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Living in the Present or Future?

I have never really understood New Year’s resolutions. It always felt strange to put so much pressure on myself and others to not fail at what we deemed as our goals for the year.

Chances are you started out this January with an intention to either lose weight, find a girlfriend/boyfriend, finally stop smoking, eat better, start recycling, or simply be kinder. Whatever the resolution, I often hear people shame themselves only weeks later that they have failed. The plan didn’t work. Often times, they will say something like, “Maybe next year,” or “I knew I wouldn’t make it.” My question is: does the failure actually happen because we are not connected to “why” we are setting the goals?

I am currently reading a great book titled The Big Stretch. The author Teneshia Jackson Warner brought this exact concept into focus for me. She explains that taking on a goal without a clear purpose is a waste. Yes, you want to stop smoking because it’s bad for you, or you want to recycle more to help our climate, but really deep down, what is the why? She goes onto say, “You must be willing to discover what motivates you to action, what stops you from moving to the next level, how tolerant you are when it comes to taking on new risks, and whom you invite along on the journey to support and inspire your visions.”

When we make our resolutions, there is a future payoff at stake. Think about it. You are creating a lofty goal to accomplish something that you perceive will bring you happiness. If you achieve it, you will have won. And if the goal is measurable, like a lighter weight on the scale or a woman you can call your girlfriend, the high can feel even better, but it is ultimately always short-lived. You will soon be asking, “What’s next?”

It is an interesting concept that the late philosopher Alan Watts also discusses in his book The Wisdom of Insecurity. He explains that human beings appear to be happy just so long as they have a future to which they can look forward. He goes on to say, “If happiness always depends on something expected in the future, we are chasing a will-o-the-wisp that ever eludes our grasp, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss of death.”

So, are you living in the present or the future?

I am going to bet that if we got really quiet together, and I were to ask you what you need to make yourself feel whole, you would know pretty quickly. Are you losing weight because you feel pressure to fit in? Do you need a boyfriend/girlfriend simply to fill a void of loneliness? Are you setting goals to make more money simply to feel equal or superior to your peers? I cannot answer these questions for you. It is hard work. I know I must also ask myself the tough questions to see what lies in front of me.

As 2020 begins, along with me, I ask you to take a minute to assess your emotional needs by diving into some of these questions. I find that when I write down the answers, they flow more freely.

1. Do you feel safe in your relationship? Do you feel supported at home and work? Why or why not?

2. Do you feel like you are making an impact in the world? If not, how can you do more?

3. Are you paying attention to your emotions or pushing them away for a later date? What would happen if you looked at them right now?

4. Do you feel worthy of success and love? If not, ask yourself why? Who planted a seed of doubt?

5. Can you say that you are part of something larger than yourself? Do you show generosity? Are you patient?

Here’s to a beautiful, self-reflective new year where we begin to put less pressure on ourselves to be perfect. Instead, let us strive for inner peace and freedom from the pressures of society.

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