At the end of the year, we tend to reflect on what worked for us, and what didn’t, and then we turn that reflection into resolutions for the New Year. Yet, we all know that most resolutions don’t stick, and I think I know why. The conversation of resolutions is futile unless we first think about reflection. Reflection is the basis from which we build resolution. Maybe, in order to create resolutions that matter, we need to look at how we reflect.
Most of us do not reflect on our lives and our selves with a neutral, loving compassion. Instead, we reflect from a place of regret and disappointment, concentrating on what we did wrong, with no compassion or balance. We can forget that at the root of who we are, we are good, and true, and beautiful. From this place of forgetting, any resolutions that get made are unsustainable.
To open up how you reflect on your life, I offer you the possibility that your life couldn’t be any other way. It’s all Plan A. There is no such thing as Plan B. Our life issues don’t exist simply because we messed up. The majority of our pain actually comes from the fact that when we reflect, we see what happened as wrong. We see it as being some Plan B, off track from where we think we are supposed to be. But it is all Plan A. Even the difficult stuff. Even the stuff that didn’t turn out like you wanted it to.
Much of the time we wish we were different or had had a different life. From this place, we get stuck. We repeat the same habits—nothing changes, and we feel even more bummed. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
I hold that a principle of transformation is that we cannot feel better or act differently without first accepting our life exactly as it is, while looking at ourselves sincerely and firmly in the mirror. Any regret or dissatisfaction about who we are now and where we have been keeps us exactly where we are, paradoxically repeating all of the things that have us feel bummed to begin with.
To change this, we must see our life as Plan A, and accept ourselves unconditionally. I offer that this is the only way we can reflect usefully on where we have been, and then go beyond it with resolutions that will truly matter. We must include all of who we are, what we’ve experienced, how we behave as a part of our being, and give it true acceptance. Only then can we transcend it.
Years ago, staffing Noble Man, I had a moment that made me truly recognize how powerful this process of reflection from a place of compassion can be. One of my shadows is being fairly needy. Maybe it’s because my parents were divorced and distracted by their own stuff, or maybe it’s because of later teenage experiences of heartbreak, or maybe it’s because of something else that I don’t even remember, but it is a part of me, and one that I did not like. At this Noble Man, I made something about me that wasn’t about me while I was facilitating, and I co-opted a sharing process. I really beat myself up about it, and I went to apologize to Britta.
She simply said, “Yeah, that wasn’t so great. But it’s okay, you’re just quite needy.”
You may think that this was hard for me to hear, but there was something about the way she said it that made so much sense to me. She wasn’t judging me. She said it so lovingly and neutrally; it was just an observation. The way she held my neediness allowed me to plainly see, “Oh… I am needy.” I accepted this part of myself. And from that place of compassion and acceptance, from that point on, I have been able to own my neediness when it happens. A transformation occurred.
Without this insight, if I were doing the normal review of my year to set resolutions, I’d most likely identify all the ways that I felt like I was too needy, and resolve to change that behavior, to just change those needs and emotions. But, I’d be pretending. I wasn’t able to just change the behavior, because I couldn’t own it as part of who I am. I wasn’t able to show myself compassion. Pretending might lead me to sending tons of attention-seeking texts, or waiting for my wife to stop reading so she would pay attention to me, or perhaps to interrupting sharing circles. But pretending would never lead me to the resolutions I made about how I want to live my life.
So, my invitation to you is to reflect on you year, and on yourself, honestly and sincerely… but not to beat yourself up about what you might see. See who you are, really, at your essence, underneath the actions you might have taken or the events that might have happened to you.
What are the behaviors and ways of communicating that you have a hard time owning? I invite you, this year, to resolve to own just one of them. You might find that just that will lead to a place of feeling freer, by just being the thing you’re so afraid of being found out to be. Once you’ve resolved to own something that is already true, from there, and only there, you can change to something new.
With Love and Compassion,