It is very common to approach the first day of a New Year with a sense of fiery determination to “do better.” We are blitzed across all manner of media with advice on diet, exercise, weight loss, and meditation. Many of us somehow feel an uncommon sense of empowerment with the dawn of January 1.
…Aaaaaaaand some of us just feel hung over.
Either way, the strong impression of what we “should” be doing or what we are “supposed to” be like acquires a special glow on New Year’s Day, whether compelled by inspiration or guilt. One endeavor that doesn’t get a whole lot of press, though, is learning to be at peace.
Being at peace sounds terribly passive, not like much of a goal at all. In fact, it’s a state that we wish upon the departed …so why would we want this for ourselves? New Year’s Day generally invokes compulsions that are opposite to the notion of repose – to reach, to grasp, to accomplish, to strive. A question I would like to pose today is whether our lives ought to be composed of one or the other? Is it better to be ambitious? Or to be calm and peaceful?
The answer in my opinion, perhaps made obvious by the title of this post, is BOTH.
Facts: There are only 24 hours in a day. There are only 7 days in a week. There are only 365 days before this New Year’s thing happens all over again.
Another fact: Today, none of us knows with any certainty which day is going to be our last. If mine turns out to be tomorrow, how important will it have been for me to spend my entire day today calculating a budget for my practice while my kids watch TV? Now please note: it is not that the budget isn’t important if I do happen to live beyond tomorrow! But the question regarding this scenario is whether I balanced the time spent at work with time spent building relationships with my family? How long can I or anyone proceed unidirectionally before feeling like something is drastically missing?
I like to refer to the above graphic to illustrate major balances humans generally need in order to feel life is moving in a satisfying direction. It doesn’t take much to “survive” – the lungs need to breathe, and the heart needs to beat; depending on what you use as a medical definition of survival, that can pretty much wrap it up. But that isn’t satisfactory to any of us. What we want is to THRIVE. This is where meaning enters our lives: ambition and vacation, joys and challenges, passion …and peace. For most, having all of this – both ends of all the spectra OR a pleasant balance somewhere within – is what ultimately constitutes Happiness.
How to fit a satisfying balance of these things into my next 365 days – or into my next 24 hours – and what it takes to meet the criteria for happiness in this context is something only I can decide.
So what will a Happy New Year look like for you?
What about a Happy New Day? It’s not a bad place to start.