I’ve never really been big on New Year’s Resolutions.
It’s always felt a bit too similar to starting a diet on a Monday; it leads you to do more of the behavior you want to stop in the lead up (or avoid the one you’re trying to start) and has a tendency to set you up for failure. It’s as if you’re expecting yourself to wake up with a brain transplant on the aforementioned day and suddenly fully commit to doing, or not doing, that thing.
Seems somewhat unrealistic to me.
As with diets gradual changes in habits tend to provide much more long lasting results and have much higher success rates.
Last night I had 3 friends tell me they would be quitting smoking today. I hope they manage it. I doubt they will.
So I’m not going to tell you commit to meditating everyday or to read a book a week or to stop smoking or eating chocolate.
There is one New Year’s Resolution I would urge you to consider however as it holds the key to being happier in life overall and does not set you up for failure like so many resolutions do.
This is a resolution you can actually achieve since it doesn’t rely on you carrying it out, or not in the case of quitting things, every day. And it’s the most important type of resolution there is since it relates to your happiness.
I don’t know many things more important in life that your happiness.
The New Year’s Resolution that will Transform Your Life
The resolution I’m talking about is the resolution to pay attention. To pay attention to the world around you in all its beauty and glory.
People frequently talk about being present in the moment and about practicing gratitude but unless you’re a particularly spiritual person it can all have a tendency to come across as namby pamby bol**cks. Just words people say to make themselves seem more spiritually enlightened than others.
I’m not at all spiritually enlightened but this shit works.
Actually paying attention to our surroundings can make the world of difference, even on the roughest days.
Paying attention to our surroundings can remind us of the beauty there is in the world; of why we’re so unbelievably lucky to be alive.
The beauty is there. It’s all around us. We just have to see it.
That’s why paying attention will have such a large impact on your life and your happiness even though it requires so little effort. All you have to do is look.
Instead of running from one thing to the next, focusing on your destination so blindly you never notice what is going on around you, all you have to do is look around once in a while.
This New Year’s Resolution requires no time commitment each day.
You don’t need to get up 30 minutes earlier each morning to do it or miss out on dinner with your friend because you’re too worried you’ll be tempted by the dessert. All you need to do is live your life in exactly the way you usually would but put your head up once in a while and look around you.
It will take time. You’re not going to suddenly start noticing the beauty in everything right away but the more you look the more you’ll see.
Aldous Huxley (you know the guy that wrote that amazing book A Brave New World) talks, in the Doors of Perceptions (also in-eh-credible), about how he thinks that the reason people see the world with so much clarity and detail and beauty and are mesmerized by the smallest things when they take drugs like mescaline (his favorite but this could be substituted for mushrooms or LSD) is because for once it allows our mind just to look at that thing and not be distracted by our instinct for survival which usually has us looking around for potential threats rather than just at the thing at hand.
I’m not encouraging you to all go do drugs (although you’re all adults, knock yourselves out if that’s what you want to do) my point is actually that you don’t need to. The beauty is always there we’re just not usually paying enough attention to see it.
We’re not looking.
“To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended directly and unconditionally by Mind at Large– this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.”
Aldous Huxley The Doors of Perception
We have no need most of the time now days to be obsessed with our survival in the sense of looking around for a tiger that might maul us to death any second. But instead we’ve become obsessed with our survival in terms of the money we earn and the high powered job we have. That blinds us from stopping and paying attention.
For your New Year’s Resolution, join me in pledging to pay attention.
To help you out I’m going to post a video everyvday for the next 30 days on my YouTube channel of the random beauty I see in the world. In case you’re lacking in inspiration of where to look for the beauty, for now you can borrow off me 😀
I’m going to start with this video, below, as I filmed in back in London in the summer after getting some particularly upsetting medical news.
I was crying just before I took this video.
I love this video as a moment of gratitude and awareness because I was upset and rightly so. I didn’t need perspective on my problem, my problem was real, but I did desperately need something to make me smile and remind me of the wonderfulness of life. I was walking across the bridge in London from Waterloo to Charing Cross. Something I’ve done a thousand times before in my life. And I looked down. I looked down at the murky muddy and disgusting water of the Thames and in amongst that disgustingness I saw this beauty. This water just ebbing and flowing back and forth and it lifted me in a way I can’t even describe. There are so many years in my life where I would have just walked past something like this. I wouldn’t have even noticed it. I would just have seen the sludge colored water and moved on. There may be some of you who are seeing this video thinking the same as well. Who are missing the beauty. If that’s you please just take a minute and look.
Really look. I promise you it’s there.
In amongst the ugliness there is untold beauty.
I can’t think of a better metaphor for life.
It’s not the best quality video, the ones to come will be better but it means the most.
Here’s to your New Year’s Resolution.