A Wise Way to Set New Year Intentions
My manuscript for The Resilience Toolkit: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster is now in the hands of the publisher. (forthcoming September 2018) I can engage with the challenges, opportunities, and blessings of the new year with, I hope, deeper wisdom and clarity from the lessons and processes of that writing.
The Toolkit will provide many new perspectives and practices for recovering resilience, and stories like this one shared among my friends gathered for New Year’s Eve:
In October 2017, Kate McClure ran out of gas in Philadelphia in a not-great part of town. She didn’t have any cash. Homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt, who was standing at the side of the highway with a sign asking for help, used what money he had to fetch her a can of gas. Afterward, McClure launched a crowdfunding campaign for Bobbitt, raising over $400,000. The money enable Bobbitt to buy a home and car – and donate money to “organizations and people who over the last couple of years have helped in get through this rough patch in his life.”
This story is one of The Most Inspiring Moments from 2017, posted December 22, 2017 by the Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley. These stories resonate with our own inner wisdom and compassion because the capacities for those good intentions and skillful behaviors reside within each of us, ready to be cultivated and strengthened.
In 2018, I am re-focusing these Resources for Recovering Resilience posts to make them as relevant and useful to you as possible in that cultivation and strengthening.
Each month I’ll be focusing on a particular theme essential for dealing with difficulties, recovering resilience, and moving into well-being. January 2018 will focus on Intention- Choice – Responsibility.
The posts in general will each provide three practical tools to address challenges we’re facing, research that validates those practices, stories and quotes to illustrate those practices, with suggestions on how you can most easily apply those practices in your ongoing life.
I will also begin posting the RRR’s on Mondays to begin the week of wise effort. And post the weekly quotes on Thursdays to reinforce the learning. (Occasionally links to other useful resources on Wednesday.)
We begin this new year with Intention, as wisdom traditions around the world universally do.
…it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.
– Mary Oliver, excerpt from Invitation
As we set intentions for change our lives to be more skillful, more resilient, there are cautions. As James Baraz, developer of Awakening Joy, noted in his interview with the Greater Good Science Center about Five Foolproof Ways to Feel More Joy:
Our intention to change backfires when we make too many resolutions, or when we make resolutions that really aren’t achievable. Unrealistic expectations create a pass-fail test that is too easy to fail. Initial enthusiasm quickly disappears with the thought, “Who was I kidding?”
Changing a habit takes time. It’s important to realize that most resolutions are an ongoing process. Instead of thinking, I’m someone who will never be able to change, it’s much more effective to think of yourself as someone who’s in the process of learning a new way to do something. Believing that you can change is crucial.
An excellent way to strengthen capacities for learning, change, and growth in the new year is to set the intention to cultivate and reinforce those capacities you already have and value.
1. From the very small sample list below, identify ten values you aspire to, would like to manifest more in the coming year:
Calm Gratitude Playfulness
Cheerfulness Honesty Prudence
Clarity Joyfulness Purposefulness
Confidence Kindness Reliability
Connectedness Knowledge Resourcefulness
Courage Love Responsiveness
Creativity Loyalty Self-Awareness
Curiosity Open-mindedness Self-Acceptance
Determination Organization Spontaneity
Flexibility Patience Tranquility
Forgiveness Perseverance Trust
2. From among these ten, identify three that you already embody and express in a fairly steady way.
3. For each of these three values or traits, write down three specific memories of moments when you actively expressed these traits. You were generous to a co-worker, to your neighbor, to your brother. You were prudent about paying your utility bill on time, driving within the speed limit, filling up the gas tank, etc. Chunking down your aspirations for the new year in this way brings them more into the realm of the realistic, the doable. And for each example, acknowledge – indeed, you were exhibiting that trait.
4. After you’ve written three memories of experience for each trait of resilience, set your written reflections aside for 2-3 hours (2-3 days). And then return to them and re-read them.
5. As you re-read these lived memories of your own capacities or traits of resilience, notice any shifts in (or reinforcement of) your view of yourself. Can you accept these traits as real, valid, and personal to yourself, as contributing to your own inner secure base of resilience? Practice and repeat steps 1-4 until this step 5 does feel real to you.
6. As you experience your traits of resilience and claim them as valuable parts of who you truly are, you deepen your trust that this is so. Your intentions to strengthen these capacities guide you in learning to become who you truly want to be.
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report,…think on these things.
– motto, Northwestern University
Whatever a person frequently thinks and reflects on, that will become the inclination o f the mind.
A small thing repeated each day adds up over time to produce big results. Just one thing could change your life.
– Rick Hanson