“There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”
~ Miles Kington
New Years resolutions are overrated. It seems like most of the time we never accomplish them. We make them and sure enough by Valentine’s Day we forgot what they even were. I did a little research to find out how often people are actually achieving these fleeting so-called “resolutions”.
A recent article revealed 8% of people that make new year resolutions actually achieve them. 8%!!!!!
Wow. Ok….lets take a step back this year. What are we doing wrong? If in a room full of 100 people who made new years resolutions only 8 of them are actually achieving them, something is very wrong. What could be missing? What do these 8 people do differently? In my opinion…it starts with you. You’re making resolutions you are not prepared to or do not know how to conquer. I encourage you to shift gears for a second and try something different this year. Fill your mind with some points of wisdom to lay the groundwork for yourself rather than jump to conclusions that you have to “do” something or that you have to change somehow. One should know that change comes from knowledge. It is a result of educating oneself and learning more about themselves and the world around them so that they can make healthy progress. Arguably our greatest President Abraham Lincoln once said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Preparation leads to results. All too often we set a goal we aren’t prepared to accomplish. This is often overlooked. We look at the world and think how can we change the world instead of first changing ourselves.
The secret to why most new years resolutions don’t manifest? It’s because we are not at a point where we are ready to make the change. My belief is a lot more of your “resolutions” would happen if you’d first done your homework and gotten yourself to a point where you’re ready for that desired change to manifest. It’s 1000 X easier to say we’re going to do something than it is to actually do it. So before you jump to a final conclusion that you need to make all these drastic changes in 2017, I encourage you to read through these 8 points and let them sink in. Keep in mind these are not keys that will unlock magic doors for you nor a direct map to manifesting your resolutions. They are meant to be simply items of wisdom to spark your creativity and get you thinking about becoming more aware of how you see the world so you can then take the steps necessary to accomplish you goals. Above all else, I hope they give you some perspective. Think about your goals for 2017. Write them down. Then decide if you’ve done the personal work necessary to make each one of them happen.
I want to start with a poem about the value of self. We all think we can change everyone else, the world, and our current state of being and forget to look within. The truth is the goals and dreams we have manifest in the physical world when we are ready internally. The following was written by an unknown monk around 1100 AD:
“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”
2. The Law of the Garbage Truck
David J. Pollay wrote a book titled “The Law of the Garbage Truck”. All too easily we let the garbage in the world take over our day. We become frustrated by other people’s concerns, fears, worries and let them affect our well-being. Out in the world too often we let a “garbage truck” full of other people’s issues rattle us. Successful and satisfied people do not do this. Instead of reacting to it they notice it, observe it, and are able to move through it without letting it ruin their day.
“One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport.
We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, ‘Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!’
This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, ‘The Law of the Garbage Truck.’
He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it, and sometimes they’ll dump it on you. Don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.
The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.
The lesson here is two-fold. First off, when a person does wrong to you think about the rule of the garbage truck. Is this stuff going on in their life that they are merely trying to “dump” onto you? Secondly be aware of you own reactions to this. Just like the cab driver in the story above, who says you have to let someone else’s problems affect you life, get you in a rut, and play with your emotions. By becoming more aware of the “garbage trucks” of the world we are able to find more inner peace within ourselves and not let it ruin our joy of life.
3. The World’s Shortest Autobiography
Below is a short “autobiography.” that inspired me. Ultimately I think it’s about change and the ability to adapt. It gives us insight into realizing who we are when faced with conflict and how we choose to overcome it. It’s one to keep in you back pocket in life as you’re trying to grow as a person.
By Portia Nelson
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit… but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
4. M. Night Shyamalan’s Twin Films “Signs” and “The Happening”
I’m a fan of M. Night Shyamalan. It’s all the more fitting he goes by “Night”. His films often have a dark side and a light side. A lot of critics seem to not understand what is behind the curtain in his films. After the wonderful “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable” Shyamalan received heavy criticism for most of his other movies. “The Sixth Sense” was an obvious hit and many still enjoyed his 2nd film“Unbreakable” but starting with “Signs” and then right on the down the line most pawned him off as a one hit wonder. While some of his other works I was not fond of I enjoyed “The Sixth Sense”, “Unbreakable”, “Signs”, and “The Happening”. But I want to focus on the latter two as I think there is wisdom in that in a unique way the films are reverse reflections of each other.
Watch these two trailers:
In “Den of Geek” a critic wrote:
This is why The Happening has to play as an anti-film. To reinforce this abstraction, this inability to connect with the conventions of societal (or in this case cinematic) expectation. It’s a sister piece to Shyamalan’s own Signs, in which everything happened for a reason. Even the most trivial event tied together at the end of Signs to demonstrate the workings of an omnipotent greater force. If Signs was an overtly religious film stating without doubt that there is indeed a God, The Happening is the opposite; a spiritual plea for help — a desperate crisis of faith.
How does this pertain to our own lives or more specifically…our goals? We get caught up in the busyness of our day to day and forget the big picture. Do things happen for a reason in life? One of the world’s greatest questions. Do people just get lucky? Or do they make their own luck? While most critics and moviegoers disregarded these movies, I viewed them as parables of sorts. Campfire tales. Who ever made the rules that all films must be interpreted to “standards”? And if there are standards what are they? I don’t think Night really cared frankly. He’s a storyteller.. And I admire that.
Den of Geek goes on to write about “The Happening”:
It taps right into mankind’s fear of chaos. The existential dread that events cannot possibly be connected and that life is both unpredictable meaningless. Before committing suicide, characters become disorientated and repeat things. One of the spookiest scenes in the movie has a young girl telling her mother in monotone, “Calculus, I see in calculus. Calculus. Calculus…” before throwing herself out of the window. This is no throwaway line. The film is rooted in the mathematics of change, humanity’s inability to control it and the emotional agony this causes.
The first film “Signs” heavily hints that there are higher forces involved in our lives. They are deeply connected to us and at work when we don’t realize. We choose who or what these higher forces are based on our own faith. In other words there are higher forces involved in our life experience. Perhaps things do happen for a reason.
The second film “The Happening” is the opposite of the first. What if they aren’t on our side at all? Everything happens for no reason. We fear chaos. We depend on life’s order and a schedule to keep us soothed. Who’s to say that can’t change in a day? The slightest shift in nature can turn our day to day office job upside down. There is lots of unpredictability and unexplainable in the world. Big picture.
Both of these films were heavily criticized however I felt a connection to them. It’s painful watching people in every day life get knocked out of sorts by the smallest things. But who’s to say that life can’t change at any given moment. A frightening thought. This is why it’s important to stay connected to who you are, your family, your values, and what makes you tick. If you see the contrasting views of the world in these two films (parables) it can help you stay centered, focused, and connected to your true self.
5. Gain your edge. Find the right screw.
All too often we don’t realize our skills. Passion is different than skill. Many people don’t reach their potential because they don’t realize their skill-set. There are also many who have a skill-set but out of pride do little to nothing to develop it. How can we possibly accomplish a task, a life-long goal, or a new years resolution if we don’t develop a skill needed to make it happen? A theory relating to this was referenced by Oliver Burkeman in “The Guardian Weekend”, 13 August 2011:
A turn of the screw
There was an industrialist whose production line inexplicably breaks down, costing him millions per day. He finally tracks down an expert who takes out a screwdriver, turns one screw, and then — as the factory cranks back to life — presents a bill for £10,000.
Affronted, the factory owner demands an itemised version. The expert is happy to oblige: “For turning a screw: £1. For knowing which screw to turn: £9,999.”
6. The “No Drama Obama” Principle
Appreciate the quietness in your life. Too many people feel like they constantly have to be doing something or making something happen. In my column “The 12 Important Life Skills I wish I’d Learned In School” I talked about the importance of Time management. But time management doesn’t mean you always have to be on the go. Often the time spent on your own in the quiet of your space is the most valuable time of all. It is your time to refuel and recharge your batteries.
In a recent article for The Atlantic Oliver Burkeman discussed how much our President Barack Obama spends time in the quietness of the Oval Office:
According to a New York Times profile, the man his aides nicknamed “no-drama Obama” has grown increasingly fond of the quiet late-night hours he spends reading alone in the Oval Office, drinking nothing more dramatic than water, and snacking — in a bizarrely precise detail — on “seven lightly salted almonds”. The crazier the world gets, the more the introverted president seeks calm. His world has quite enough drama, apparently, without his creating more. More and more, reading the news headlines, I think I know how he feels.
In another recent column “Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone” Michael D. Shear of the New York Times writes:
Mr. Obama calls himself a “night guy,” and as president, he has come to consider the long, solitary hours after dark as essential as his time in the Oval Office. Almost every night that he is in the White House, Mr. Obama has dinner at 6:30 with his wife and daughters and then withdraws to the Treaty Room, his private office down the hall from his bedroom on the second floor of the White House residence…There, his closest aides say, he spends four or five hours largely by himself. He works on speeches. He reads the stack of briefing papers delivered at 8 p.m. by the staff secretary. Michelle Obama occasionally pops in, but she goes to bed before the president, who is up so late he barely gets five hours of sleep a night. For Mr. Obama, the time alone has become more important.
This is something not heavily advertised about our President. But it’s something that we should take note of. Being President of the United States is obviously an extremely demanding job. However, President Obama still makes time to appreciate the quietness. His alone time gives him fuel and inner peace to run the country. Finding this alone time for yourself will get you more in touch with your goals. We cannot manifest a New Years Resolution without appreciating our quiet time. Find yours.
7. The Two Trees Parable
Comedian and relationship coach Craig Kenneth discussed recently a cautionary tale of sorts which I thought was profound. Pay attention to people around you. We easily miss the cues in our relationships, family, friends, and even acquaintances. The story which has been retold many times with many different versions goes like this. A man was given two trees as a gift. One was an orange tree and one was an apple tree. The apple tree was wilting, dark, dismal, bland, and lacking of life. The orange tree was full of branches, life, nourishment, light, and oranges galore. The man planted both trees in his backyard. While the orange tree was healthy, it bothered the man that the apple tree was so dismal. Time passed. While the orange tree seemed happy and all was well and good the apple tree bothered him. He made it his goal to try to help it. He nourished it, researched how to care for trees, and invited the neighbors over for help and advice. Sadly the tree just wouldn’t budge. Time passed. Slowly the orange tree started to fade. It didn’t have the life it had early on. Friends would come by to see the two trees and it was striking how different they were. But nothing would stop the man’s determination to fix the wilting apple tree. Time passed. One morning the man awoke and looked out his window. He saw a small piece of fruit starting to grow from the apple tree. He jump from his bed, ran downstairs and out the door to check out this apple tree. He had hope. The neighbors came over to look. Everyone on the street couldn’t wait to see. The man looked closely at the apple. His face dropped. It wasn’t an apple. It was a lemon. Everyone was stunned in disbelief. Behind where the lemon had started to grow he saw a paper tag he never paid attention to when he first got the trees. It said “Lemon Tree”. It was never an apple tree to begin with. The man had not paid attention. He missed the tag. He missed the flag. The red flag.
8. The Lesson of The Chicken and The Eagle
It’s important when defining your goals whether they are new years resolutions or simply your day to day tasks that you have a deeper connection to what drives you. Connect with your Inner self. Jesuit Priest and Psychotherapist Anthony de Mello published a short story about inner self that I found extremely inspiring:
A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air.
Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat on his strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked. “That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbour. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth — we’re chickens.” So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.
I hope these 8 lessons, theories, principles, and bits of wisdom can be motivation for people going into 2017. Remember it’s not about just running out and getting something done really fast. This is where we lose control. When we sit back and ask ourselves why that task, goal, or resolution is not being accomplished and apply inner wisdom that is where true progress manifests.
By Geoff Pilkington: You can connect with me on Instagram at geoffreypilkington, or listen to a recent podcast I was on discussing my theories on ADHD: http://www.seeinadhd.com/adhd-mind/.