With the new year comes the inevitable and universal encouragement to set resolutions. Magazines and blogs are rife with advice on defining and keeping resolutions.
I’m continually in self-betterment mode. There are countless ways I want to be a stronger, healthier, more organized person. I’m easily seduced by exercise programs and cleanse diet plans and lists and lists.
My husband scorns New Year’s resolutions, so every year I enjoy asking him if he plans to make any, just to get the predictable response of derision. When I asked my ten year olds if they planned to make any New Year’s resolutions, they were puzzled. “What does that mean?” I explained about setting goals at the start of a new year to become the person you want to be in mind and/or body. “So,” I asked again, “are you making any?” “No!” they replied in unison, looking at me the same way they would, I imagine, if I’d asked if they’d ridden a unicorn to school.
At what age, I wondered, do we transition from complete self-acceptance to wanting to improve in so many ways that we have an entire list of resolutions?
image source: thedoghousediaries.com
I asked my 18 year old daughter the same question, and she also had no plans to make resolutions. Why should she? I’ve observed her living the change she wants to be (to rephrase a popular expression). She makes exercise a priority, she eats consciously, she stays focused on her academic goals.
In recent years, I’ve noticed a trend, at least among bloggers, toward identifying a word for the year. The idea is that a single word can encapsulate what you hope most for yourself in the new year. I’ve not paid too much attention to this practice, dismissing it as trendy or something more relevant for people far more creative than me to use as a focal point for their craft.
But this year, while contemplating whether I would make any New Year’s resolutions at all, a single word came to me – LISTEN. I realized that in my multiple personality life of mother, wife, employee, manager, friend, daughter, sister, etc. I do not listen as often as I could. My younger daughters have surrounded their beds with Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books, but I’ve not asked them exactly which one they’re reading and what they think of it. When one of them talks to me I continually interrupt them to dispense instructions to the other – “go brush your teeth”, “finish your milk”. When I ask my oldest daughter about her life she so often says “You already asked me that.” I did? What was the answer?
LISTEN as a practice for 2014 conveys so much. It means stop multi-tasking. Stop making dinner and look my child in the eye when she’s relaying a story about an incident at school. Stop scanning Pinterest while I’m talking with someone on the phone. Do not answer email when I’m on a conference call at work. When I ask someone a question, really listen to the answer.
I think I’m going to like this new approach. For one thing, by focusing on a single word I really can’t screw up. My old-style resolutions were so black and white. Succeed or fail. Lose 10 pounds or you’re a loser. Exercise 5 days a week or you don’t have the will to make one simple change.
An aspirational word is encouragement; there’s no measurement. It’s a gentle reminder. It’s a whisper in the back of my mind before I respond “Tell me about it.” when my child says “We had an assembly at school today.” I can only get better.
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
– Ernest Hemingway