Where Do We Go From Here?

(Read in :05)“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been”~ Rainer Maria Rilke

The calendar page is about to turn to a new year. Can you picture the cartoon figure of crippled Old Father Time with his long white beard, hourglass, and scythe? In most illustrations, a smiling baby wearing only a diaper and top hat is ushering him out. Out with the old, in with the new! To heck with Auld Lang Syne, let’s get on with it! From what I see on social media, many of us are all too happy to see 2016 go away! But where do we go from here?

Every time the calendar turns over to a new year, people scramble enthusiastically aboard the “self-improvement” bandwagon, anxious to make positive changes. It’s only human. A fresh unspoiled new year looks like a great place to start. We’re red hot to get rich/skinny/organized! Impulsively, we set a whole bunch of goals before giving any of it much thought.

The odds are ever (not) in our favor

According to Forbes magazine, 40% of Americans still make New Year’s resolutions. But the fact is that most New Year’s resolutions wash out before the next payday. Of the resolution-makers, only 8% achieve their goals. Less than one in ten! I hope knowing the majority of other folks fail makes you feel better somehow. (It does me- in a weird, selfish sort of way.)

Goals are a great way to move in the direction of positive change. However, our goals must be attached to things that deeply matter for lasting results to be achieved. So, a better first step is to learn your “why”. Once you do, you can begin to set goals that will take you in that direction. I know. It sounds kind of slow and hard. And frankly, it does start out a teeny bit slow but that actually makes it easier in the long run, honest. Listen up. It’s critical to know why you want to make a change.

A new New Year’s Resolution

I watched a TED talk a second time recently. I got fired up and I was re-inspired (is that a word?) The presenter is Guy Winch, a Swedish American psychologist. He gives a powerful talk that’s packed with good stuff. Bonus: It’s delivered with subtle humor and his delightful dry wit. Over four and a half million people have watched the video which should tell you something! Here’s the  link if you have 17 minutes or so to invest in learning. I believe it’s well worth it!

Dr. Winch suggests that we spend enormous amounts of time and effort on our physical body and appearance. On the other hand, to a large extent, we sadly neglect our emotional health and well-being. Think about all the common resolutions. Lose 20 pounds. Stop smoking. Quit drinking. Start working out an hour a day. All are noble aspirations!

That’s all great but emotional issues like loneliness, rejection, failure, and poor self-esteem are often ignored and there are solid steps we can take to improve that critical part of our life! He urges us to take care of our emotions with the same diligence we take care of our bodies! And I strongly encourage you to consider implementing some positive activities you can do to address what he calls “emotional hygiene.”

Three easy steps you can take right now

How do we do that, you ask? Happiness researchers all agree on certain specific actions that can help us improve our emotional well-being quickly and with effects that last far longer than medication. There are lots of them but here are just three of the most helpful activities.

  1. Keep some sort of gratitude journal or written list. At the end of each day write down three things for which you are grateful. Don’t worry about the right notebook to use! Heck, index cards would work just fine but write them down. That’s easy, right? A sunny day, a good bowl of soup, a compliment you received? You’ll find it hard to stop at three when you start practicing this little ritual.
  2. Practice random acts of kindness. Every day, try to do a small kindness for someone without calling attention to it. This could be as simple as sweeping snow off a co-worker’s windshield when you do your own. It simply feels good. And, it creates a little hit of dopamine in your system that makes you want to do it again! Dopamine is a natural feel-good chemical produced by our brain.
  3. Meditate or exercise mindfulness. My awesome speaker friend Pat McGill calls this “practicing the sacred pause.” Twice a day, for as little as 3-5 minutes, close your eyes, relax your body and intentionally slow down your thoughts and the “monkey mind” chatter that runs in our minds continually. This takes some practice but pays enormous dividends.

I want your feedback, please!

Now there is a list of resolutions you might never have thought of! I can almost guarantee if you stick with them even if it’s just for the month of January, you’ll begin to feel your mood lighten. Furthermore, our emotional well-being is essential to physical well-being! Double the benefits! Try moving these simple resolutions to the top of your list, stand back and watch what happens!

Oh, and one more thing. Stick with it for awhile and then please let me know what you experience!  If I write and you don’t tell me what you think, all I hear are crickets! There’s no ping to my pong, no Marco to my Polo! I need your input to make what I do useful to you! It’s your turn now. Thank you!

I’m sending you wishes for a New Year full of riches! I hope you have peace, joy, and love! And more than anything else, I hope that you grow closer every day to the very best version of the person you were designed to be! See you in 2017!

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.'”~ Alfred Lord Tennyson


    • Betty Streff

      Thank you! Let’s!! I’m in!
      And for Pete’s sake let’s find a time to get together!! Happy New Year!

  • Mark Frederiksen

    I’m going to start with the gratitude journal as a great way to relfect on the day. I’ll also perform a random act of kindness because I know this becomes easier with practice! Today I swept up the leaves from my condo neighbor’s entrance

    • Betty Streff

      Great way to begin, Mark! I sincerely appreciate that you took the time to comment! Feedback is oxygen to a writer! Happy New Year!

  • Grant

    Betty. Thanks for your writing. I am often humbled by your persistence.
    My wife and I do a grateful book almost every morning. That usually takes place about 5:30 a.m. but has been later this week due to the holidays. Whenever we get so rushed that we don’t do our grateful book it is a mistake and the day and our relationship suffers because of the omission. We write down two things we are grateful for, one thank you to each other, and one “gift of the day” for the previous day. Sometimes it is hardest to come up with the “gift of the day” and sometimes it is the easiest of the grateful statements. Today both of us are grateful that our friends from Lincoln are coming out on Sunday. They are the couple who are mourning the loss of their 25 year old autistic son who died from cancer this fall. Larry was a special friend for me during the last part of my undergraduate years. We have not been in much contact for a long time and now we are having a chance to reconnect and create meaning from our history and our present. On another subject, I do know it is hard for you when there aren’t any comments and I sometimes don’t read your blog as quickly as I should. Please know, however, that each of your blog posts bring a special moment and the depth of your knowledge and the clarity of your writing is always refreshing to experience. I’m sure there are many others who read this and have a similar respect for your efforts. Thanks again for your blog. Doc Newbold.

    • Betty Streff

      Thank you for the kind words! I am redoubling my efforts to grow our readership now that my mother is out of her most critical health issues. I do plan to vigorously work toward taking the message into a broader arena by speaking and I am actively looking for venues and engagements. I have come too far to only come this far. Thanks for all you have done to provide a platform.

Leave a Comment or Question