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Posts tagged ‘New Year’s Resolutions’

2015: Taking Action!

Bing Images

Bing Images

I turned 60 years old the other day.  I do not feel old.  Older?  I vacillate between being appreciative and upset when I am automatically given a senior discount.  I resent the myriad of life insurance coverage and funeral payment plan offers I have been receiving.  Other than those minor irritations, I really do not think about age.  I am just me, doing what I do.  But I am officially retired this year, so that fact is part of the filter with which I will reflect on 2014 and plan for 2015.

Last year was hard.  Dad died in early February.  He was old, ready to go and did not suffer at the end.  He went quickly and even enjoyed his daily piece of chocolate that morning.  The grief was a constant companion throughout the year, but—over time—the memories shifted more and more to just treasuring the good times.  The hard part was the stress and hassle over settling his accounts and all the paperwork involved.  When that finally ended after too many months, I felt a real sense of release, finally.

My goal for last year had been to live in balance throughout the year.  The plan had been to achieve some level of balance in work and play, action and contemplation evenly throughout the year.  But with Dad’s death that did not happen.  However, by the end of the year, I did have some balance—on average.  I traveled some, worked part time some, wrote some, read some, connected with friends and family some.  Overall, even though challenging in many ways, it was a good year.

For 2105, what are my goals and plans?  Rather than specific resolutions, I will once again choose a word as the focus for the year.  I follow Holly Gerth’s Coffee for Your Heart blog.  Her focus this year is faithfulness.  A friend is looking at intentionality.  For me, finding an effective balance in my life (read/write, work/play, solitude/community, nature/society) is still important, but my focus will be on action.  Not the keep busy, do something extreme every day, go for it sort of action of a Nike commercial. What I want is thoughtful, deliberate purposeful action that will enrich my life, lift my spirits.

I begin this year focusing on these five actions.  They cover the basics and will keep me active all year.  But I am sure other activities will surface as well.  Spontaneity and serendipity cannot be planned for, but they can be embraced at every opportunity!

listening womanHillerman landscape1.  Continue reading a lot but make choices to broaden the types of works I read and to also reread some favorites and classics. My sister suggested the 2015 book challenge posted on the Modern Mrs. Darcy’s blog. I’m going to work on that!  I have already picked out Don Quixote as a book to read in translation, even though it is over 900 pages! I am also re-reading Tony Hillerman’s mysteries that follow the efforts of Leaphorn and Chee of the Navajo Police.  His books are a great way to visit New Mexico from a comfy chair in Bakersfield, California.

Lone pIne monterey2.  Get out in Nature on a regular basis, at least about once a month. I took several trips last year and settled into a plan for monthly retreats and want to keep that up all year long. I need the time in Nature to stay calm, reflective, sane, spiritually aware.

3.  Complete projects rather than just plan for them and maybe get started. The first up is sorting through old family photos as I planned to do last year but got sidetracked with all the paperwork and negative fussing surrounding Dad’s death. I’m sure other projects will surface throughout the year as well, but getting the photos reviewed, sorted and scanned is a big undertaking.

4.  Post blogs more consistently. I took too many breaks this past year and then got out of the habit of writing, posting, reading and responding. I value the blogging community and do not want to lose those connections.

journalglimpses of grace5.  Focus on appreciation and gratitude every day. I keep a gratitude list off and on and am quick to say thank you to others, but not on a regular enough basis. This year, I am building the habit of spending time each day reading a devotional as a way to jump start a daily journal entry.  The daily devotional I will be reading is Madeleine L’Engle’s Glimpses of Grace. 

These five actions are enough to get me fully engaged in 2015. They are not resolutions really.  I see resolutions as one-time accomplishments.  These actions will become my daily routines.  I am sure I will do some financial planning as well—I am 60 now after all.    I am looking forward to a great year.

What are your plans to make 2015 a great year?

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“Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen.  Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen. . . yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.”   Bradley Whitford

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”  Confucius

“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.”  Dalai Lama

“Action is the foundational key to all success.”  Pablo Picasso

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”  Goethe

“Never mistake motion for action.”  Hemingway

“There are risks and costs to action.  But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”  John F. Kennedy

“It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.”  Zig Ziglar

“Just remember, you can do anything you set your mind to, but it takes action, perseverance, and facing your fears.”  Gillian Anderson

“Trust only movement.  Life happens at the level of events, not of words.  Trust movement.” Alfred Adler

“We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing.  Action always generates inspiration.  Inspiration seldom generates action.”  Frank Tibolt

“A promise is a cloud; fulfillment is rain.”  Arabian Proverb

“An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.”  Arnold Glasow

“Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.”  Peter Marshall

“Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.”  Walter Anderson

“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold—but so does a hard-boiled egg.”  Anonymous

 “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”  Mark Twain

 “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  James Baldwin

 “Note to self:  Finding a cool quote and writing it in your journal is not a substitute for Getting. It. Done.”  Betsy Canas Garmon

Time to Reflect Makes All the Difference

Einstein was right, but especially about the definition of Insanity“Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 

At this time of year, when many of us are contemplating our goals and plans for 2015, we would do well to try and just not be crazy.  Whatever goal we state—eat less, exercise more, be nicer to people, say “no!” more, put family first, do better about finances—just stating it is not enough.  It helps to be committed to the task, to alert someone about your goal to be held accountable, and to have a game plan that keeps you moving forward.  But even those steps do not guarantee success.

Water LiliesThe best place to start if positive change is really the goal is in the simple meta-cognitive act of reflection.  This ability, in fact, might be one of those uniquely human skills that can help give life meaning.  It is through reflection about actions, behaviors, relationships, situations, beliefs, life itself that we can gain understanding and appreciation and make plans on what needs changing to make things better.


The Oxford English Dictionary offers this definition of reflection, after the more realistic pronouncements about mirrors:  “The process or faculty by which the mind observes and examines its own experiences and emotions” and the more simple “deep and serious thought.”  Its synonyms include remembrance, contemplation, and introspection.

Rodin's The Thinker, photo from Wikepedia

Rodin’s The Thinker, photo from Wikepedia

Robert Mankoff Cartoon, The New Yorker

Robert Mankoff Cartoon, The New Yorker

When trying to imagine reflection or contemplation in action, Rodin’s The Thinker is likely to come to mind.  Or maybe someone strolling alone along a desolate road or sitting on a ledge somewhere staring into space.  But in reality, reflection does not require such solitude and drama. Reflection is enhanced when it is paired with insights, dreams, hopes, awareness and appreciation.


ROSEThe act of reflection is really very simple:  consciously taking the time to look back on the past year, day, event and recognize what was good and what needed changes. Califraven (a terrific blogger I follow) turned this simple meta-cognitive tool into a game called Roses, Buds & Thorns.  As she explains, roses are the best part of the day, buds are things that need to change, and thorns are the worst part of the day.  Simple.

reflection 3This sort of review or reflection is what helps add significance to an experience or a purpose to a new plan of action.  Reflection adds meaning, importance, significance to life.  If we never stop and reflect, all those little things that can mean so much, the people we love, the gratitude we could express, can easily be overlooked in the hustle and bustle of missed appointments and blaring phones and endless hours of mindless diversion.

In the classroom, I try hard to convince my students that reflection is the heart of learning.  It is a meta-cognitive tool that can help students become independent learners.  For example, consider the student who did her best to study for a test but blew it anyway.  As the next test approaches, if she does the same thing again as she studies, she is likely to fail once again.  Instead, she needs to pull out of herself a bit and objectively look at what she did to study the first time and decide where she can make changes.  If she just reviewed the chapters rather than read them, try reading them this time.  You do not change a lot of things for the second time around, just a few.  Then you can track the new results and see what worked.  It’s like a little self-awareness experiment.

reflection 2

If this little introspection exercise can become routine, students can truly become independent learners.  Then this new skill can become a habit that helps add significance and insight into all aspects of life.  Through reflection, it is much easier to look to what needs changing and what needs repeating to make life better.  It starts with questions:  Why was that last vacation so great/terrible?  What made the relationship work or not?  Why did or didn’t I keep last year’s resolutions?  There are a million questions that could be asked.  The point is to stop a minute, look back and even within, and consider and question your past, so you can be more conscious and deliberate about a better future.

On this first day of 2015, as you very likely are planning or sharing your new year’s resolutions, add some reflection to the process along with some imagination and creativity.  A simple way to start is to play the little Roses, Buds & Thorns Game already mentioned.  If nothing else, reflection makes you more aware, which leads to understanding, appreciation, gratitude and then eventually plans to change for the better.

reflection 5

So go ahead, reflect a bit on life and love and all that’s important to you.  It’s not as crazy as it sounds that looking back can help you move forward.  In fact, reflection could help you break whatever you keep doing over and over and over again in your own insane little world that does not quite work.

Happy New Year! 

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Some Quotes to Reflection Upon

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  Kierkegaard

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”  Nietzsche

“Reflect upon your present blessings—of which every many has many—not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”  Dickens

“Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him?”   Bill Watterson

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.”  Yvonne Woon

“I am a writer of books in retrospect.  I talk in order to understand; I teach in order to learn.”  Robert Frost

“Study without reflection is a waste of time; reflection without study is dangerous.”  Confucius

“. . . It is only by reflection that one can assimilate what one has read.  If one reads straight ahead without pondering over it later, what had been read does not take root, but is for the most part lost.”  Schopenhauer

“Reflection must be reserved for solitary; whenever she was alone, she gave way to it as the greatest relief; and not a day went by without a solitary walk, in which she might indulge in all the delight of unpleasant recollections.”  Jane Austen

“A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”  Thoreau

“Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most:  quiet, reflective time. Time to dream, time to contemplate what’s working and what’s not, so that we can make changes for the better.”  Saran Ban Breathnach

“Habit rules the unreflecting herd.”  William Wordsworth

It is necessary. . . for a man to go away by himself. . . to sit on a rock. . . and ask, ‘Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?’”  Carl Sandburg

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.”  Confucius

“It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.”  Cicero

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