I rarely use resolutions anymore.
I do have a list of goals, specific things I’m working toward, but when it comes to starting the New Year, I go big with a broad theme statement. Something vast that, when I keep it in mind, will also bring me into the moments of life.
Instead of resolving to lose weight, for example, one year I chose a theme of good health. That involved setting weight goals or exercising more, as well as strengthening my relationships and getting some coaching — all things which, I believe contribute to my overall wellness.
My year of money brought me an awareness of what it represents to me, how I earn it, spend it, and give it away. It was an exploration not only of my savings and investments, but my beliefs about money. The year yielded greater awareness and peace of mind. One year, my focus was on flow. Within every theme there can be dozens of separate goals or activities, but the theme helps me keep an awareness on how they all connect. The theme holds space for the smaller goals to root.
The New Year, 2015, is going to be the year of Experiences. Plenty of research shows that happiness, meaning, and well-being go to the people who immerse themselves in life. It doesn’t take away pain or hardship, but those who live whole-heartedly tend to bounce back from that adversity. They carry with them a kind of perspective that reminds them even in the dark times that the goodness lingers there too.
People who use their money to buy experiences tend to fare better too. They usually feel more satisfied than those who invest in products is or disposable goods. Experiences linger. They teach us about ourselves and the world and they guide us long after the moment has passed. Many provide an avenue to connect with others, to belong and grow and expand.
When I talk of experiences, I’m talking about trying new things, and being fully present to the routine and familiar experiences. I’m talking about opening to experiences even when they are painful and scary, and to immersing in the good. I’m talking about engaging in life.
My year of Experiences will not (probably) include bungee jumping, not my thing. I doubt I’ll sell my house and go hiking through the Himalayas. I’m not much into hiking.
But living a whole life isn’t only about marquee adventures. Experiences don’t have to be flashy to be meaningful because the power is in the noticing. Though I do intend to snorkel with dolphins, I also want to eat more sushi (it’s been a long while) and write another book and take a spontaneous trip to somewhere, anywhere, and walk a labyrinth. I want to do some different volunteer work and say “yes” more than “no” when the experience aligns with my values.
But, I also want to experience the after school time when it’s just my daughter and I. I want to be present with her and listen as she rambles about school. I want to put the phone down and give her my attention and experience again and again what it means to slow down and be with someone .
I want to go on a night hike at the Nature Park and see a varmint or two. I want to camp at a new site. Try my hand writing a mystery novel (did I just say that aloud?) and take a cooking class. I want to be at the finish line when my husband finishes his marathon. And do something that I’m a little afraid I may not be able to do – not sure what that is yet.
When I think of experiencing life, I think of tuning in to it all. Being present. Showing up for these and other moments and giving them my full attention.
This requires deliberate action, and practice, and awareness. But, when we choose to show-up and participate, everything shifts. Life becomes bolder. More fun. More colorful. And ultimately, this is the experience I want to create.
So what is your Big Picture Theme for 2015 and how will that show up in your life?
Image by Erin Cairney White. Cairney White uses mixed media – acrylic paints, gelatos and a variety of papers, inks and stamps to create her work from her Snohomish, Washington studio.