There is little doubt we will want to put the pandemic of 2020 behind us and get our lives back to normal in 2021.
As this most traumatic year draws to a close, we will look back on the whirlwind of confusion and disruption caused by the pandemic and perhaps think that hindsight is 2020? On reflection it is clear to see the outworking of fear and anger, on a worldwide scale. Lives, livelihoods, jobs, income, health, homes, and businesses have all been taken and disrupted by Covid-19. This time last year, we were looking forward with hope to 2020. How many of us had even heard of coronavirus or would have imagined that something invisible and unheard of could turn our lives upside down, in such a short space of time?
But a new year brings with it renewed hopes of better times ahead as we wish family and friends a “Happy New Year.”
Of course the words “Happy New Year” are easy to say, but much harder to achieve because, if we are serious about increasing our general level of happiness we have to accept change. No one really likes change, if we are honest. Yes, we all want the benefits that positive change can bring to our lives, but we tend to back away from the hard work and commitment that it actually takes “to change”. Change is challenging and brings anxiety because it is uncertain and takes us outside our familiar comfort zone. Change is often difficult at the start, messy in the middle, but rewarding in the end, provided we stick with it.
May 2021 represent a new beginning for you. View this new year with a “Beginner’s Mind”. Many of us begin the new year wanting to improve an area of our lives. But often, by the end of January our new year resolutions have been broken as we have slipped back into old habits. Often new year resolutions tend to be general statements or wishful thinking. They lack the Clarity, Commitment and Perseverance that is required to make real change happen.
The first step in making a positive change is Clarity. In Stephen Covey’s landmark book – “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – the first two habits are: 1. Be Proactive and 2. Begin with the end in Mind. Begin the new year by taking personal responsibility for change and have a clear vision of what will be different by the end of this year, so you know how to plan and work towards it.
Rather than making vague resolutions, set some clear intentions for 2021. Give specific attention to how you intend to create a happy new year for yourself and others. What new habits do you wish to create? How will you organise and structure your intentions to make it happen? Imagine your life as a book and the beginning of 2021 represents a new chapter. Then make the commitment to work each day to fill the pages with stories of success and happiness, written in the ink of hard work and perseverance.
Having clear intentions involves writing down specific actions. Initially, start small. Don’t have more than three. Then decide on just one thing to focus on for the next 30 days. It could be something like: taking 10 minutes for physical exercise, such as a brisk walk or 10 minutes mindfulness practice or meditation. Whatever you decide to focus on, make sure it is achievable and realistic. Write your goal down as a single, clear and concise sentence and monitor and review progress regularly. Creating daily habits and structure helps to make change happen. Change is not easy. But it does happen when we work at it consistently and get back up when we fall down. And it is better to change before the cost of not changing becomes too great.
I believe 2021 will be a better year, especially if we greet each day with courage, hope and gratitude. Of course, there will be “good” days and “bad” days but “ treat those two imposters, just the same.” Look for the opportunity in every problem. Just because they may be disguised as challenges, opportunities are always there if we look for them. Even though they may not be immediately obvious, that doesn’t mean they are not there.
Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy in the year ahead – come rain or come shine. Happiness is within – it is not something outside of you. The door into a “Happy New Year” for you and I, opens inward. Open the door and step inside. A Happy New Year does not mean you won’t have difficult and painful times. There will be ups and downs, joy and sorrow. In the words of that famous philosopher, Celine Dion, “That’s the way it is.”
A Happy New Year might require us to let go of old habits that don’t help us and are holding us back. It might be about letting go of old resentments, old jealousies and old scores or it could involve letting go of doubt and fear. A Happy New Year could involve learning to seek happiness for others as well as ourselves. If we seek happiness only for ourselves, it will always elude us. But if we seek happiness for others, as well, we find peace.
At the end of this traumatic and challenging 2020 make some space and time for yourself. Think about your true, authentic self and what you wish to become in the year ahead. True happiness is a state of being, not one of doing and having. After all we are human beings – not human doings or human havings! You are someone who has the right to choose happiness. You are someone who can learn from life’s disappointments and difficulties. You are someone who can develop the resilience and bounce back. You are someone who can accept life’s challenges in your stride and grow in strength and courage throughout 2021. ” Things can only get better.” Best wishes for a Happy and Mindful New Year.
BEYOND PERCEPTION’S REACH is a collection of brief thoughts and reflections on the complexities and challenges of life’s mysteries. The weekly blog will explore some of the questions and personal challenges we face in our uncertain and confusing world. How do we bring a bit more joy, purpose and fulfillment to our “one wild and precious lives”?
(c) Denis McBrinn