The shift from the previous year into the new year creates a convenient break to evaluate our lives and create inspiring New Year’s resolutions to direct them in more meaningful directions. Setting goals is an important part of this process. Goals give us direction for our efforts so that we can contrast our lives–from the beginning to the end of the year–to demonstrate whether or not we’ve grown. At the same time, we shouldn’t lose sight of enjoying the journey, the learning that leads to growth, each day of the year.
The climbing metaphor gives structure to this process. It includes three parts: goals, motivation, and work. Each helps us put our New Year’s resolutions into a helpful context.
First, let’s look at goals. There are two general types of goals that can guide us: self-actualization and transcendence. These come from Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” pyramid. These two goals sit at the top of the pyramid. So let’s look at them to examine how they help guide our New Year’s resolutions.
What is self-actualization? We actualize our potential—we turn our potential into a reality. Self-actualization is like Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey; a solitary venture. We focus narrowly on goals that we’ve identified as personally meaningful. A fundamental shift in being the hero of our journey is welcoming stress as learning opportunities. Welcoming stress shifts our attention to where it needs to be to learn.
What is transcendence? We transcend ourselves, creating new potential in the process. This is like Maureen Murdock’s Heroine’s Journey; a collaborative venture. We expand our focus through relationships. The fundamental shift here is we focus on how to view ourselves in relationships instead of as an individual self. Note that the Hero and Heroine’s journeys are not gender dependent. We take both journeys in our lives.
Both self-actualization and transcendence don’t have a final end state. We can always learn to actualize more of our potential and have deeper understanding as we transcend ourselves in relationships. Thus, these goals are more like directions that move us toward stress so we can learn and grow. Moving steadily in the direction of our goals helps us stick to our New Year’s resolutions. We are the hero that engages stress to seek to learn more about ourselves. We are the heroine that engages in relationships to seek to understand ourselves beyond our individual needs.
Second, let’s look at motivation. At a basic level, motivation needs to move us toward engagement of the stress that we’ll encounter as we work toward our goals. This is central to being warriors: we move toward stressors. At the same time, we seek the easiest way to do this.
We maintain our motivation by holding our New Year’s resolutions in our awareness and do the work that moves us steadily toward them.
Third is work. We relate to work in ways that honor it. We don’t do work because it’s good for us or because we have to do it to achieve our goals. That would distract us from enjoying the journey. We do the work for its own sake. Valuing work this way shifts our attention toward wanting to be in the stressful learning experiences. That helps us enjoy our journey as we move toward our New Year’s resolutions.
A big part of valuing work is our ability to pay attention. Warriors pay attention to work as if it’s their last battle on earth. They give full attention to whatever they’re doing, even the mundane tasks. Warriors know they could die at any moment so they pay full attention to the moment they’re currently living.
Warriors also expect the unexpected and trust in how life unfolds. We can’t know how learning situations will unfold because we’re in the process of learning about them. Unexpected things will occur, which we honor as necessary for our unfolding journey. Trusting how life unfolds–as we self-actualize our potential and transcend ourselves–demonstrates we’re motivated by valuing work.
The three elements of the climbing metaphor integrate to help us achieve our inspiring New Year’s resolutions. Our goals give us direction throughout the year for the kind of life we want to create. We’re motivated to seek the easiest way to move in that direction. We honor the work by doing it for its own sake. Together, the three elements create a structure that guides our process toward something meaningful and helps us enjoy our journey along the way.
Practice tip: A Morning Ritual for New Year’s Resolutions
Apply the climbing metaphor this year by having a morning ritual to set the tone for each day. When you wake up, go outside and tune into the world. Then reflect on the elements of the metaphor:
- Goals: be inspired to grow through the activities you engage in.
- Be the hero this year by actualizing your potential. All you need to do is honor stressors that inevitably occur. For example, rain, disagreements, or unexpected outcomes are stressful and opportunities for learning.
- Be the heroine by transcending yourself. Practice viewing your life as relational. In everything you do, note all the relationships involved to make it happen. For example, rain is related to nourishing the land; disagreements are related to differing views; or unexpected outcomes are related to preconceived ideas you have that conflict with how reality unfolds.
- Motivation: You must want to live as a warrior, to move toward stressors willingly. Move through rain, disagreements, or unexpected outcomes by holding your New Year’s resolutions in your awareness while you find the easiest way to do the work.
- Work: Finally, you do the work for its own sake, not because it’s good for you or because it’ll help you achieve your goals. The important point is knowing where it’s most effective to have your attention focused. Seeing work as a means to an end devalues it. Let the goals guide you and let the work bring joy into your life each day. Process yourself through the work with joy as you deal with rain, work through disagreements, or adapt to unexpected outcomes.