The New Year is often a time for assessing things: For looking back over the past twelve months or twelve years, at our successes and shortcomings, our rejoices and regrets, and for looking ahead at what we hope for the future.
The hard thing with any self-assessment, is not the questions themselves. Answers might come easily to mind. The thing is, we are more than our minds. We are more than our frontal lobe. We may hold tight to something we think and fervently know, yet deep-down feel something different altogether, something attentive to other truths that our prefrontal cortical logic cannot defend.
Yet while our heart does reveal deep, honest and essential things, anyone who has ever lived or felt knows that it can also take us to places that are not right for ourselves or the ones we love. And as we are trying to make sense of this, trying to sort out what is whispered in ours ears by our logic and gut like cartoon angels or devils perched upon our shoulders, we might then act in ways wholly inconsistent with each. Which one then, would be what we value?
If we want to weave these disparate threads of our being into something unified and authentic to who we are, we must ask the questions, and question our actions, in a different way. We must ask with a certain “heartfulness”: an honesty of focused alignment between what we believe, what we feel, how we act, and who we want to be.
Here are a few questions for the New Year, questions we will face again-and-again over the course of our lives.
- Human Needs. What is it that people need most? What does the world need most? How can I help meet this demand?
- Relationships. Who are the people about whom I care most deeply? With whom I can be honest and true? What can I do today, to nurture those relationships?
- Community. How will I respond to the call of the other? Family? Friends? Strangers? How will I live and interact with those with whom I share a home, a cul-de-sac or a planet?
- Hope. With so much that is outside of my control, what can I affect? What can I hope for?
- Gratitude. With every disappointment and shortcoming, every injustice and hardship, what things can I be grateful for?
- Happiness. How do I find both “meaning” in my life and “happiness?”
- Self-limitation. If I were to be honest and brave, what limits would I place upon my freedom? What would I sacrifice or restrain?
- Authenticity. At the end of the day, what kind of person do I truly want to be? What do I let get in the way?
- Competing Values. How do I reconcile the disparate things that I value? Maybe justice and compassion, close community and liberty, or personal freedom and loving attachments?
- Loving Life. How can I learn to celebrate the world, even with its injustice and pain? How can I learn to embrace the world, even I cannot understand it?
Each of you will have other questions, too. Or you will rephrase them in your own way. Some of your answers will change because of time and place, what you have learned and how you have been hurt. Some will remain beautifully and constantly the same. But as you push aside the covers each morning and stumble out into the daylight choosing what answers you will live that day, ask yourself again, whether that expression remains honest and true to the very best of who you are.
© 2019 John Albert Doyle, Jr. This post also appeared on Psychology Today in January 2019.
Photo Credit: “wrinkles_2 ” by the Zone SC/Flickr made available via a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.