The beginning of a new year always comes with a certain amount of pressure to come up with goals, resolutions, plans, intentions or bucket lists.
All of these things have one thing in common – they emerge out of a particular view of the world that says “I must be in charge. I must figure things out. I must accomplish success. I will be a failure if I don’t get stuff done. I need to have a vision for my life. I… I… I…”
It all feels like far too much weight on my shoulders. I don’t want to be responsible for figuring the world out. I don’t want to beat myself up if things fall apart of if I fail to get things “right”. I’m looking for more ease and less struggle in my life. I want to do more thriving and less striving.
I invite you to consider changing your mindset this year from planning and goal-setting to inquiry and surrender.
It’s a complete paradigm shift. Instead of needing to direct the future, we begin to invite the future. Instead of setting ourselves up for failure, we welcome surprise. Instead of needing to be in charge, we shift into a place of trust. Instead of being rigid, we become resilient.
A dozen years ago, I was at the height of my career. I was in a director-level position in the Federal government, I was making very good money, I had a lot of responsibilities, and I was respected for my knowledge and abilities. I’d gotten really good at goal-setting, directing, and planning. In addition, I had a stable marriage and two beautiful little daughters. From an external point of view, I had it all figured out. I was in charge of my destiny.
And then, suddenly, it all came to a grinding halt. A surprise pregnancy caught me completely off-guard, and then, half-way through, the pregnancy was put at risk and I found myself flat on my back in a hospital bed. I was told that I couldn’t leave the hospital bed until the baby was born.
If I wanted the baby to have a chance at survival, I had to surrender. I couldn’t direct my staff, I couldn’t do any planning, and I couldn’t even manage my household. Poof. Just like that I had to give up the control I was fooling myself into believing I had.
Surprisingly, that experience has been the greatest teacher in my life. After a few nights of agony – including one night in which I felt like I was Jacob wrestling with the angel – I let go. I started keeping a gratitude journal and instead of trying to plan my life, I opened myself up to what was coming my way.
My baby didn’t survive, but my life was changed. It became very clear to me in my time in the hospital that all of my striving and goal-setting was taking me down a path that was not my own. Not long after that, I quit my government job and followed my passion into non-profit and finally into self-employment. Instead of trying to control my destiny, I learned to follow my curiosity, sit in inquiry into what my heart really longed for, and surrender to the mystery and my Higher Power.
Now I face ever new year the same way – inquiring into the deep Spirit-led longing in my heart and then doing my best to surrender to it.. It’s a much more peaceful and authentic way to start the year. I don’t have to be in charge. I don’t have to pretend that I have any control over what’s around the bend. Instead of worrying about failure, I can let life’s experiences be my teacher. This new mindset has lead me into immense growth in my life, has helped me survive the death of both of my parents, and has gifted me with many beautiful surprises. Every time my life has taken an unexpected turn, I can welcome the learning and accept the fact that I don’t have to control the outcome.
Inquiry and surrender may sound like passive words, but they’re far from it. When we open ourselves up to a force that is greater than us, we have to risk greatly and trust dangerously. When we inquire into our deepest heart’s longing, we have to be prepared to act in courageous and passionate ways.
This year, my time of inquiry took place just before Christmas at a 2-day personal soul-care retreat. Playing with magazine images, I let an image emerge in front of me that completely surprised me. Though I’ve always considered myself a wanderer and adventurer, and almost every soul-collage I’ve ever made has been about grand adventures and a big life, what emerged instead was a picture of home and the words “my heart longs for home”. I knew immediately what my word for 2013 would be. Home. My heart needs to feel rooted and safe this year, and home is where it will start.
If, instead of sitting quietly in an art room at a retreat centre, I had tried to wrangle my thoughts into some kind of resolution or annual plan, I would have completely missed my heart’s longing and I would have spent 2013 in dissatisfied striving. In the words of Caroline Myss, I would have missed my Sacred Contract and been untrue to myself.
Give your heart what it longs for in 2013. Sit quietly in inquiry and be prepared to surrender to a mystery that is much greater than your small plans or resolutions.