I’m Not Broken and Neither Are You

A Principles-Based New Year’s Resolution

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Colored scraps of wrapping paper, bits of curled ribbon, and specks of sparkle rest untidily on my living room floor. Containers of leftover holiday meals and half-eaten desserts gaze at me forlornly from my open refrigerator. I pause. All are poignant reminders of the passing of another Christmas and another year. Equally affecting, all are blunt reminders of scrapped and abandoned resolutions for the last 365 days.

Like the recently meticulously wrapped Christmas gifts, my sense of self-acceptance and self-worth historically rested on others’ perceptions of my external wrappings. My critical inner voice, always biased toward negative, comparison-based beliefs, dutifully responded by formulating lofty resolutions. Each resolution was built around a supposed “deficiency,” “brokenness,” and whatever I thought needed to be “fixed.” Life seemed to be a continual striving and searching, moving restlessly from one thing to the next, hoping that somehow, someday, some change will lead to lasting happiness.

“ Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.” Gabriel Marcel

When I first learned about the 3 Principles, the message that resonated immediately with me was the “good news” that I, like everyone else, am not broken and don’t need to be “fixed.” I don’t need to change or be a “better” version of myself. Innate mental health and well-being are my “factory default,” and my thinking is the only thing that obscures this. The essence of who I am is whole and complete with clarity, wisdom, and peace of mind.

My understanding of the 3 Principles beckons an alternative 2021 New Year’s resolution. Additionally, I am inspired by a practice developed by Dr. Rick Hanson, psychologist, called “Taking in the Good.” This 3-step practice uses the power of “self-directed neuroplasticity” to “hardwire happiness” and overcome the brain’s negativity bias by turning everyday positive experiences into good neural structure. The practice is as follows:

  1. Look for positive facts and events and let them become a positive experience.
  2. Savor the positive experience and sustain it for 20–30 seconds. Feel it in your body and your brain.
  3. Sense and intend that the positive experience is soaking into your brain and body, registering deeply in emotional memory. The use of visualization is helpful.

Rick Hanson suggests doing this practice a half dozen times a day. I began my own practice with the simple intention to notice with “fresh eyes,” pause, and then fully embody and appreciate a daily occurrence or experience. At first, I practiced with special times, like whenever I’m out in nature hiking my favorite trails. Then, I added the practice as a time of reflection with my first taste of morning coffee and repeated the practice in the evening as I fall asleep. I’m finding that life provides endless moment-to-moment opportunities for joyful “on the spot” practice! Today, for example, I practiced as I wrapped birthday gifts to send my granddaughter and then later on as my husband and I silently read books on the couch.

Simply stated, my 2021 day-to-day intention (not resolution) is to notice, appreciate and say “yes” to what I know is already present in each moment and to relax and trust in the formless dimension of loving, embodied awareness that is my true nature.

“May the world discover the light of innate wisdom, embedded within every mind, and manifest love and kindness, the nature of all hearts.” — Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche



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Paula Smith

Paula Smith


School Psychologist, Professional Harpist, Certified Dynamic Mindfulness Trainer, Certified SEE Learning Curriculum, Author of “Core Goodness” K-4 Curriculum