Like many people, I set goals every January. Business goals, heath targets, financial plans, personal growth… and even parenting goals like ‘learn the names of five new pokemons’ or ‘make less trips to the ER’. I also recycle goals. Some of my goals keep reappearing on the list year after year; but I’ve decided that I don’t mind. How unexciting would life be, if you accomplished everything you wanted in one year anyway?
To me, New Year’s resolutions have always been about performing my own personal ‘life audit’. Choosing what still matters, dismissing things that no longer do. It’s about taking an honest look at where I am across all aspects of my life, in order to map my way forward.
I grew up in a tiny central american country called El Salvador, surrounded by a large, loud and colourful extended family. My uncle Bruno was one such unforgettable character- larger than life, passionate and wise. He was particularly obsessed with nature, constantly gushing in awe at the roots of a tree or the colours of a beetle. He was convinced that mother earth was the gatekeeper to every lesson a person might require.
Uncle Bruno had an Hacienda and coffee plantation where all the families used to gather several times a year on festive days. On one such trip I recall being bundled into the back of his pick up truck with about a dozen of my cousins, when we suddenly pulled over by the side of the dusty road.
Gruffly, he ordered all the kids to jump off the back and stand in a line. He then pointed up to the sky and asked us all to face North. We all looked at each other with confusion. The truth is that we had no idea where we were, or which way we were facing. Finally one little kid bravely piped up with what we were all thinking, “but uncle, what does it even matter?”
Uncle Bruno leaned over us with intensity in his eyes and imparted us with the following words: because you must know at all times where you are, in order to know where you’re going.
I’ve never forgotten that and in a similar way, I’ve chosen to begin this year by asking myself the question, “who am I today and who do I want to become?” Pondering on those two things led me to a minor epiphany: this year, before I write down a list of goals, I’m going to write down a list of gratitude.
It went a little something like this:
Over these past 12 months, I am grateful for…
My family’s health.
The country we are privileged to live in.
The roof over our head, the food on our table.
All the cuddles I’ve enjoyed.
All the kisses I managed to land on my boys.
All the laughs we’ve shared.
Every time it wasn’t a broken bone.
Every bedtime story.
Every Sunday sleep in.
Every magnificent sunny day, and all the cosy rainy days too.
All the “I love you’s”.
All the hard lessons…
The list goes on. Because really, we all have so much to be grateful for. And even though I could be tempted to say that this has not been an easy year, when I look at that list, there is such an abundance of blessing that silences any desire to complain.
Every now and again we need to pause, in amongst the gargantuan chaos that life with children can be, and remember the great fortune of each moment. I’m guilty of missing them- the present so often goes unsavored, in exchange for a constant hunger we carry for all the shiny things that look appetising in the future.
My list of goals is always long, but I’ve decided this year to make my first goal, to stop being obsessed with goals. Things don’t need to change for me to be happy. I can be happy now, with what I have today, without what I don’t have and before any of my actual goals come true.
In this moment, I am alive. The evening looms, there is a warm breeze on my shoulders. I have dominion over nothing but my own mind, and I am grateful for the frightening freedom that this gives me.
Yes, I have goals. We are hunters and there is no mistaking that I look at 2017 with the desire for achievement and growth. What I won’t do, however, is put my happiness on hold. It is not an item to be bargained with, traded against, won or lost. My happiness is a choice based on my ability to find gratitude in the present.
On this first day of the year, I give myself that gift…. and hope that you do too.