Why I’m trading in my New Year’s Resolution practice for a prism view this year

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

I am not sure where I stand on New Year’s Resolutions. Looking back, I’ve had years without making any, years where goal-setting inspired me, and years where I used goals (which may or may not have been mine from the start) as something to club myself with.

Regardless of where I stand on the resolution practice, though, there is something about the ending of one year and the anticipation of the next that makes me think more deeply about my life. In winter, 2017, there were so many glaring problems with my life that I entered into 2018 with a blanket “resolution”: This year, I’m changing everything.

And in fact, a hell of a lot has changed about my life this year. The short version: I left a soul-crushing job, addressed some major issues in my personal life, and adopted a dog who is now a hugely important part of my day-to-day life. I started writing more, and I discovered Medium. I also embarked on a new graduate degree program and taught at a university for the first time. So, yeah, there’s been a lot of change.

This year, I am thankfully not being propelled into a new year by the mental anguish that kickstarted my 2018. And what I’m finding, as I begin to think deeply about my life, where I’m headed, and what I’d like to change, is that life is one of those 3,000 piece jigsaw puzzles. So many pieces to consider.

In 12 step programs, there is a process of Taking an Inventory, which is the foundation for getting right with yourself, whatever Higher Power you might have, and other people. I mention this because something a friend in a 12 step program said to me years ago comes to mind every year’s end for me. She said:

“Some people dread it (taking an inventory) because they think of it like going to confession, and they beat on themselves about their past. But that’s missing the point. It’s called an inventory for a reason. You’re supposed to approach it like a business owner would, which means taking into account everything. A store owner says, ‘These things are selling well for me, these things are not. For my next order, I’ll want less of these and more of these’. The store owner does not notice a poorly-selling item and run around telling all the customers, ‘Don’t shop here, the whole place is terrible!’”

This comment resonated with me, in general and especially when it comes to New Year’s Resolution thinking. How many times have a reviewed a year as if I were issuing an indictment? “Get more exercise, Lazy, you’re letting yourself go!” “You’d better get out more — you have no friends.”

But life is seldom all or nothing like that. And as I said, if one is to really consider quality of life, there are many, many facets to consider.

Looking at my life through the lens of the self-critical person who wants to overhaul everything is like trying to stare at it through a microscope. I miss so much of the nuance that way. I remember when I was little, burning holes in leaves with a magnifying glass. But I do not want to burn a hole in my New Year with my gaze firmly fixed on my flaws.

This year, I am looking at my life instead through a prism. Lots of colors everywhere, lots to notice, impossible to focus everywhere at once.

Some of the prism-view questions I am asking myself as I head into 2019:

  • How can I treat my body better and feel better physically?
  • How can I limit my multitasking so I’m really fully present with my daughter? My friends?
  • How can I separate my quest for meaningful employment from degree-seeking and credential-grasping?
  • How can I write more authentically? And connect more authentically?
  • How can I create more order and calm in my household?
  • Where can I find or create an adventure or two this year?

I guess I’ve decided to trade in my Resolutions this year for my new lens.

With a prism-view of my life, there is no self-condemnation.

There is only curious interest, and a glimpse at something more varied and beautiful than I realized in previous years, when all I wanted was to fix it.