We’re hurtling into the new year, like a comet coming into land. The past twelve months have flown faster than the ones before, while Old Man Time, scythe in hand, gleefully waits. We make vows to welcome in the fresh year, hoping at the end of it we will be fitter, happier, more successful.
Setting goals can be a good thing, especially if we have a plan in place to make them achievable. They help us refocus and make us accountable. They can help us find more balance. Still, realigning priorities takes constant effort, not a one-off decision. What happens when the burst of discipline fizzles out? I’m not a fan of building a rod for your back and then slipping into guilt territory when things don’t pan out.
Neither do I think it’s healthy to attach so much worth to goals and achievements, that have, at best, unpredictable correlation to how happy we are. We leap over fences like racehorses unable to see the bigger picture. I used to think contentment was an island. In fact, the sands shift. The parameters of happiness are tricksters.
What works for me is knowing that I am moving in the right direction most of the time. I’m starting to think of it as finding flow. That means disposing of the fraudulent self all of us adopt sometimes as a coping mechanism. I want to be as true to myself as possible. That means not always offering platitudes because I feel bad when someone else wants me to fit into a mould of their making.
What I can be sure of is that happiness does not come from hard and fast individualism. It evades us when we walk through life attached to glowing screens, drowning in bite-size knowledge but losing sight of our selves, or when we can count out hundreds of friends but still feel deeply lonely. It escapes us when we fill our days juggling dozens of tasks but still come away having achieved next to nothing, or when we are afraid to stop on the pavement to admire the sunlight slipping through leaves for fear of irritating those behind us. It comes from lots of avenues, but perhaps most of all from listening, community, gratitude and purpose.
This year, I won’t be making resolutions. I won’t worry about the books unread and the ones unwritten. I will continue to unravel who I am supposed to be, the person who hides in plain sight when the daily whirlwind of life sweeps us up. I will enjoy this slow awakening and remember that we are never finished. We are works of progress until the day we die. I will remind myself that attempts to measure our impact are, like everything else, a matter of perspective. Our talents and accomplishments are no one’s business except our own.
Just as we rewrite memories, we are all, every moment, rewriting ourselves. We are not static, and the you of tomorrow will soon be unrecognisable from the you of yesterday. What is important is flow. Of giving attention to the things that matter most to you. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.
This year, I will become. I will flow, and so, will you.