What can you give?

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It’s typical to start a new year with grand plans for your life, with goals and dreams and visions of a better you just around the corner of the next month or four or ten.

Well, yes, aim to get better and to fill your life with more meaningful pursuits.

But such goal planning can get a bit self-indulgent.

“What do I want?”

“What can I get?”

“How can I be happier, better-looking, richer…?”

What if instead you asked, “What can I give this year?”

“How can I contribute and make a difference?”

“What do I have to offer the world that only I can offer?”

“What is a significant problem I can begin to help solve?”

These questions spark in me a more engaging level of curiosity and enthusiasm than the self-focused questions.

Imagine winning the ultra-mega-awesome lottery jackpot. It’s fun to dream of what you would buy and to envision how the financial freedom would change your life. (For me, I’ll take a couple of Teslas and one of everything from the Apple Store and a long trip to Hawaii.)

But it’s even more fun to imagine what good you could do for others and for your community and for the world with a sudden fortune at your disposal.

It’s in giving and serving and offering something useful to others that we truly get satisfaction and joy.

Where can your voice, your creativity make a difference? How can you be distinctly useful? How can you help awaken possibility in others this year?

By focusing on what you can give, you’re also more likely to end up getting something more meaningful in return.

Imagine looking back on the year 2016 and delighting in what you contributed rather than in what you acquired.

So, if you’re feeling stuck or lost or you’ve abandoned your resolutions already, consider crafting your days around what you can give. 

*I couldn’t find the source to credit for the lovely photo above. Thank you, anonymous photographer. 

Just start

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“JUST DO IT” is a compellingly catchy slogan, but it’s a bit overwhelming and slightly frightening for some of us.

“Really? I don’t think I can do it. So, I just won’t even try.”

But, just starting, that’s not so risky or intimidating.

Just attempt one push-up. Just take a short, easy walk. Just start writing something, even just a sentence, that you don’t have to share with anyone if you don’t want to. Just say “Hello” to that person. Just try that new habit for a week or two and see what happens. Just begin that hard thing you don’t feel confident about or eager to do.

Don’t even think about the entirety of the project or the goal. Most goals are arbitrary anyway. And imagining the steps down the road can take your focus off the one step right in front of you now. And that step is not so hard.

Thinking about starting is not the same as starting. Don’t worry about being perfect or getting it just right. The audacity of beginning something that could end up being awesome might give you enough oomph to get over the hump of meh.

Meh is a good place to begin, actually. You can trick yourself by saying, “Let me start with this awful, unimpressive, tentative first step or first draft.” Intend to be mediocre if you have to to take the pressure off. And then you can’t help but get better if you keep going.

But you can’t keep going if you don’t get going.

Just start.

 

One week left in 2014: Finish strong

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I’ve been counting down the weeks in 2014, aiming to finish strong with new habits and some momentum for the beginning of the new year. Rather than goals, I’ve been focusing on habits and routines because systems are more powerful than goals.

What kind of person do I want to be? How does that person spend his days? What would be the habits and routines of my ideal self? These are the questions that are guiding my pursuit of a more excellent life. If I can craft my days so that I go to bed satisfied more nights than not, laying my head on my pillow without regret for how I’d spent my day, I will be on the right path.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” –Annie Dillard

These past nine weeks have been focused on wellness. The habits I’ve been locking in are a daily mile walk, daily meditation, a pushups routine three times a week, and posting on this site daily. The hardest one to keep by far has been meditation. It’s easier to put on my shoes and head out the door on a cold night at 10:30 p.m. to get my mile in than it is to sit quietly for twenty minutes. But meditation is proving to be the habit with the most transformational potential. I can see where sticking with it can begin to train the mind and build mental and emotional strength that will be foundational to an excellent life.

With one week left in this year I can already say I’ve finished this year stronger than any year in recent memory. I’ve stuck with new habits for a couple of months, habits that I plan to continue indefinitely. Habits that will make my days better and more meaningful.

I’m looking forward to this holiday week and the final week of 2014. Let’s celebrate how we’ve grown this year and use the next few days to imagine bold new possibilities for the year ahead.