January again. A fresh start. Or at least that may be what you told yourself on January 1. Perhaps you even made some resolutions, deciding this would be the year you lost that extra 10 pounds or wrote that novel.
And, perhaps, as we move into February, something has shifted.
If you are like most people, adherence to your resolutions has begun to wane and wither. Something inside the brain encourages us to seek improvement, to move toward a future ideal. But if your motive is off, youre doomed to fail, and perhaps, in this case, failure is not a bad thing. In my experience, motivation originating from the outside (e.g. gaining approval, fulfilling expectations) has little staying power. I believe this is because these goals are based in self-will. There is an inherent, if subconscious, sense of isolation the moment we perceive the outside, so any fix arising from outside motivation is temporary. To illustrate, how many times have you attended a motivational seminar and then, the next day, resumed your customary slump in front of the TV?
I prefer inspiration. While motivation alludes to being moved by an outside force, inspiration means to take in spirit. When you take in the spirit of an idea, it breathes you, and you naturally act in accordance with its fulfillment. Motivation is based on gain; inspiration is based on truth, on eternal human values such as service, integrity and kindness.
How does one find inspiration? Slow down. Breathe. Spend un-timed moments with Nature. And listen to the children. Below is a piece my 16-year-old son wrote for school. In it he shares a path we can all follow.
A DAY AWAY
New Years. A day set aside to prepare oneself for the oncoming 365, with promises of a better you. It seems everyone's dead set on saying they'll improve, but for the wrong reasons; more often than not people want more success, more money, the acknowledgment of others, or some other outside validation instead of the betterment of themselves. I want something real. So in nature I sat, away from the distractions and lights of the city with car horns replaced by songbirds and smog cleared by a cool breeze. The wind, much like a human, is ever changing, but, unlike humans, it knows it has nowhere to be, so it simply lets the world take it where it needs to go. I'm not like that, much as I wish I were. However, I try not to think about how imperfect I am. When I'm forced to reflect, I realize that most of the time I avoid looking inside myself to see what about me has changed, because not all of my self-adjustments are for the better. I, like the general populace, promise myself I'll improve: new year, new me and all that. But here I am, another January, another inevitable set of broken resolutions.
My first thought is a question: Why do I continue to do this to myself? If I know I'm going to break whatever self-improvement promise I make, why bother? The broken promise will only breed distrust and, if I can't trust myself, how can I trust anyone? So this year, Im doing things differently. The changes are small. No, I won't vow to work out everyday, and no, I won't commit to the straight As everyone tells me I can achieve. I don't want to promise the stars; the fall is too great. I will, however, cherish each day and stop and smell the roses once in awhile.
As I sat outside contemplating this assignment, to take a day in nature and assess my life, I watched the birds around me tweet and chirp without a care in the world. Great as our brains may be, the fact that we, as a race, get hung up over the smallest of details instead of appreciating the simple beauty around us, makes us inferior to these worry-free creatures. What value is a vast intellect when we use it to fret or to over-think? The simplest of minds can easily be the greatest; it's all about the application. My dog, Shiloh, is a perfect example. His brain may be small, and he may chase a tennis ball that never left my hand, but he's more than content with his life, which consists of little more than eating, sleeping, running, and unconditional loving. Is that the key to happiness? I dont know, but it certainly suits him. Nature, as far as I see it, is just earth, sans humans. We feel the need to be the best, and so we continually expand our rule over all locations and aspects of the world. That isn't how it has to be, or should be.
As I prepared to go back in and type this up at my computer, I began to feel less euphoric; imagining the lack of wilderness around me almost makes me feel trapped. The industrialization of the world in which I live every day of my life has become too great, yet I dont realize it unless I take a step back and get away from it all. Too much concrete, not enough dirt; too much distraction with so few moments of pure, uninterrupted silence. Somehow the odor of a car's exhaust has become natural, and that of a chrysanthemum is alien to my nose. Do they even have a scent? I dont know.
So here's my New Years resolution for 2014: I'm planting a flower. Easily accomplished, and an actual contribution to the world. What could be better?
After my decision, I began the trek home, stopping for the first time in ages, to catch the scent of a marigold as I passed by. If there's a fragrance that smells more like the vibrant color orange than the petals I held to my face, I challenge anyone to find it. It really is the little things in life.
Sage Knight is a local ghostwriter, editor and speaker. She welcomes your comments at www.SageKnight.com.
Eamon Shea is a high school musician, and can be reached at Shea.Eamon@gmail.com.