A New Year's resolution that actually works!
For the last few years I’ve abandoned New Year’s resolutions. They never worked for me anyway. Mostly because I was never ready by January to make a change in my habits. I usually wait until April or May, when the sun comes back out, and I could breathe fresh air again to make changes.
Instead, a few years ago, I decided that I would pick a word for the year. Some call it their theme. Some call it a mantra. For me it’s simply a one-word reminder of how I want to behave in the best possible way, so I try not to pick a situational word like “tired” or “late.”
A few years ago I picked the word “love.” Every time my husband or anyone I loved made me mad, I’d hear the word in my head. And it worked! I was still mad, but the word reminded me that I actually do love him. It was a great year.
2018 was my year of listening. I told my husband this around November and he said: “Really? I had no idea.” I told him it wasn’t about listening to just him (36 years of listening to him is quite enough). He then told me that 2018 was his year of agreeing. I said, “Really? I had no idea.”
Despite his skepticism, I think focusing on the word did change my behavior. During my year of listening I chose to go to conferences to learn from great speakers. I also listened to my mom differently. (She is 88 now, and I’m so grateful I can still hear her voice on the planet.) Most important, I found that when I listened to my heart, I made choices that allowed me to grow beyond what I expected at this stage of my life.
Of course, this is all very ironic since 2018 was also the year I performed in a one-person show about Erma Bombeck. You’d think listening isn’t that important when you are the only one doing the talking on a stage, but listening is probably the most important thing an actor can do. By listening you can truly be present, generous and open to possibilities.
Which is ultimately what happened on my listening journey. I went to two conferences that helped me gain new perspectives. Mindfulness in America allowed me to listen to how meditation can make you more compassionate as well as focused. And to really make sure I was listening, I was guided through a meditation by Tara Brach (listen to her voice — it’s like taking a warm bath).
My year of listening culminated in a cross-country trip to sit in the audience at TedWomen, a conference with over 1,000 people in attendance and 52 speakers and performers sharing their perspective about gender, science, the world and life. I’m still processing all I learned from listening, but I do know that I’ve been changed from having just been there and listening to new voices.
I’m not the only one to pick a word for the year. Erin Julian, a writer and co-producer of Listen to Your Mother, says her grandmother told her: “Resolutions are like hearts; they will be broken,” so she, too, started picking a word a year. This year her word is “grow.” Last year it was “strength.”
This year I’m picking “commitment.” I’m committed to finishing what I start, to my community, to all I serve. But mostly I’m committed to making a difference in the world.
Honestly, I don’t know what the word will lead to this year. That’s the point. I’ll tell you next year. Happy New Year!
As seen in the USA Today Network, Garnett Newspapers and the Democrat & Chronicle.