Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Goals: An Outline for Being a Better Person

The first day of the year is the best time to make promises to myself (that I probably can't keep) because I believe on some level I can start over each year on Jan. 1. There's hope, energy and recognition on New Year's Day, I think, because we're conditioned to think that way and so we make "resolutions," something just short of a promise and more akin to a nice dream.

I think that for 2014--a year of no special significance to me--I'll change course a bit and set out 10 reachable goals that could make me a better person in a world where that's increasingly difficult.

Herewith, the list. I'll look back June 1 and see if any of them is still meaningful.

1. Put the ego in a place where it is of value and not detriment. Mine gets out of hand and causes problems when it's not making life better. An ego is a delicate little organ that can give us will, courage and vision or it can transform us into small, insecure, spiteful and defensive nutjobs. I've seen both sides of it in the past few weeks and I want to keep one, toss the other.

2. Listen when people are talking. I often tend toward formulating a response, then interrupting, believing that if I don't answer quickly, the response will be gone forever. I must begin to realize that when I have heard an entire thought from another person, I can begin my response. That's not just respectful and thoughtful, it is often endearing. I often have much more interest in hearing my response than listening to the thought and I need to stop that. I heard a psychologist say that we hear 25 percent of the words aimed at us in any conversation. I'd like to triple that.

3. Improve my health on a daily basis. That means doing something uncomfortable at least once a day for 365 days. It could be pushing back from the table before I've had all I want or cooking less to begin with. It may mean doing five more leg-lifts, swimming another lap, walking one more mile, being completely honest with my primary care physician (I'm in love with Dr. Renee Bierne). It can mean examining my thoughts and actions for ulterior--and unhealthy--motives, then admitting them and repairing what's amiss.

4. Involving myself in routine maintenance. That could be painting a door or a chair, tightening a screw or bolt, mowing the lawn or raking leaves, reviewing my deck supports, tuning up my truck, being certain I am kind and thoughtful to those I love (and those I don't), reading something new that I don't necessarily agree with, writing something of value every day.

5. Talking to people whose philosophies are different from mine and trying to understand why they believe what they believe. That means pushing for an answer sometimes and not accepting, "Because that's what I believe" as an answer. A dear friend once explained her support of George Bush by saying, "I just like him. I don't have to have a reason."

6. Giving something I value to somebody else--on a regular basis--without any strings. That could be my time, my understanding of something, my advice (only when requested), my favorite recipe, my money (though never as a loan), my help with a project, a reference, an introduction of value.

7. Finish at least one major project. It could be one of the three books I'm working on at the moment, an overhaul of my basement or second floor, the installation of a second bathroom, thinning out my closets, and a new mindset on buying more stuff.

8. Lose my hesitation about travel and go somewhere cool. I don't know where that reticence came from because when I travel, I enjoy it. The problem is getting off my fat ass and on the road. I want to do something fun in Spain, maybe a hike or a Eurorail ride for a few days. I want more three-day weekends outside town just for the hell of it. And I'll have to make myself do it. Cocoons are for butterflies.

9. Be kind and thoughtful to somebody who doesn't expect it and recognize that each of those people wants to be recognized in some small way. It's easy to do. "You have lovely eyes," can make somebody's day and cost me nothing at all. Telling the guy who has just drawn a soft ice cream for me at McDonald's that "you do that better than anybody I've seen" is such a small thing, but he'll value it. Examine what makes me feel good and give that out like candy at a Christmas parade.

10. Be a better friend, a better person, a better journalist, a better listener. See No. 1 for details.


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