Doesn’t 2015 have a certain ring to it? Those numbers in that order represent a new beginning, a clean slate, the birth of a year that has not yet been lived. I can’t help but think of all the adventures and possibilities that are in store for us this year– both for our church family and for each of us as individuals. There are big things to experience this year as we continue to pursue the lofty visions that we cherish as Unitarian Universalists. We might have a new minister before the year is out. Consider all the new people who will walk through our church doors and could become part of our lives. And there are small pleasures to anticipate as well –like new books to read, new movies to watch, new recipes to try and new places to see…
A new year always makes me want to be better. Setting goals gives me a thrilling sense of moving forward. However, one year I realized that the same goals made it on my list every single year. I couldn’t tell one year from the next. I’ve heard it said that, “this years’ resolutions are last years’ confessions,” so I don’t think I’m unique in this regard. I know from experience that at any gym in any city you find a surge of enthusiastic exercisers in January that show up for about three weeks before the class size returns to normal. We all want to do and be better –but then life crowds in. I’m not against goal setting, there is a place for it, but I have found a New Year practice that really resonates with me and has the advantage of actually making a difference. I encourage you to give it a try.
One way to honor the potential of a new year and to honor where you are at the present time in your life is to assign the year a focus. Deciding what the year is going to be about for you can become a gentle guide in a lot of the choices you make. Plus, it gives the year a flavor all it’s own. Think of what you want experience more of in your life and name it in simple terms. You can do this as a family and vote on a joint focus (good luck), or as partners, or on your own. For example, the year before I moved to Colorado I decided my focus would be “give back” because I felt I had received a lot of support and encouragement from those around me. That year I trained to be on call as an advocate for domestic violence victims, I volunteered to be a room mother and I even enlisted the help of my kids to provided meals for the homeless shelter now and again. I also tried my hardest to substitute for other aerobic teachers when they were ill because subs were hard to come by at our gym. I might have accepted these challenges if “give back” hadn’t been my focus— but I doubt it. After all, you catch more fish if you actually have a line in the water than if you’re standing on the bank just watching them jump.
What focus would excite you this year? Obviously if you’re feeling burned out “give back” is not going to have much appeal. Maybe you want to practice being more present in the moment or savoring small pleasures and achievements. Maybe you would like to be a more playful or a more joyful person. Maybe you are ready to dare to dream on a bigger scale than you usually do or commit the time it requires to discover a new talent or help someone who is trying to do what you have already accomplished? Maybe you want to be more demonstrative with your affection or more verbal of your appreciation, even to those you don’t know. (One year I wrote to a number of my favorite authors to thank them for the influence they had on my life! That was fun.) My teen-age daughter told me tonight that her focus this year is going to be ‘act as if you count.’ I am impressed.
The sky is truly the limit when it comes to finding a focus that is worthy of a new year. (That’s why I am still mulling it over.) Take some thought. Decide what focus speaks to your heart. Your taking a stand will start things in motion and allow you to feel less fragmented, more centered. And, at the end of the year you can have the pleasure of looking back to see how your focus shaped your experience and added, in a positive way, to your life and the lives of those around you.
Happy New Year! I am so glad we get to continue on this journey together.
Janen Wright Lifespan Faith Development Director