Kathy Walters: Finding our New Year’s passion
It’s that time of year when we get to focus on ourselves because, let’s face it, much of our cultural messaging on New Year resolutions is about personal goals. Maybe this time around we are succeeding — we’ve been sticking to our fitness plan or saving more money. Or maybe those 10 pounds just aren’t melting off like they used to. What seems to be much less frequently heard is how someone has made a public challenge their top priority.
Well, personal growth is so much easier, right? Compared to problems like climate change or national health care, getting into shape is much more easily within reach. And the results more immediately satisfying. Also, many global challenges are complicated and frustrating — our best intentions only get bogged down in petty politics. It’s no wonder then many of us feel overwhelmed and like a deer-in-the-headlight we simply freeze, hoping we’re not going to get hit. (Which of course is magical thinking). I don’t know about you, but from year-to-year I find myself getting better at simply taking care of myself.
Granted, with our busy lives, many of us are doing what we can — eating less meat, donating to our preferred causes, consuming fewer material goods, writing our politicians, and of course, educating ourselves. But I’d wager many of us are also carrying forward a kind of low-grade fear or shame of “I am not doing enough” and those feelings are getting harder for all of us to ignore.
Yet, guilt, shame and fear are show-stoppers. In the article “How to Crush Your Habits in the New Year with the Help of Science” (New York Times, Dec. 31) the emotions we want to be feeling are “gratitude and authentic pride, along with hope, social connection and compassion….(with) the least effective being shame, guilt and fear.” So how do we get out from under that?
Well one way is to actually do something, but something small and specific. It’s always going to be uncomfortable changing our behavior and getting out of our comfort zone, but it’s easier if we apply these strategies: trade your limiting beliefs for curiosity, turn major projects into micro steps, turn unclear behaviors into clear action items, turn vague visions into clear outcomes, turn dabbling into a dedication to mastery.
Another piece of advice is to think big and ask yourself what change are you going to be most grateful you made? Apparently, many people pick some behavior they’ve heard is good for them, and then they try to force it upon themselves and hope it will lead to greater health and happiness. The truth is doing what you love and what you are most passionate about is what you’ll succeed at. Still, those collective challenges….they need us and are not going to go away on their own.
One day, while stuck in my own little world of gloom, I recalled an article I’d read on those vibrant and amazing democratic females who were recently elected. Though I’m sure they were great at thinking big, applying micro steps, doing what they love, clearly, too, along their paths, like all of us, they hit low points. At many points in their lives they must have felt guilty or inadequate or afraid. When they felt like that, what did they do differently? I believe their power came from looking to someone else, someone who also inspired them, and asking the same question: what would this admirable person, who most certainly has felt what I’m feeling now, do differently?
Few of us will become visible leaders. Yet, we all have skills and passions and can contribute in our own unique way. Perhaps we’re the person who shows up religiously at the gym, or the one who finishes writing that book. Regardless, our power lies in lifting up our eyes to see how others have gotten through their tough times.