For what prevents us from saying that the happy life is to have a mind that is free, lofty, fearless and steadfast – a mind that is placed beyond the reach of fear, beyond the reach of desire, that counts virtue the only good, baseness the only evil, and all else but a worthless mass of things, which come and go without increasing or diminishing the highest good, and neither subtract any part from the happy life nor add any part to it?
A woman thus grounded must, whether she wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since she finds delight in her own resources, and desires no joys greater than her inner joys.”~Seneca… edited by me
The year 2020 has a bad rap and for very good reasons. This year, we faced a global pandemic, unprecedented wild fires, racial unrest on a scale not seen since the 1960s and many more challenges big and small. This year forced many people to change the way they work, learn and socialize. This was a tough year for many and a lot of people didn’t make it to December to see how it ended. For me, this was a year of ups and downs. It was by no means the worst year of my life and I actually achieved some great things in 2020 including goals that I’ve been working towards for many years. Like many others, I had to make adjustments as the pandemic affected my life. With less than a single days notice, I went from going into an office every day to working from home full-time. I had to learn how to balance my work, family and mental health while spending pretty much all of my time at home. And so, like so many others, I made my adjustments and found my “new normal.”
I’ve never been a fan of the saying “New Year, New You” and here at the end of 2020, I don’t feel any differently. I’m not a fan of New Years Resolutions but I do think the start of a new year is a good time to reflect and set an intention for the year to come. And so, rather than making New Year’s Resolutions around this time of year, I set an intention for the year and choose a theme for the year. My theme for 2020 was all about self-acceptance and – more than that – about self-celebration. I wanted to focus on not only accepting my life for what is, I wanted to consciously choose to celebrate my daily life, rather than focusing on the negative.
A yearly theme is less like a resolution that you can pass or fail and more like a reminder that you come back to throughout the year – a mindfulness bell to remind you of what you hoped for at the start of the year. In that respect, I did fairly well by my theme for 2020. I celebrated my wins both big and small and didn’t let my set-backs cast too large a shadow over my good life.
In a lot of ways, my theme for 2021 is a refinement of the theme of 2020. I don’t want to be a different person in 2021 but I do want to continue my journey of continuous improvement, even as I accept where I am now. It’s a tricky balance: accepting yourself where you are here and now even as you strive to grow and improve. Even at 37 years old, I find myself too often looking to external views and measures for what should make me happy. Rather than focusing on what actually brings joy and happiness into my life, I look to the outside world to determine what is worthy of happiness and what should bring joy. Inspired by the quote by Seneca that I adjusted a bit at the start of this post, I want to change my outlook on what brings me delight and happiness in 2021. How can I focus on my own resources and my inner power to find delight and happiness there?
Over the past few days, I’ve spent some quality time reflecting on my personal values. I reflected on those concepts and ideals that I hold on high esteem. In other words, the values and ideals that I strive for, even if I sometimes fall short in my own estimation. Throughout the days, I wrote down these values as they came to me, collecting them in a free-form list. The list grew from a few key values that I focus on daily into a pile of my own personal values. I then turned that pile into a word cloud shaped as a plumeria, the same flower that is tattooed on my left shoulder. My intention for 2021 is to use this word cloud as a reminder of my personal values. I plan to make it my wallpaper so that I see it regularly as a reminder throughout the year. Whenever I find myself caught up in external expectations of happiness or feeling as if I’m not living up to someone else’s expectations, I can return to my word cloud as a reminder of my personal values and inner nresources.
My theme for 2021 can be summed up in the phrase: “Find delight in your own resources.” The reality is that – at this point in my life – I’ve pretty well established my positive routines and habits. I know what food is best for me to eat and what I really would do better to avoid. I know how to push myself through a hard workout and what fitness routines work best for me to achieve my goals while remaining active, strong and free of injury. I know how to be effective and productive both at work and at home. Now that I’m a woman in her late thirties who has been actively practicing self-growth for many years now, I’ve reached a place of self-acceptance. I’m by no means perfect, I still make mistakes and fail to live up to my own standards from time to time but I know who I am now and what I value. The question for me these days is: how can I celebrate that? How can I find delight in practicing my own values and in my own resources? That is my practice for 2021, learning to find delight in my own resources.
Do you have a yearly theme or intention for 2021?
What are you ready to leave behind?