It releases the reward endorphins in our brain so we get the sense of accomplishment before the promise is actually fulfilled. As a result, we don't do the work necessary to actually keep our promise or reach our goal. Honor yourself enough to keep your vows. (5)
Don’t make a future list of what needs to go away or come to your life. Stop trying to fix your past. Promise yourself only one thing this year: be present. Speak it only to yourself. Whisper it: "Be present." In every moment, in every situation, in every joy, with every difficult person: be present, focused, attentive, fully engaged. Make this agreement with yourself. (6)
Is it possible you are starting the New Year with an anxious heart? The early Christians used what is called a “breathe prayer” to help those situations. It is simply this: As you inhale, say the words “Jesus Christ is Lord” to yourself, then, as you exhale say the words, “Lord, be my peace.” Repeat this pattern until you feel the tension lessen or go away completely.
When we live in the awareness
of our desperate need for God,
we are filled in unexplainable ways.
Attend to the one who provides every good and perfect gift. God doesn’t intrude. Look for God, invite God, open your heart to the one who rescues, redeems, heals, restores, comforts, guides, loves and fills us in unexplainable ways. Today, if you are feeling anxious, give the “breathe prayer” a try, and may God’s peace be with you.
Inhale: "Jesus Christ is Lord."
Exhale: "Lord, be my peace."
1. Original quote here.
2. Inspired by this article and this scripture.
3. From this article on managing your strengths.
4. Thanks to my friend Kendra for the Joy Jar idea.
5. More here about vow keeping.
6. More about being present here.