Looking Back, Looking Forwardabracad, · Categories: christmas, purpose, self help
The Christmas / New Year / Winter Solstice season is traditionally a time for gathering around the fire with family and friends, celebrating the successful negotiation of another year and re-charging one's batteries ready for the new chapter of adventure and challenge that is about to begin. Much as Dicken’s Scrooge is forced to do, it is also a time for looking back and planning ahead.
Reminiscence can either be positive or negative, depending on how we frame it. We may mourn the loss of loved ones no longer here to share the spirit of the season, or we may remember with pleasure and thanks the many happy times we did share while resolving to share with our companions of this season some equally good experiences.
Similarly, we may reproach ourselves for all the (inevitably) many things we got wrong, the missed opportunities, the misjudgments etc. Or we may give ourselves a pat on the back for our many achievements great or small, and reflect on the lessons we can learn - or already learned - from those that didn’t go so well. Same year, different interpretation, different effects.
Along with the reminiscing comes the looking ahead. The birth of the son / sun, depending on your point of view, represents a new start, a blank page in our book of life. Of course, some of the lines will be written for us as external circumstances exert their influence upon our destiny (though even that which lies beyond our control happens for a reason). But so far as we can we make choices to create the kind of future we desire.
These choices originate from one of two basic drives, ie fear and hope, and in making them it’s important to know which drive is dominant. Fear-driven choices seek to keep us away from things we don’t want to happen, whereas the hope-driven ones aim to take us where we really want to be.
Perhaps as an evolutionary hangover from our less-civilized ancestry, the fear drive tends to be stronger, and so long as it helps us survive that’s a good thing. But we must take care to avoid being so obsessed by fear that we neglect to actually live. Every choice, every action, comes from a weighing of its potential costs and benefits. We each have a certain level of risk tolerance, but sometimes pushing its limit is essential for a fulfilling and purposeful life.
New Year’s Resolutions, and how quickly they get broken, have become a standing joke. But the act of setting oneself goals is a powerful stimulus for progress. Make your resolutions both realistic and aligned with your personal goals. Just as you can’t learn to skate without falling over, don’t abandon your resolutions if you sometimes fall short. Instead, increase your resolve to succeed, or question if the resolution is really right for you.
Once the holiday season ends and daily routine sets in again it’s all too easy to return to going through the motions on auto-pilot, thus losing sight of the precious nature of this life. One way to avoid this potential source of underachievement is to treat the close of every day as a mini-Christmas.
Just as the Winter solstice marks the return of the sun with longer days, so the evening awaits the return of the sun with tomorrow’s new day. Celebrate getting through the day; that is no small achievement. Mentally review what you've done, what you’ve achieved, what you could have done better.
Don’t beat yourself up about the sub-optimal stuff, but seek the lessons to be learned and try to take them on board. What are your goals for tomorrow? Are they still appropriate? Do they serve your higher goals?
As commonly done during the season of goodwill, put aside all enmity. You don’t have to get along with everyone, but you can acknowledge their right to be. Hostility is not only negative, but energy-consuming. Direct that energy instead towards constructive goals.
Why not make that your New Year’s Resolution, make every day a mini-Christmas.
Filed in: christmas, purpose, self help