As we look ahead to 2016, it is of grave importance to restore ourselves and come back to our center. To attempt to create an exhaustive checklist for how to approach this task would be futile, as no single list can serve as the guidebook for all. However, I humbly suggest that there are salient issues and areas of growth that all human beings should endeavor to address and I hope that some, if not all, will resonate within your own life.
Emotional maturation is a recurring theme in my life. I am continuously and repetitively asking myself questions such as:
Am I emotionally mature? Do my thoughts, words, and deeds demonstrate such?
I cannot answer these questions for you, but speaking out of my own experience, I can share that asking and answering these questions will begin to positively impact how you choose to live your life. I can also say that one of the hallmarks of the emotionally mature adult is that they consciously make the decision to incorporate opportunities for development and growth as a cornerstone of their schedule.
This may take many forms, such as regularly reading literature within their faith tradition AND respectively exploring the faith traditions of others. Emotionally mature people are grateful for conflict and setbacks because they offer opportunities to explore their personal intentions and determine what they might have said or done differently to engender different outcomes. This does not mean that they are overly self-critical, but that they are comfortable enough with themselves to reflect upon their own behaviors and confident enough to accept when others point out where their actions may have caused harm.
Evaluate the year month by month and pull from your own life a list of “Lessons Learned.” I like to begin this process by making a list of the things that worked and the things that did not. One of the biggest lessons I learned this year is that I cannot have everything and have everybody. Both time and attention are finite and so I cannot be intimate friends with 50 people and also have the emotional resources necessary for an intimate romantic relationship.
This leads me to my next point, which is that we ought to be about the business of making space in our lives. Make space in your life for the things that you want. If you want to be fully filled (fulfilled) you must first begin to empty yourself and leave space and room for new things to grow. There may be physical and spiritual encumbrances to your living the life you were destined for. The fact that we carry baggage does not mean that we cannot drop the load. Letting go is an eventual process, not an immediate one, but one by one we can lighten the load that burdens us whether that be a few extra pounds, relationships that no longer add value, or personal belongings that have become more clutter than comfort.
As you wrap up 2015, which relationships do you want to sever and which ones do you want to save? What work will you do to nurture the relationships worth saving and to end the ones you determine are no longer value-added? The process itself will not be simple but the choice to do so is a simple first step. Do you have solid reasons for your sorting as you move through each of your important relationships? Where have you been exploited or exploitive? Where have you been co-dependent or needy? These are the places of work.
Be crystal clear about what you want from your life. Often times we experience life as an emotional roller coaster because the universe is responding to our lack of clarity and consistency. Clarity of intention and precision in language will help smooth out these bumps. To say that we do not know what we want is to invite confusion in our lives. To speak clearly to ourselves and others about our goals and vision for our own futures is to side-step unnecessary drama and anxiety. The sub-conscious mind follows our words and ruminations. We must be very clear and let our thoughts, words, and deeds be harmonious and mirror that clarity.
It has been so often stated that it is almost cliché, but I believe it bears repeating: Begin with the end in mind. We need to know what we want the end result of every action and interaction to be and be mindful that what we say and do match that intended outcome. For what purpose? To what end? These are questions that we must constantly ask ourselves as we move forward in both our personal and professional relationships.
Forgive yourself and move forward. A wise and dear mentor of mine taught me this adage several years ago. I laughed the first time I heard it because I did not understand how lack of forgiveness blocks and stymies growth. We have been taught as a rule to forgive others, but little to no advice proliferates regarding strategies on how to forgive your own little self. In order to love others as we love ourselves and to become masters of forgiving others, we have to learn to forgive ourselves. This is a DAILY exercise and one I still struggle with. I am hard-pressed to let myself off the hook for running a stop sign or failing to yield. The act of forgiving myself when I have failed to be impeccable with my word or been disrespectful of someone’s time due to my tardiness takes Herculean effort, but I find the more I do it, the more compassion I am able to demonstrate for others as they struggle to align their intentions and their actions.
As an adherent Buddhist, I believe in Karma. Karma is the idea that an individual’s actions will impact their experiences in this lifetime and in lives to come. Whether you ascribe to this belief system or not, most of the major faith traditions have some concept of “reaping and sowing.” The natural world confirms this every harvest. You will certainly not sow corn and reap wheat. With that said, I have learned and am still learning that the universe will bring you back to “the scene of the crime.” You cannot run away from unresolved issues with people, places, or events. You will continue to cycle back until these issues (or volumes) are dealt with, processed, and purposed.
By purposed, I mean that you must seek and find meaning through reflection and meditation. Every experience has something to teach us, but only you can ascertain what that lesson is for you. When we fail to find the purpose and meaning in our experiences, then we experience the “doom-loop” of repeated encounters with the same kind of romantic partners and supervisors that are eerily like our controlling mothers.
Finally, I share this as guidance for myself. Everything I say/write/do is about me first. I/You need to stop endeavoring to impress others. Constantly seeking approval for our decisions is a little death that we need not partake in. Constantly commending our partners or potential partners to friends and family is not the work of our lives. Ultimately you have to deal with your decisions and approval from others is nice, but it is certainly not necessary when it comes to making the best decisions and choices for your own life. Those among us that we count as great, as a rule, do not give a hoot about anyone’s approval. To paraphrase Brenden Burchard, author of the The Motivation Manifesto, having a plan and acting decisively to advance that plan despite our fear is what makes us legends. You do not ever have to convince anyone of your right to have your life as you want it.
As this New Year approaches and unfolds, be bold. Be brave. Be legendary.
I hope that as you read, you feel my heart reaching out to you across the vastness of space and time and that my intention and love both meet and greet you. Be well.
VeRB is a teaching artist with 20+ years of experience as a performance artist and 15+ years as a literacy educator. As a teaching artist, she is honored to have the opportunity to facilitate the development of young artists and believes that performance and poetry are tools for both advocacy and empowerment. For more information on booking a workshop, performance, or key note address with VeRB, please contact her at VeRBthePoet.com or VeRBthePoet@gmail.com.