I found this post on TinyBuddha.com and had to repost it. It hits home for me. A lot of people seem to have resolutions and it made me think that I should have (or some). I am pretty happy with my life though. The only thing that has been nagging at me lately is that I want more of a steady income. The idea of getting a “real” job is beginning to be more appealing.But what is a “real” job. Is it a dollar amount per year? Does it require a certain level of education? I want a more steady income. But that might take away my opportunity to do what I want every day. I feel very lucky to no go sit behind a desk every day, 5 days a week and only get 2 weeks vacation. I know that I am fortunate to have good health and live what I consider an awesome life. So why do I feel the need for a more steady income? I think that I just want a job that makes me think. Using my brain instead of my hands might be better.
The whole post is a bit longer, but here are the parts, I like:
I don’t actually believe New Year’s Day is any different than any other day. I don’t believe a random point in the time measurement system we’ve created requires us to make a laundry list of things we need to change or improve. Today is in fact just another day, and tomorrow is one, as well. I don’t mean to minimize the excitement of the New Year, or any of the days we’ve chosen to celebrate for religious or honorary reasons. What I’m saying is that New Year’s resolutions often fail for a reason, and it’s only slightly related to intention or discipline.
Resolutions fail because they don’t emerge from true breakthroughs—they’re calendar-driven obligations; and they often address the symptoms, not the cause of our unhappiness.
Some resolutions are smart for our physical and emotional health and well-being. Quitting smoking, losing weight, managing stress better—there are all healthy things. But if we don’t address what underlies our needs to light up, order double bacon cheeseburgers, and worry ourselves into frenzies, will it really help to vow on one arbitrary day to give up everything that helps us pretend we’re fine? It’s almost like we set ourselves up for failure to avoid addressing the messy stuff.
Why We’re Really Unhappy
I can’t say this is true for everyone, but my experience has shown me that my unhappiness—and my need for coping mechanisms—come from several different places:
- I’m dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future.
- I’m comparing myself to everyone else—their accomplishments, the respect and the attention they garner, and their apparently perfect lives.
- I’m feeling dissatisfied with how I’m spending my time and the impact I’m making on the world.
- I’ve lost hope in my potential.
- I’m expecting and finding the worst in people.
- I’m turning myself into a victim or a martyr, blaming everyone else.
- I’m spiraling into negative thinking, seeing everything as a sign of doom and hopelessness
- I’m assuming there should be a point in time when none of the above happens anymore.
The last one, I believe, is the worst cause of unhappiness. All those other things I mentioned are human, whether we experience them persistently or occasionally.
We’ll do these things from time to time—and they’ll hurt. In the aftermath, we’ll want to do all those different things that every year we promise to give up.
We’ll want to eat, drink, or smoke away our feelings. Or we’ll want to work away our nagging sense of inadequacy. Or we’ll judge whether or not we’re really enjoying life enough and in the very act of judging detract from that enjoyment.
So perhaps the best resolution has nothing to do with giving up all those not-so-healthy things and everything to do with adopting a new mindset that will make it less tempting to turn to them.
An Alternative to Resolutions
Maybe instead of trying to trim away all the symptoms of our dissatisfaction, we can accept that what we we really want is happiness—and that true happiness comes and goes. We can never trap it like a butterfly in a jar.
No amount of medication or meditation can change the fact that we will sometimes get caught up in thoughts and emotions.
What we can do is work to improve the ratio of happy-to-unhappy moments. We can learn to identify when we’re spiraling and pull ourselves back with the things we enjoy and want to do in this world.
Instead of scolding ourselves for all the things we’re doing wrong and making long to-do lists to stop doing them, we can focus on doing the things that feel right to us.
This may sound familiar if you’ve read about positive psychology—I’m no posi-psy expert, and to my knowledge no one is since the industry is unregulated.
But it doesn’t take an expert to know it feels a lot better to choose to nurture positive moments than it does to berate myself for things I’ve done that might seem negative—all while plotting to give them all up when the clock strikes tabula rasa.