“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. – G.K. Chesterton
“Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” – Henry David Thoreau
New Year’s resolutions are risky. Some people say that you should broadcast your resolutions to friends and family, to make a commitment and create accountability. Others say you should keep them quiet and private, your own secret promise to yourself. And many people eschew New Year’s resolutions all together.
This Jan 1, I have decided to label my hopes and goals for 2014 as “intentions”, instead of “resolutions”. The word “resolution” sounds so firm, so black and white, and frankly dangerous. I’m all for plans and commitment, but the older I get, the more I’ve learned that stuff just happens in life. As much as some of us with driver personalities want to create a detailed step-by-step plan for achieving our goals, life sometimes really has a way of mucking up your beautiful plan. The business phrase, “under-promise and over-deliver” comes to mind.
So, instead I want to lay out my “intentions” for 2014. Dictionary.com defines intention as: “a purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct: a bungler with good intentions.” (I love that example!)
Intention expresses both purpose and attitude, but like the example above, seems to permit a bit more leeway, if you will, to screw up, to veer off the path at times, but still hold the intention. Now those of you who love resolutions and have iron- clad self-discipline are probably scoffing at this right now, just as Yoda, that most famous Jedi knight, who said “Do or do not – there is no try.” And truly, I admire you more than I can say.
But I am going with the simpler and safer “intentions” this year. I think the key to success here is keeping it simple. Screw the SMART goals concept. I am purposefully NOT going to lay out goals that are written to be “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely”. That is seriously too much work. I have to do that all day, every day in my job. So these personal intentions for 2014 are going to be squishy, soft and not defined to the nth degree. The rebel in me likes that, while the drill sergeant is shaking her head in dismay. But nevertheless, here goes:
Intention #1: Take more pictures. I want to stretch my comfort zone with my camera. I will always be drawn to landscapes and macro photography, but this year I think I will try to also take more pictures of people. And yes, even put myself in the picture now and then. I will make time to deliberately study my craft, take classes to deepen my knowledge, but most of all, I shall practice, practice, practice. My motto here will be: STOP AND TAKE THE PICTURE.
Intention #2: Write more. In 2012 I met my goal to post to my blog at least once a month. In 2013 I fell out of that habit – events on the job overtook me, and there was precious little energy left for writing. But, oh my, I do love to write. Even in the craziest work week, I keep a constant running list in my head of things I would love to sit down and write about. And now that my children are mostly grown and have little time – or interest – to spend with their parents, I want to leave a body of work that helps them to know their mother better. These first two intentions – Take More Pictures and Write More – are very simple, and can be summed up as just do more of what feeds my soul. In the words of Charlotte Bronte, “I’m just going to write because I cannot help it.”
Intention #3: Travel more. Create memorable experiences. I want to spend my money on meaningful experiences instead of things, on experiences that enrich my life, and feed my interests…experiences that are shared with those I love. The latest studies in the psychology of happiness say that money really can buy happiness, but only if it is spent on experiences rather than on more ‘stuff’. In fact, the only category of consumption positively correlated to happiness is leisure – vacations, entertainment and equipment associated with sports or hobbies, like fishing poles or golf clubs. For me, that equipment would come in the form of cameras and lenses. In December of last year, I agonized for days about whether to commit the dollars and time off from work in order to attend a photography retreat in Italy in 2013. This December, I confidently wrote the check to hold my reservation for the 2014 trip without more than two minutes thought. This intention is absolutely critical to improving my attitude, my art, and my life. Italy 2013 taught me that. Enough said.
Intention #4: Express love and appreciation more to those people who are important in my life. Daily life – when not on those memorable experiences mentioned above – can be really weighed down by drudgery and stress and routine. It’s so easy for me to get into my own world, my own rut, just pounding through my to-do list each day and then, like a classic introvert, falling into bed with a book to unwind. There are days where I do not lift my head to say “I love you”, or “Thank you” or even simply “Wow, look at what you did, that’s awesome” to the people I love. In 2014 my intention is to come out of that introvert bubble occasionally during the work week to recognize the gifts I receive every day and thank those who give them to me.
Intention #5: Be kinder to myself. This intention will be the hardest one to meet, for I am truly a harsh taskmaster – of myself and others. In addition to a desire to decrease the negative self-talk, it includes taking better care of my body as well as my spirit. It means eating better, getting more sleep, and making exercise a daily habit. It means giving myself a break, celebrating my daily wins, and not putting so much on the to-do list that I am constantly defeated and beat up when I get to the end of the day and the list is not complete. When I first wrote down this intention, it said “be kinder to myself and to those I love.” But I decided to simplify. First things first. If I learn to be kinder to myself, I think I will be kinder to those I love as well.
That’s it – five intentions. Feed my soul with writing and photography, craft memorable experiences, see and express love and gratitude, and be kinder. Five intentions that I hope will help me walk the world in 2014 with some new feet, new ears, and new eyes.
What are your intentions for 2014? What do you want to make, do, or see anew in the New Year?
Here’s hoping you find your own bone, and then gnaw at it, and gnaw at it some more.
Happy New Year!