Here we are again — year-end reflections long since in the books and new resolutions made. A few weeks into the new year, this is the time when we’re supposed to look forward with a sense of purpose and spirit based on wisdom gained and goals set.
But how to do that after yet another strange year and a discombobulated holiday season defined by a covid surge and the associated anxiety (again), upended plans (again), and something that can perhaps best be described as an achy longing for “something — anything — normal”? It’s hard to know how to BE right now when uncertainty is the only word that comes to mind to describe the current state of the world. Planning for the future seems impossible.
I don’t think I’m the only one who had hoped to start off 2022 with a recharged body and mind. But instead, it’s been a bit of a struggle to approach the year purposefully. As is often the case after the holidays, my inbox has been filled with strategies for success and must-dos in the new year. But frankly, these have all felt a bit out of touch, which has led me to be on the lookout for something else.
A few things have struck a chord. For example, Harvard Business School professor Hirotaka Takeuchi writes in an article about retraining your mind to think of issues as “both/and” instead of “either/or”. This appeals to me because I know that it’s easy to resort to black and white thinking when times are tough, and I also know that’s a mindset that is rarely helpful and definitely not conducive to creative thinking. Takeuchi argues that changing how we frame issues within ourselves can result in understanding the world through a lens of oneness, where what is good for the person or company is good for society as well. That sounds like something I/we need right now.
As I keep looking for inspiration, I’m reminded of the benefits of being kind — studies show that it leads to better physical and mental health not just for the recipient but also for the giver. Often, when we talk about kindness, it’s through the lens of volunteering or donating money to a worthy cause. And while those are great things to do, it’s good to remember that kindness can be so much more. In an article on CNN.com, Sandee LaMotte points out that kindness can be as simple as leaving room for the car blinking to get in front of you in traffic, or listening to a friend who is going through a rough time. Kindness also means giving yourself a break when needed. The positive effects of kindness can trickle down and impact all aspects of life.
And in an article titled “Why mindfulness is the most important skill of 2022” on mashable.com, Rebecca Ruiz says: “When we pause, bring ourselves back to the present moment, and interrupt a cycle of worried thinking, the brain develops new associations.” That’s what my brain needs — new associations and less worried thinking. The thought patterns over the last two years are not serving me well, not at work and not at home. The good news about mindfulness, in the words of Ruiz, is that “there is no competition, judgment, or failure; just the ever-present chance to find calm in the midst of relentless uncertainty.”
We place a lot of emphasis on starting off a new year “right” — to bring the big ideas and then chase them with our boldest moves, thinking that that’s how we become better and more successful. In her recent article in The Atlantic, Faith Hill talks about moving away from the realm of accomplishments and instead trying to focus on “gratitudes or bright points” and using those as “road signs” for a future self to follow. I think that sounds like a feasible route to take this year — reflect on what’s good and build on that, one step at a time.
By: Felicia Shermis