This is the time of year we celebrate beginnings and endings. We reflect on change and fresh starts. We check in on where we have been and where we are going. We set direction. We resolve to be better than we were the year before.
Beginnings and endings naturally occur many times throughout our lives. People celebrate a new job, a new marriage, a new house, a new child. We celebrate the end of a week, the end of a year, the end of schooling. Beginnings and endings are milestones showing us that we are moving and growing.
Then there are other beginnings and endings too. A new health diagnosis, a new world tragedy, a new loss or disappointment. We are changed by the end of a relationship, the end of a time, or the end of a life. Beginnings and endings are complex.
2015 was a year of learning for me, filled with some complex beginnings and endings. I turned 40. I settled into a new job as principal in an elementary school (after 15 years of working in high schools). I stopped writing for a while. It was a year of learning about education, friendship, family, and myself. It was very much a year of acclimatizing and adjusting to big changes (both literal life changes and changes in my perspective).
Today I feel more grounded and confident than any other time in my life. I’m happy.
It’s time to climb a mountain.
2016 will be my “Brave New Year” and the year I devote to training my inner Jedi.
On New Year’s Day I took out my watercolour paints and swished some colour around on the page. When it dried, a faint outline of a mountain appeared. I traced its peak, adding more colour and detail. Yup, there it is. My mountain with a big sun rising up behind it.
My 2016 quest involves two big themes:
- Love. This is bigger love than romantic love. I want to learn about the love that makes the world go around and how to love more fully each day. At work I want to focus on relationships, building community, and affirming a sense of belonging for our staff and students.
- Strength and agility. This is about health and self-care. I want to become stronger and more agile. I want to eat and move and sleep more–learning how to become a tenacious Jedi inside and out. At work I want to focus on being a good principal, a source of strength for those who need support, and to model work/life balance.
To climb a mountain in 2016 means to take ourselves to our limits in whatever we choose to pursue. To climb a mountain involves careful planning and execution. It’s about intention. It’s about changing our perspectives along the way and fully embodying changes.
My goals for this year are to explore these themes with the intensity of a climber. I’ve learned that New Year’s resolutions are not so much about what we choose but about how we pursue our goals. It’s about action.
Last year my metaphor was a spiral so I was able to just go through the days, keeping my eyes open for the themes, gently reaching out to lessons as they passed by. The mountain suggests a more rigorous approach. 2016 is a year of action.
Why do I want to work hard this year?
Maybe it’s turning 40. Maybe it’s because I’m a workaholic. Maybe it’s because I don’t have children and I try to find other ways to contribute meaningfully to our world. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned that showing up when things are tough pays off. Climbing a mountain brings a level of focus and determination that I need to see the work through.
Reading Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth had a profound impact on me in 2015. Hadfield reminded me of the importance of problem solving. We identify an issue and then we work the problem. So when I sat down to write my resolutions for 2016 I reflected on: What problems do I want to solve in my life? What problems do I want to solve at work? What problems do I want to solve through my writing?
In today’s world of high speed entertainment, mobile social networks, and constant leisure options we live in a distracted place. I don’t know when there was a time in history when it was so easy to escape. We are escaping each other and we are escaping ourselves.
In 2016 I want to resist the lure of escape. I want to work hard at understanding love because I worry about our culture of escape and leisure. Research consistently suggests that technology (despite it’s many benefits) affects human connections and relationships. The more time I spend online or in front of the television, the less time I spend engaging in what it means to be human.
When I was an English teacher students read Ray Bradbury’s The Veldt. It was a haunting story about a futuristic house that cared for two children. When the parents “unplug” the house, the children turn on the parents, feeling more connected to the virtual reality than reality. Early in my career students could not identify with the children. Now with each new development in technology, children are becoming more addicted to their devices. We are getting closer to this desperate dependence on technology. I want to fight the urge to disconnect and work hard to connect.
Love is the force.
When we are young we take strength for granted. We put everything else first, then if there is time we sleep well, eat a healthy meal, and exercise. For many in my generation, this type of self-care is reserved for when we are on vacation. I get it now. To be able to give anything to anyone we love we need to have the strength to do so. Strength is not an entitlement. Working hard to prioritize health is essential.
What are your resolutions for 2016? How will you pursue them?