new year’s resolution

Self-compassion and self-care

The two-headed Roman god, Janus

It’s funny — I’ve known since I was 13 that January is named for the god Janus, who has two faces: one looking forward and one backward. But right now it strikes me how appropriate that is.

The period around New Year is a natural time to look back at and see what was good or wasn’t so good. We can also look forward into the coming year and think about what we might do, and what we might change.

Anyway, I want to tell myself that I’m not interested in New Year’s Resolutions. This is mainly because of youthfully naive attempts with them that I forgot within days. But I can’t help but look, Janus-like, at the year that’s just past and the year that’s just beginning.

A Good Year and a Bad Year

Last year was tough in some ways. Three people I had strong connections with, including my sister, died within nine days of each other. I re-injured my back quite badly by straining my left sacroiliac joint. I could barely walk for several days, and was still in pain months later. My elderly parents both got Covid, which was worrying, although they both pulled through. And a big concern was that a lot of Wildmind’s sponsors were forced to cancel their subscriptions for financial reasons. (Most of those were in the UK, where the post-Brexit economy is truly dire.)

It was also a good year in some ways. I had a book (“A Year of Buddha’s Wisdom”) published on my birthday last year. I remained in that ever-shrinking group of people who have managed to avoid Covid. Toward the end of the year I rekindled a habit of walking daily. My meditation practice kept going, through thick and thin. Although the pandemic has reduced my social life almost to zero, I’ve adjusted to that being the case.

I spent the entire year writing on one topic, which I’ve never done before: on January 14th I sent out the first email in a course called “Politics as a Spiritual Practice,” and the last email of the course went out on December 29th. I’ve never before had an opportunity to explore one topic in such depth. In essence I wrote a book, and in fact I hope to find a publisher for it this year.

Sometimes the good and the bad are connected. Yes, I did a lot of writing. But that meant sitting for long periods at a computer, and that wasn’t good for my body, which led to me injuring my back.

Self-Care and Self-Compassion

Which brings me (finally) to the point of this article: I’m pretty good at self-compassion but not very good at self-care.

Self-compassion is where we respond in a kind, supportive way to our own suffering. We give ourselves the comfort and reassurance we need in order to get through hard times, whether those hard times last for a few moments or for months on end. It’s a powerful practice. I’m pretty good at it. I even wrote a book about it.

Self-care is where we take care of our own needs so that we don’t create as much suffering for ourselves in the first place. Keeping our long-term happiness and well-being in mind, we do what we need to do in order to be healthy and happy. That includes things like eating healthily, getting enough sleep, taking breaks from work, and getting regular exercise and stretching. The first two on that list I’m very good at. The third (taking breaks) I’m not bad at. The fourth (exercising and stretching) I’ve been very bad at.

Some people are good at self-care but not self-compassion. They might live very healthily but not be emotionally self-supportive. They might even be very self-critical. I’m good at self-compassion, but not at self-care. Ideally, we should be good at both.

My back injury was a good reminder of the importance of self-care. I really don’t want to go through that ordeal again, so I’ve been to a physical therapist and learned some stretches and exercises that will give my core more strength and give my body more flexibility. Together, those things should keep my back in reasonable health. And once this chest infection is out of the way I intend to get back to walking daily.

Lessons Learned

Based on the lessons I’ve learned from booking backward and looking forward, it feels appropriate to have an overall aim for the year, expressed in general terms. I’d describe that aim as “Thriving Though Self-Care.” I want to thrive — healthily, happily. I have an image of myself later this year, full of energy and joy. And I want to get there through practicing self-care.

It also seems that having general aims isn’t enough, so I’m setting myself the specifically goals of walking for a average of 30 minutes a day (at a minimum), and stretching at least once a day for five minutes.

If I miss a day’s walking (sometimes I’m sick, sometimes the weather makes it impossible) I’ll do more walking on other days to keep my average up.

I know from previous experience that accountability helps, so I’m going to check in about this daily in Wildmind’s community website, letting people know how I’m doing.

So I hope that will help me with my practice of self-care.

Two More Things

Two more things in regard to self-care:

First, toward the end of last year I started working a four-day week. I did this because of reading about an international study showing that when businesses switched to a four-day week they actually became more productive. I’ve been doing this for a month now, and I think it’s helping. I’ve noticed that I’m more creative than I’ve been for a while. I’m ending my workweek in a state of joy rather than exhaustion. I feel more relaxed at weekends, too.

Second, I was so focused on finishing the year-long course I was teaching on politics that I did almost nothing in response to losing about a third of my income as supporters withdrew their sponsorships. This caused a fair bit of anxiety, so as part of my practice of self-care I will be working on building up my base of subscribers again. It’s hard to create when you’re worried about whether you can afford to pay rent. In fact, in the long-term I’d like to have someone working with me on Wildmind who is responsible for community growth and community engagement. I’d like to have someone to work with, and I’d rather devote 100 percent of my energy to teaching and not have to think about money.

So that’s what I’m learning, looking back at next year, and that’s how I intend to live 2023 differently, based on those lessons. (One last goal: I want to write in this blog three times a month for the rest of the year, even if the reports are brief. Some of those posts will be follow-ons from this one.)

Anyway, I wish you a very Happy New Year. If you have any thoughts about self-care, or about New Year’s aspirations, resolutions, aims, or goals, why not add them in the comments below?

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New Year aspirations (rather than resolutions)

When I was younger I used to think that New Year’s Day resolutions would almost automatically bring about change. It was as if thinking that you wanted to change was enough to make it actually happen. I guess I thought this was possible thanks to the “magic” involved in moving from one year to the next.

Of course I’ve learned a lot since then about how slowly inner change happens. And now I see New Year’s resolutions differently, if I even make them. Now they’re an opportunity to think about the direction that I’d like to see the slow change move in. They’re more “aspirations” than resolutions.

There is one thing that’s happening, though, which is both practical and symbolic. It might almost seem like a silly thing, but my bookkeeper is going to be closing our old QuickBooks Online account and opening a new one. The old one has been with me for years. It’s like an old house that you can still live in. But it’s been repaired and altered so many times — often by people who weren’t very sure what they’re doing — that it’s an ugly mess.

For example, in the past Wildmind used to have an online store where we sold meditation supplies. This was supposed to help cover the costs of teaching meditation. We stopped doing that altogether two years ago, and last year I donated several thousand dollars worth of inventory to my local Dharma center so that they can sell it in their little book shop. While it was a relief to get rid of that inventory, there are still all these categories, products, vendor records, and so on in our accounts. It’s a mess. So we’re starting off with new books — clean, light, and set up to reflect what I’m currently doing on Wildmind. It just feels good. And that is almost magical.

But my personal aspiration is to work at being more balanced in my life — especially balancing self-care and self-nourishment, on the one hand, with being creative, productive, and helpful on the other.

  • I think better, create better, and meditate better when I go for regular walks (which my dogs also love, naturally).
  • I’m happier when I take care of my aging body’s need to stretch. When I do that I can be free from pain and have more energy.
  • And my practice has more life and inspiration when I get off on retreat. That’s something I haven’t been able to do in the last couple of years.

So I’m bearing those sorts of things in mind as I enter 2022. They’re not, as I said, examples of “magical thinking.” Change doesn’t happen just because you want it to. I still have to maintain those aspirations in mind (which is work in itself), to be mindful of opportunities to bring more balance to my life, and to be mindful of when things are getting out of balance. So I still have to do the work. But those are the kinds of things I aspire to focus on in order to bring more balance into my life. If I manage that, then 2022 should be both joyful and creative, and hopefully my life will benefit both me and others.

Happy New Year!

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Remembering to be happy

I’ve made and immediately forgotten too many New Year’s resolutions to be a believer in them, but the start of a new trip around the sun still makes me reflect on changes that I want to bring about in my life.

One thing that started popping into my mind toward the end of last year was the realization that I often forget to be happy.

It seems that just about any time I want, I can access happiness—or at least I can access a greater degree of peace, calm, well-being, and emotional positivity than was present just a moment before.

It works like this: I’ll be doing something, like working, reading, or browsing the web, and I’ll become aware that my experience is a bit flat or tense. I’ve become focused on what I’ve been doing in too driven a way, and this is diminishing my sense of well-being. As soon as I realize that’s been going on, I start to pay greater attention to my present-moment experience, relax my body, and allow my heart to soften. And instantly I feel happier. Often I feel much happier. I mean, really happy.

There may be unpleasant feelings present, but over the years I’ve learned how to accept those. I can have unpleasant feelings going on—sadness, or anxiety, for example—and still be happy. It’s a process, though. I have to spend a few moments with the unpleasant feeling once I notice it, and let it be, and then it becomes less solid and weighty, and it’s surrounded by a mind that’s content, or even joyful.

How easy it is to access this happiness is surprising. It’s like it’s always there, waiting for me to experience it. But I forget.

So this year I have the intention (I wouldn’t quite call it a resolution) to remember to be happy. I’m training myself to check in with my experience at least several times an hour in order to see how I’m feeling, and to note whether it’s possible for me to let go of the flatness or negative affect, in order for happiness to arise. I’ll be working, reading, or browsing the web, and silently ask, “How are you? Can you relax a little? Soften? Open your heart? Let go of that drivenness? Can you let yourself be happier, even if just a little?”

I’m suppressing joy all the time. I just have to remember not to! I wonder if that’s true for you as well?

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The joy of imperfection: how not to drive yourself and others nuts

Mona Shah Joshi, Fulfillment Daily: Every year we come up with new year’s resolutions. Maybe to lose weight, to procrastinate less, to write that book or get a promotion. We want to become more “perfect” in some way. And how often have we let ourselves down in the process?

You know what to do, but so often manage to do the opposite. You know you should go to sleep. But instead of picking your body up from the couch, you pick up the television remote. You have work to get done, but spend 20 minutes surfing online for stuff you’ll never buy. You know what to say, but somehow your brain fails to communicate with your mouth and the words come out wrong.

In a perpetually chaotic world, perfectionism appears to allow us some semblance of order and control. As a teen, I couldn’t control my emotions, but I could paint tricolor stripes on my nails to coordinate with my yellow, red and green outfit that day. While I couldn’t control my own mind, I could enhance its development by reading books on self-improvement. I would become a better human being who would one day marry the perfect man and raise perfect children (unlike my parents whose parenting mistakes I fully planned to correct with my own kids).

wildmind meditation newsCutting-edge research shows that there is, in fact, a fine line between striving for improvement, and striving relentlessly for perfection. How do you know if you’ve crossed it? Is your perfectionism doing more harm than good?
Imperfectly Perfect

Perfectionists pride themselves on their integrity and commitment to hard work; they make sure everything is the best it can be down to the last detail. As a society, we admire people who push themselves and others to produce masterful achievements—Steve Jobs, David Cameron and Beyonce among numerous others.

We laugh at the neurotic foibles of perfectionists on television like Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation who interrupts her boyfriend’s proposal twice to savor the moment and lets him know, “I need to remember every little thing about how perfect my life is right now.”

But real perfectionism goes beyond arranging your towels in eleven different sections aka Friends’ Monica Geller. According to a study published in a journal of the American Psychological Association, perfectionism can be devastatingly crippling, leading to anxiety, depression and an increased risk for suicide.

Gordon Flett has been researching perfectionism for the last 25 years. “Perfectionists tend to be under chronic stress, in part due to the pressure that is on them,” he observed with me in an interview.

Flett identifies two main types of perfectionism.

1) Self-Oriented Perfectionism where expectations to be perfect come from another person such as a parent, spouse or teacher.

2) Socially-Prescribed Perfectionism where people respond to external societal pressure by trying to appear perfect. These people tend to promote their strength and accomplishments, while hiding mistakes and flaws so others have a favorable impression of them. Meanwhile, inside they feel inadequate “like an imposter.”

Sure, our perfectionism allows us to stretch and create beyond imagined capabilities, but it also handicaps our happiness. The outcome is so important that we forget to empower others by truly letting go (assuming, of course, that we’re able to even delegate). We become experts at faultfinding—a sure fire way to lose friends and diminish influence. Moreover, we get so caught up in the producing the end result that we forget to have fun along the way.
Self-Compassion as an Antidote

Kristen Neff, pioneering researcher and author of Self-Compassion, considers self-compassion the perfect antidote to perfectionism. “Perfectionism creates a sense of isolation, leading to self-criticism. Imperfection is the human experience,” she shared with me. “Self-compassion helps us feel safe, secure, loved and reduces the feeling of being threatened.”

Self-compassion isn’t letting yourself off the hook (akin to not being accountable) so much as giving yourself a break (realizing that imperfections are normal).

Can you imagine how unbearable it would be to live with someone who was totally perfect? This perpetual Pollyanna would turn her pert nose down on your pitiful shortcomings. It’s our mistakes that make us humble. Imagine how intolerable we’d be if we never made a mistake. We would probably be more judgmental, and less empathetic and compassionate. It’s our screw ups that make us endearing, approachable and lovable.
Leave Room for Imperfection

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, spiritual leader and creator of the Happiness Program, gently reminds us to “Leave some room for imperfection. It is love for perfection that makes one angry at imperfection. Just like a clean house has a small space for garbage in the bin, keep some space in your mind to accept imperfections.”

We get so agitated thinking about other’s imperfections. You do realize that their imperfections are their problem to handle, right? We already have a full-time job managing our own mind and it’s nuttiness.

Practices such as yoga, meditation and breathing exercises help us keep our center and develop some perspective into our perfectionism. These practices bring the mind back to the present, instead of sticking to the past or worrying incessantly about future results. A meditative mind tempers our tendency to go perfection crazy. It enables us to relax and realize that while your hair may be frizzier than a shih tzu, you’re still grateful because, “heck, any day with hair is still a good hair day.”

When we get upset at others’ mistakes, we’re no better than the person who made the mistake. But when we have acceptance and compassion for others, we simultaneously develop acceptance and love for ourselves as well. When you’re fretting that the mashed potatoes are lumpy or the salad isn’t up to snuff, ask yourself if it’s worth losing your smile over.

This new year, instead of resolving to become a more perfect version of yourself, why not unwind and accept? Inner perfection comes naturally when we leave room for imperfection.

Mona is a freelance writer and motivational speaker based in Atlanta. Since 1996, she has facilitated more than 50,000 hours of programs in mind body wellness as a personal development expert and meditation instructor for the Art of Living Foundation and the International Association for Human Values (IAHV). Mona believes that meditation and conscious acts of kindness are key to uplifting human values in society. For more information about the Art of Living meditation and yoga, visit Check out her blog at

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New beginnings


There’s a 50/50 chance that you made some New Year resolutions a couple of months ago; there’s an even better chance that you’ve already abandoned them. Or perhaps you’re one of the people who never makes New Year resolutions because you’ve learned through experience that they’re forgotten almost as soon as they’re created.

Whether we make resolutions or not, we see each new year as an opportunity for new beginnings: not just new years, but new months, new weeks, and new days. Our lives are full of new beginnings. But the most significant new beginnings take place at a much finer scale.

When we meditate, for example, we’re forever catching the mind having gone off and become distracted. We find, for example, that we’ve been mulling over some old hurt, or worrying about some upcoming event, or telling ourselves stories about how we think other people feel about us.

Those moments in which we’ve realized that the mind has become distracted are important new beginnings. Each time we notice that we’ve been caught up in a spiritually unprofitable train of thought, we have a crucial opportunity to let go of it, to reconnect with our present moment experience, to start over.

Sometimes there are so many of these new beginnings that it seems like we’re making little progress. But each time we let go of an unskillful train of thought, returning mindfully and compassionately to our present moment experience, we’re changing who we are. We’re changing our habits, weakening unskillful patterns and strengthening skillful ones. We’re even, at a cellular level, rewiring the brain. Each new beginning may not change us very much, but, as the Buddha said, “Drop by drop, a water pot fills.”

An ongoing commitment to moment to moment change such as this is more powerful than any number of New Year resolutions, precisely because they involve such small steps. We can’t climb a mountain in one bound — thousands of small steps over time are what’s needed.

Sometimes we might feel that our practice is repetitive. You realize you’re distracted, let go and return to the breathing, realize you’re distracted and return to the breathing. You breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, repeat. But in fact each experience we have is a new beginning. No two breaths are the same.

Try noticing your next in-breath. See how it comes into existence, is present in your experience, and then comes to an end. Try that again with the next out-breath. Now follow each in-breath and out-breathe with an awareness that you’ll meet this breath only once in your entire existence. Follow the whole cycle of your breathing: beginnings and endings, endings and beginnings. See how precious each breath, each moment, is?

Now as you observe your in-breaths and out-breaths coming into existence and passing away, notice how each breath is composed of a series of moments. There’s this moment then this moment then this moment — no two the same, and none ever returning. There’s just this endless series of new beginnings and new endings, intersecting in time, each one precious and deserving of our full attention.

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Just another day

Just another day, a new moment. How liberating is that? This new moment can shape the next moment. This new moment can change our lives. We don’t have to wait for a new year to arrive to make changes. Although it is an opportunity to remind us to reflect on our lives, let go of regrets and live wisely in the moment.

So in the spirit of this old year coming to completion and the new year coming into fruition. Here is a new year message from the London Buddhist Centre. I couldn’t say it any better.

I have much gratitude for London Buddhist Centre, every time I am there, it is like a new year. I hope today when you read this, it can be like a new year. Here are some free meditations to help mark this new year, that can begin on any day you choose.

Thank you for all your support. May it continue – may every day be a happy new year. May we have the capacity to wake up every day. We can do this by placing positive values at the center of our lives.

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Happy New Year


Many of us in the world use the new year as an opportunity to let go of the past and make new beginnings. I thought I would acknowledge the new year as one of those GIFTS — a Great Indicator For Throwing Stuff Out.

We are the fortunate ones to be reading this right now, because for some people the world did end on December 21st or thereafter. So here we are, having survived another end of the world date. There have been many such apocalypses predicted in the past and none, of course, have come true. We could spend the rest of our lives worrying about predictions of the end of the world, or we could begin to think about how we truly want to live our life.

  1. What direction do you want your life to be heading towards? Aspirations?
  2. What conditions need to be cultivated to make your aspirations true?
  3. What is holding you back? Externally? Internally?
  4. What are the steps you need to take to help support your aspirations?

If we are wanting to live a more mindful life, more in sync with Buddhist teachings, we would be placing every efforts to transform our body, speech and mind. We would be aware of our actions having consequences and would apply mindfulness to recreate actions that only promote kindness.

The Four Reminders

Perhaps go back to the four questions and see how many of your aspirations are to do with body, speech and mind? Ask yourself, will your aspirations lead you in the direction of moderation? A direction that is free of self indulgence or denial and self mortification? The Buddha taught us the middle way – the path of ethics, meditation and wisdom to free us from our suffering. Perhaps that could be an aspiration to investigate the middle way in 2013.

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Three ways to cultivate patience in 2012

Therese Borchard: Ah patience. How do we cultivate you without driving ourselves more crazy?

Being that my new year’s resolution is to be more content with living with the questions in my life versus rushing towards the answers, I found useful the advice in Allan Lokos’s new book, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living.

Lokos is the founder and guiding teacher of the Community Meditation Center in New York City, and the author of Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living.

Here are the three themes that I found most helpful in his book.

1. See things as they are.

Writes Lokos:

In the …

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Rethinking our New Year’s resolutions

Many of us start the year with great intentions to establish healthy new habits, only to find ourselves losing steam before too long. Sunada writes about her realization that reframing our goals can help us stay on track and raise our chances of getting to where we want to be.

It’s a new year, and a time when many of us think about fresh starts – like exercising more, meditating regularly, or getting organized. But as we know all too well, just wanting something doesn’t make it so. I’m sure we’ve all experienced times when we lose steam and get bogged down. How do we get around this?

I’m not saying it’s bad to have doubtful thoughts… But it’s when we accept these thoughts as truth that we get into trouble.

One of the Buddha’s basic messages is that we create our own worlds with our thoughts and actions. And by “thoughts,” he wasn’t just talking about our intentional, conscious ones. Those pesky unintended and subconscious ones are just as much a part of the picture. And it’s when we leave them unacknowledged that they can really get us into trouble.

Let’s look at a few examples. When I ask people why they want to meditate more, the answer I typically get is something like, “I want to calm my busy mind.” What we’re subconsciously saying here is, “I have a busy mind.” Stop for a moment and say that sentence to yourself. How does it make you feel? Does it give you positive energy and motivation to change? I doubt it. Instead, it just reinforces that you have a busy mind. Focusing on the problem directs more of our energies toward thing we don’t want. By definition, anything we put our attention to is what fills our minds –and perpetuates in our view of the world.

Other thoughts I often hear express self-doubt and self-deprecation. “My mind is too busy to be able to meditate right.” Or “I don’t know if I can, but if I MAKE myself do it maybe it’ll work this time.” I’m not saying it’s bad to have doubtful thoughts. We all have insecurities, and they will come up in one form or another for all of us. We’re only human! But it’s when we accept these thoughts as truth that we get into trouble. How much are we buying into the idea that this is the way things are? The more we are, the more we’re feeding ourselves negative energy that can only pull us backward.

We may THINK we’ve made a resolve to change. But there’s another side of us thinking subtle … thoughts that sabotage us before we even begin.

A third source of backward pull is a lack of focus, discipline, or prioritization. “I tried to go to the gym this week but other things got in the way.” “My boss made me stay late so I couldn’t do it.” It’s easy to blame other people or causes for preventing us from doing what we intended. But really, I’m the only one who can choose what I do. My boss didn’t make me stay late. It’s me that chose to do it to comply with his request. Or maybe I wasn’t focused enough to get things done sooner. Whatever we do, we need to take responsibility for our own choices. Otherwise, we perpetuate a mindset of helplessness and being a victim.

I’m sure there are other kinds of thoughts that pull us in the wrong direction, but I think you get the idea. These are the kind of subconscious thoughts that we’re allowing to shape our future – one in which we’re at odds with ourselves! We may THINK we’ve made a resolve to change. But there’s another side of us thinking subtle (or maybe not-so-subtle!) thoughts that sabotage us before we even begin. No wonder we get stuck.

Rather than looking at the problem on its own level, how about if we reframe it into a bigger picture of what we aspire toward? So if you want to exercise more, ask yourself WHY.

So what do we do? We can’t just banish negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. And they’re really hard to just “let go,” as we’re taught to do in meditation classes.

There is another way. According to the laws of physics, the only way we can move something forward is by applying more energy in that direction than what’s pulling it the other way. So then, how can we increase the energy behind our positive motivations so that they’re greater than our negative ones?

Rather than looking at the problem on its own level, how about if we reframe it into a bigger picture of what we aspire toward? So if you want to exercise more, ask yourself WHY. What is your bigger purpose behind becoming more fit? One woman I know realized that the reason she wants to be in better shape is so she can run around with her grandchildren. To her, family is really important – something she values deeply for its own sake. It’s part of her picture of herself at her best. So when she thinks about going to the gym, she thinks of how much she loves her grandchildren’s delightful laughter, and off she goes.

We can tell we’re acting with a pure mind when we’re motivated by genuine feelings of kindness and generosity, and a wise understanding of our responsibility toward both ourselves and our world.

The Buddha gave us some clues about the kind of thoughts that help move us forward. He said, “If one speaks or acts with a pure mind, happiness follows like a shadow that never departs.” What is a “pure mind”? It’s the part of us that reveals our essential goodness. We can tell we’re acting with a pure mind when we’re motivated by genuine feelings of kindness and generosity, and a wise understanding of our responsibility toward both ourselves and our world. When we act from that place, we flow more naturally and easily. And happiness flows more easily to us.

It turns out that I want to exercise and meditate more this year, too. But those things aren’t on my list of resolutions. My intention is to continue building a well-integrated life that allows me to find more of that innate goodness within myself and others, and to share it all around. This picture includes my personal Buddhist practice, life coaching, meditation teaching, and singing. All of these things build upon my natural strengths: a love of learning and growing, an ability to connect deeply with people, and an appreciation of the aesthetic and spiritual beauty in the world. By doing what I love, I tap into an inner wellspring of motivation. Going to the gym or getting on the meditation mat is less about talking myself into it, and more about pursuing things I want because they point me toward who I am at my best.

So if you’ve got some resolutions on your list, I would urge you to spend some time reflecting on what your higher aspirations might be. And be as specific as can about what it might look like to live that way. Take your time, and do it thoughtfully. It can take months to get clarity on what you really want. And know that this is an ongoing project. As we evolve and reach new places, our ideas change too. That’s all part of the process. But most important of all, enjoy the ride. In the end, that’s really how we find joy and gratification in our lives.

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