Resolutions and the Other 364 Days

2011-year-resolution-400x400As New Years Eve approaches, we take pause and reflect on the year that has passed.

“2013 was a _______  year!” you will say.  Some will reflect fondly on 2013, and others will be happy just to see it tucked away in the records books.  And yet, regardless of your thoughts on 2013, you are already looking forward to the prospect and the promise of the coming year…  As you should.

“This year will be different… better!” you might say.  But will it?  Will this year be the one in which you finally “turn it all around?”  And if so, why is it that the arbitrary date of January one be the moment in which the change will occur?  Were the other 364 days past not worthy of change?  Is there something about the first of the year that grants everyone some sort of yearly reset, in which the past is forgotten and the future is presented with an even greater possibility?  Is there something about the first of the year that grants us more will power, dedication, and determination than we had in the year, month, week, day previous?

My point is this…

Life is meant to be lived… everyday.  Not just one day a year.  Buying in to thinking that January first is any different from May first is a waste of 364 perfectly viable days to make the changes and do the things you’ve always wanted to do in life.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it great that we all share a common goal in the commitment to resolutions on January first.  There is a great power in community.  Yet, after the dust settles from the New Years Eve celebrations, that community, solidified by the resolutions made on the 31st or the first, falls apart as early as the second of the month.  Why?  Because there is no communal sense of accountability to those resolutions.  If you don’t make good on your “promise” to yourself, that’s on you.  The community won’t scold you for it.  It won’t call you out.  It won’t help you see it through, or even check on your progress.

For this reason, although it is a communal thing to make resolutions, and announce them in front of friends and family, or on Facebook and Twitter, have any of us actually been held accountable (beyond ourselves) to see the resolutions through?

And this brings me back to my original point.  Aside from all the “fun” and the “tradition” of making resolutions on the first, any other of the 364 days of a year are suitable to make changes in your life for the better, suitable to be resolute in those changes, and suitable to take the necessary steps to see the changes through on a day to day basis.  After all, change is (usually) not an overnight phenomenon.  It is instead a series of daily affirmations and reinforcements, which become your new “normal” over a period of time.  It only takes a moment to make a resolution, but can take days, months, or even years to see it through.

And sometimes, change cannot wait.  The answer to “when is the right time to take action?  When is the right time to implement positive change in my life?” is always… Now.  There truly is no time like the present.

So here’s to to living life with urgency… everyday.  Here’s to sleeping when we are dead and here’s to having the peace of mind that any day of the year, especially today (whatever calendar day that might be) is exactly the right day to “turn it all around” for the better.

I wish you all a Happy New Year… every single day of it.

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Sonder

 

435387252_640I am in rush hour traffic.  The freeway is backed up in both directions.  I am frustrated.  I need to be somewhere, but I am stuck, barely moving five miles per hour.  And in my mind, I am not stuck with these other drivers, I am stuck because of these other drivers.  As a result, I think to myself,  “What is it that all these people do???  Where are they going?  What are their lives all about?  Is that woman really doing her makeup while driving right now?  Did that dude just pick his nose?  Really?!”

The “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” would lead me to believe that I have just experienced “sonder.”

Sonder

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Quite the definition, right?  What is interesting to me is that what this word does well is defines a departure from ones selfish tendencies.  In order to truly experience sonder, one must step outside of themselves and contemplate the complexities of the story lines available in someone else’s life.  I like the word sonder for this reason.  It encourages me to contemplate my role in this world.  I may simply be an “extra” in someone else’s experience… an experience I will likely never truly nor fully understand.

Where I feel the word falls short, if a word can even do that, is that it fails to describe the motives, the steps, the process necessary to reach and experience sonder.  In other words, it’s a word whose very definition is that of a realization that I am a “small fish in a  big pond.”  But how the experience is reached and why the experience is reached is another story.

I mean, as I was stuck in traffic, I thought about what all those people on the freeway did for a living, what their lives were about.  Were they married, single, kids, working, in school, unemployed, etc?  I was squarely focused on the lives of those around me.  And yet, my thoughts about these people were not out of some genuine selfless interest.  Instead, these thoughts were tied to my own selfish interests, which in turn were tied to my own personal experience and story line.

The experience was not simply, “I wonder what all these people do and what their lives were about?”  Instead, it was, “I wonder what these people do and what their lives were about… because it’s crazy to think how many people are driving on this freeway, interfering with my commute home… consequently effecting my life.”

So, I guess my question becomes, can you actually experience sonder if it comes from your own selfish thinking?  Or, to truly experience sonder, do you need to be as selfless as possible, giving yourself over to the idea that other people’s lives and stories are just as compelling and important as your own?  Can you truly surrender yourself to someone else’s experience and simply be reduced to an “extra” in the background sipping coffee?  Can you willingly be a blur of traffic passing by in someone else’s commute? Will your ego allow it?  Will your primal instinct to survive (if even in just a hypothetical scenario) allow it?  Are you  willing to surrender your identity to serve as the background noise in the lives of others?

At the end of the day, I feel sonder is tightly connected to empathy.  In fact, I would argue that sonder cannot exist without empathy.  Empathy, by definition is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  Therefore, very simply, if we cannot empathize, we cannot possibly experience sonder.

So, tying it all together, and in an attempt to offer some sort of conclusion to this rambling stream of consciousness…  It all comes down to the connection between ego, empathy, and sonder.  We must have the capacity to surrender our ego to a certain degree, in order to empathize with others, which then gives us the ability to experience sonder on the many levels in which the definition suggests the word itself encompasses.

And the best part of all of these mental gymnastics is… sonder is not even a word found in the dictionary (yet?).

Is sonder even a real word?  A real experience?  A real thing?

We can leave that debate for another time…