It’s wonderful to have dreams, and exciting to hold a vision of a better you. It’s like finally admitting your potential, your brilliance. Of course you could lose 20 pounds, have more friends, be more productive, run a marathon. These are all fine goals. But, are they meaningful? If you are like most people, what you resolved on New Year’s Day, tends to move to the back of your mind in February, becoming yet another thing that didn’t get done. It just doesn’t seem important anymore.
Well, maybe it isn’t.
As a grief counselor I hear a lot about unmet goals, about men who always wanted to sail, but didn’t have time, or widows who were going to travel with their husbands, but couldn’t get to it, or children who never got to graduate.
Interestingly, however, if you allow people time to talk about their loved ones, you will usually hear some beautiful stories of lives lived well. Grieving people don’t talk much about the time their sister lost 20 pounds, or the day their son ran the marathon. It’s more likely to be some story about a great scrabble game, or an impromptu drive down the river road, how they laughed as kids at the dinner table, how happy he was on a mountain, or that time they stayed in bed until 2:00 making love and eating toast. What seems to be most memorable about a person isn’t what they achieved, but how they lived.
So if the journey really is the goal, or if, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, “…to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive,” then what do we do on New Year’s Day?
Resolve to pay attention to your life. Rather than focusing on the end result of all this, focus on what you are doing now. Then do it more, and fuller, and richer. Be a more engaged lover. Eat the food you really enjoy. Swap a treadmill for some trees. Speak eye-to-eye. Allow yourself to feel athletic again. Spend more time with people you can laugh with. Play the piano.
Rather than reaching for goals, reach for what’s already here. It may turn out that what’s most important about your life is happening in this moment now.
Joyous New Year to you.