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A Brave New Year

Theodore Roosevelt once remarked that it is far better to “dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”  For me, it’s a fitting quote for the dawn of a new year.  The vast majority of us will have woken up this morning with our new year’s resolutions fixed firmly in our minds.  This will be the year we’ll lose weight, treat our bodies like temples, and take up running, we might tell ourselves.  This will be the year we’ll stop smoking for good, and curb our drinking to two glasses of wine per week, and eschew sweets.  The year we’ll find a more satisfying job, score that promotion, or demand a raise.  The year we’ll organize from top to bottom, and keep our homes in immaculate shape, and never arrive late, and keep our anger at bay.  The year we will improve every aspect of our lives.  This will be the year, we say, that we’ll finally be the perfect versions of ourselves.

We’re all well-aware of how short-lived our best intentions can be.  Come May, and more often than not we realize the spark that initially ignited our convictions has either dwindled or has been extinguished altogether.  Life has a tricky way of interfering, and the fulfillment of one goal often cancels out another: We received the promotion we thought we wanted only to find that the new responsibilities that came along with it have left us with neither the time nor the energy to follow a regular workout regime.  We’ve controlled our anger only to discover that we feel resentful and repressed.  We’ve organized our desks only to learn that we thrive when we’re surrounded by creative messes.  And while all of these resolutions are admirable and require courage, what if we threw resolutions aside and aimed instead, as Roosevelt decreed, to dare?

And so I’m starting out 2014 with a different kind of resolve.  Instead of focusing on the same-old, same-old resolutions that I’ve tried sticking to year after year, I’m going to be bold and daring.  I’m going to dare myself to find the exhilaration I crave.  I’m going to dare myself to discover my true passions.  I’m going to dare myself to be kinder to the planet, to my loved ones, and to myself.

But, first, I’m going to dare myself to focus on what’s standing in the way of my realization of these goals in the first place.  I’m going to be brutally honest about how I spend my days, and challenge myself by ensuring that my actions and activities match my values and aspirations.  I’m going to locate the tasks I do with the littlest of effort, and either alter my approach to them, find a way to handle them with more efficiency, or, if possible, eradicate them entirely.  I’m going to challenge myself to identify the things I pretend to enjoy because I’m told I should, and instead use the resources that went into the pursuit of these things—the time, the money, the mental and physical energy, the spiritual sacrifice—towards interests that offer nourishment and promote growth.  I’m going to challenge myself to identify the people in my life who bring me pain and disappointment, and spend more time with those who share my core beliefs, give me joy, and challenge me in positive ways.  I’m going to dare myself to be open to new relationships, just as I’m going to dare myself to ask for necessary changes in the relationships I do have.  I’m going to challenge myself to listen—truly listen—to my body, whether that means treating myself to crème brûlée one day, swimming laps on another, getting up at 6 am for a yoga class on days I usually sleep in, or going skydiving in the middle of the week because it might offer the clarity I need.  I’m going to challenge myself by asking difficult questions—about life and love and God and the universe—even when I know they’ll provoke discomfort.  I’m going to dare myself to do good deeds without receiving the recognition my ego would in the past require.  I’m going to dare myself to travel to places—literally and metaphorically—that frighten me.  I’m going to challenge myself to be whole in every sense of the word.  Most of all, I’m going to dive right into life without fear of failure.  Because isn’t that what stops us from reaching our resolutions in the first place?

I wish you all a brave start to the new year, and will leave you, now, with this:

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year.  It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.”—G. K. Chesterton

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