Religion & Culture | ‘One day at a time’ - Fulfilling New Year’s resolutions
As we usher in the new year, we often commit to transform our lot in life, desiring personal growth, good health and happiness. But unfocused and overly ambitious, we oftentimes fall short and our energy fizzles long before we can meet a single resolution.
Clearly, a mere pronouncement of intention can be likened to running the first few metres of a marathon. (I have always liked using the analogy of a runner who is well prepared). Meeting our resolutions requires more than just thoughts and words. It is first and foremost a state of mind.
We must know our strengths and our shortcomings. Fail we will, if our goals are existentially unattainable or unrealistic. We must be measured, always mindful of likely obstacles. Being mentally prepared cannot be overemphasised.
Case in point: if you have a target weight loss in mind that demands jogging on a daily basis, you must brace for the likelihood of inclement weather, injuries or other unforeseen occurrences.
How then can you be adaptive and flexible so that you do not lose momentum or compromise your goal? There are many ways you can circumvent these hurdles, but you must be proactive, always thinking one step ahead.
The same applies for changing your eating habits, an undertaking that can be far more difficult than anticipated. How do you deal with breaking long-established patterns? A clear plan of action must also include able responses to the unseen.
Preparedness also applies to resolutions that are spiritual or religious in nature. For example, most of us seek happiness and peace. Let's examine the former. Happiness, we know, does not revolve around physical acquisitions and wealth.
The euphoria we first experience is fleeting as challenges arise unabated. Such is fate, the never-ending vagaries of life. Spoken aloud or internally, we all yearn for a life that is manageable. This is one resolution we can all relate to. But is it at all achievable?
Like the trained runner, we must have a mental grasp of our terrain. These include our finances, job, personal relationships, and our relationship with a higher power. Yes, prayer is a conduit to happiness attainable only through inner transformation.
But, as believers, we should be aware that prayer is more than supplication. Prayer is a dynamic interplay of thoughts, words and action. Prayer is believing that this dynamic is performed with sincerity and good faith. Moreover, prayer must centre on acceptance.
Should we lose faith if our situation is seemingly resistant to change despite our prayers? Should we not learn and grow from our problems? The greatest of prophets lived challenging, even tortuous lives, what then makes us exempt?
The word 'happiness' can be misinterpreted so we are cautioned against its use. Far better it is to embrace the word 'contentment'.
It is Gautama Buddha who said "the greatest wealth is contentment". Contentment, not complacency, signifies a quantum leap in philosophical thought. It means that we have matured to accept the laws that govern purposeful living.
One such law is the law of cycles. Another is the law of equilibrium. These simply mean that we must accept that our experiences will change from time to time, but through it all, we must remain poised and balanced.
Experiencing peace also requires a paradigm shift in how we view others and even nature. There is no peace without forgiveness, there is no peace without atonement, there is no peace without gratitude, and there is no peace without service. From the simplest act to giving one's time to helping others.
I recall an indelible saying: "Give a lot though you may be deprived even a little."
Peace is only realisable if we let go of ill feelings towards others. We cannot be envious of others or pay lip service to forgiveness. We must be willing to admit culpability when we err.
And while we learn to forgive others, we must forgive ourselves. This is equally important.
When we are kind to ourselves, we temper or remove any guilt we harbour. We must journal our feelings as needed. This practice goes a long way in better understanding our inner landscape.
I recently came across a most meaningful quote. It reads, "Be kind to your body, gentle with your mind and patient with your heart. Stay true to your spirit, cherish your soul and never doubt yourself."
These nuggets of truths are fully explained in my audiobook: Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity.
Clearly, in the same fashion that a successful runner is trained by a coach, or one in desperate need to lose weight is counselled by a nutritionist, we can solicit the help of professionals, or the wise among us, as we navigate the minefield towards contentment and peace.
Through it all, we must understand that we are only guaranteed one day at a time towards meeting our resolutions. Let us not be overly ambitious and think about the finish line, but make the most of the days we are given.
One day at a time.
- Dr Glenville Ashby is the award-winning author of the audiobook, 'Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter