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The Pursuit of Happiness

January '08

This time of year I read all kinds advice on making resolutions for the New Year. I cannot help but notice how contradictory this guidance can be. While one person suggests, “Don’t Set Any Goals for the Year Ahead,” another proposes, “The Best Ways to Set Goals for the New Year.” Such incongruity suggests that forming intentions for the coming year should be an individual matter.

One of the approaches I particularly liked was Dr. Andrew Weil’s, “Small Changes Add Up” methodology, where he advocates taking “small realistic steps” instead of making big annual promises. One health-reward step he proposed was “Go to sleep and wake up 10 minutes earlier.”

Now this recommendation sounded simple, doable and, indeed, small, so I decided to try it. All went well for a few days. I loved waking up earlier than usual and it was easy to hit the sack, even as much as a half an hour earlier. That is, until I added a 15-minute, before bedtime meditation to my start-the-year-off-well routine. I’m still meditating in the evening, but the 10 minutes earlier-to-bed resolution has evaporated.

I still haven’t given up on my resolve to go to bed earlier, but I’ve decided it is more beneficial for me, right now, to focus on the evening meditation. I’m pretty gentle with myself about all of this — a practice I’ve learned from my work as a Life Coach.

My clients often discover which enterprises are most rewarding through a trial and error approach. When a client hasn’t met a goal she set out to attain, we determine what got in the way. Sometimes it turns out the interference has actually contributed more to her forward motion than the initial goal — as was the case with my evening meditation and my earlier-to-bed ambition.

Feeling guilty about what was not achieved is never a part of this process. Mostly because beating ourselves up about what we don’t accomplish is a tremendous waste of energy and, realistically, we cannot be automatons about meeting the goals we develop for ourselves. Life changes every day, so do we, and so do our desires.

If you’re formulating objectives for the coming year, you may want to adopt Dr. Andrew Weil’s notion that “tiny tweaks reap big rewards.” Whatever method you chose, go easy on yourself. Life is for living, or to quote the French poet, Guillaume Apollinaire, Now and then in our pursuit of happiness, it’s good to pause and just be happy!

Happy New Year,

Bonnie Leonard EdD, CLC