“Only 359 days left in 2020” said a colleague of mine “tongue in cheek” in a recent meeting. At the time, we were discussing the opportunities a new year offers as well as lamenting the feeling of “starting over”.
The conversation reminded me of a classic blog written by Seth Godin titled Day Trading. In it, he suggests that part of what makes life challenging is that we all “day trade” in intangibles like desire for approval, need for achievement, and perfectionism. He goes on to say, “When [what you trade in] is up, you think you’re brilliant, that you somehow had something to do with it. When it’s down, the world is about to implode.” Pema Chodron makes the same point more starkly in her book Start Where You Are: “We will fall flat on our faces again and again, we will continue to feel inadequate, and we can use these experiences to wake up…”
The point is, 2020 will not go the way you expect it to and likely will have its ups and downs. There will be surprises you will react to as “positive” and others you will respond to as frightening or disappointing or frustrating. In Buddhist psychology, the way to reduce suffering is to learn to view surprises not as good or bad. The objective instead is to feel your feelings about surprises (or other circumstances) without judging them as positive or negative. In this way, you can remain open to whatever is occurring and move towards challenging situations with curiosity rather than being self-critical (or critical of others).
Seth Godin’s blog finishes with what I think is great wisdom for starting a new year (paraphrasing) – “ will be volatile with or without your help. Better to set it aside and get back to the real work of making a difference instead.” In other words, focus on what you have some control over (your emotions and behavior) and don’t spend time trying to control what you can’t (life’s volatility).
If all this sounds mysterious or challenging (which it kind of is!), send me an email. I’m happy to discuss further! And best wishes for a new year filled with opportunities to remain open and curious!