A New Framework

On January 1, 2016 a wonderful person asked me if I had any resolutions for the year. When I replied that I didn't have a track record of sucess with resolutions so I had given up the practice of making them, she offered what I think is a kinder, gentler consideration for a year's beginning:

Can you think of anything you would like more of in 2016?

Ahhhh. That's what my entire body did in response to this question; it had itself a deeply relaxing, releasing sigh. My brow stopped the furrowing it does when I'm trying to figure out how to make my life better (aka the foundation for new year's resolutions), and I experienced a moment of open-minded wondering about what would make me feel better, in a more general way, in the coming year.

An answer came to me almost immediately: more free and easy wandering around time.
“To do what?” she asked.
I replied that I didn’t know what I would do if I had more unstructured time and that that was precisely the point, I wanted some space to discover what might draw me in.

Super loose, right? Very different from a resolution or goal, and I get that goals with specific measurable results have an appeal, I really do…but, sometimes goals can be overly reductive. As in, “If I lost 15 pounds, things would be different/better/etc.” That’s a lot to expect from 15 pounds, or a new city, or getting that job you know you’re made for, or whatever you would put in that sentence. I had this joke with a friend of mine in college about what life would be like if you did this with something that you really couldn’t change like your height, and every day you woke up mad as hell that you weren’t 5’10”? It’s funny, but it’s really funny if you know you’ve done something not too far from it.

While I have always liked reflecting on the year that just ended, I have discovered that I enjoy musing on the year to come much more since I was introduced to this new what-do-you-want-more-of framework. It encourages me to think about the feelings I’d like to experience rather than presuming that I know exactly what my problem is, can identify an implementable solution to the problem, and start fixing it immediately.

I will admit that I also like this framework because it is fun to think about the things I would like more of instead of mustering enthusiasm for tweaking broken things. I wonder if I had more of the things I’d like more of, might some of the broken things work themselves out without so muchefforting. Based on the results I had this past year, I am leaning towards a resounding YES.

With that I’ll share a few of the things I’m looking to have more of in my life this year.

I’d like to release myself from the burdens of mastery and have some time to explore topics, activities, hobbies, work, friends without the heaviness of commitment. I fear that we are at risk of losing and honing our flirting skills because we’ve decided that we should do/pursue things only if we’re good at them, and willing to commit to them for the long-term. I’d like to spend more time “just trying it on”.
Inspired by: My sister, a wise woman, and veteran elementary school teacher. Hearing her talk about watching kids respond to instructions from their parents on the first day of school to “just go over there and talk to them” and seeing the chasm between the kid and the other kids and wondering if she could conceive of a way they could baby-step their way across rather than taking a terrifying leap into the world of socializing/networking.
She also took me over to the kids’ section at Powell’s when I wanted to start a garden. I was offended until she explained that it’s a good idea to start at the beginning when that’s where you actually are, and also a great move to start where it’s designed to be fun in addition to being informative.
Like I said: she is a wise woman.

Tools are amazing and so many things can be tools—questions, hammers, phones, string, workshops. There are some areas in my life where I’d like to have tools and I haven’t found them yet so part of this “more” may include me making some tools.
Inspired by: I heard this story about a phone booth in the Fukushima Province of Japan that became a tool for people to communicate with loved ones they lost in the earthquake and tsunami and it had a profound affect on how I thought about tools and how they can help us. LISTEN TO IT. PLEASE!

Snacks are a balm for our bodies and for our brains. Whether it’s a fantastic granola (which I think I just discovered today), a magazine that contains a lot of advice we’ll never use, or a book that’s an “easy read”, I’d like more of these ‘more about pleasure, less about sustenance’ things in my life.
Inspired by: A conversation I had with two people on my staff where I found myself defending the act of buying magazines at the airport by explaining to the guy who likes candy bars that magazines do for me what candy bars do for him. And then I realized just how right I was and got really interested in having more snacks.

To me, this would mean I was following my curiosity more and calculating what I might be good at less. That’s the appeal.
Inspirations: I was listening to the radio on my way to work and heard that they were going to play a short snippet of an interview with the founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely--youngest female billionaire in the US btw--and I sort of internally rolled my eyes and wondered, “do they still even make those?” Then I listened to her and fell in love with her and wondered how it would be to go through life thinking about failure the way she was taught to do. (And she talks about so many other interesting things too—go listen!)

I think this looks like more listening, more groups, more meaningful sharing. At least that’s what it looks like to me.
Inspirations: Though sparked by a speech that was part of the thing I didn’t really want to bring up (the election), this statement by Reverend William Barber at the DNC keeps resurfacing in my awareness and demanding my attention in a way that is both inspiring and almost irritating in it’s persistence:
“The watchword of democracy and faith is we.”
I believe in democracy and faith equally—although my faith is not of religious leaning, I have a deep faith in both humanity and the natural world—and my interest in more “we” is my attempt to ensure that they persist and thrive out in the world.