One of my intentions this year is to practice gratitude. It’s a simple intention, but one that demands a degree of mindfulness; I write down what I am grateful for once a day. Five minutes a day (more if I want to) to write down one thing. I’ve kept it simple. The benefit I am getting from this practice isn’t gratitude alone (and can I just say WOW, that is proving to be really powerful), it is the conversation I have with myself when I say I don’t have the time to do it.
The richness in this conversation is self-awareness, because it forces me to explain to myself why I don’t have five minutes to do something that I know is of direct benefit to me and indirect benefit to everyone around me. I go through all the usual side-steps. I get angry with myself for the impertinence of the question (“Seriously! Can’t you see how overwhelmed I am with work right now?”). I justify my actions (“Don’t get your panties in a bunch, I will do it later!”). I agree with myself with no intention to follow through (“Yes, yes, yes, I know writing what I am grateful for today is highly beneficial…”). Or I avoid the feelings of failing myself through numbing out with screen time (the easier it is not to hear my better self who is annoyingly right).
Yes, I am a human being. And so are you. Go through the reactions that all of us beautiful human beings have when we are trying to over-ride common sense (whatever they may sound like for you) and then be compassionate with yourself, listening to your mental narrative. In my example you can hear that I may be working hard (do I need a break?), that I am annoyed with myself (hmmm…what is that all about?) or that I am dismissive…of myself (OK, red flag here to explore). This is important, because if we do not have these conversations with ourselves, we miss out on valuable insights that can help us better attend to our own needs, our awareness and our welfare. This is the critical point where our happiness is either supported or sacrificed; it is in these conversations that we choose ourselves and our well-being (or leave ourselves as collateral damage in a life we live for others but not ourselves).
It is not what you are promising to yourself per se, it is in the way you attend to that promise. As you move into this New Year, become less concerned about the number of times you did the thing you promised yourself you would do and be more open and curious about why you didn’t do it. It is in these conversations that you will grow and make this year your best yet. Miraculously you may find you also honour your commitments to yourself, in a joyous and heartfelt way, without pressure. The first promise we should always keep is the one we make to ourselves.
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.”
Robert Frost, excerpt from the poem “Stopping by The Woods on A Snowy Evening”