Turning the page on a calendar year is a natural time to pause and take stock of your life and think about possibly making some changes for the better. Historically we’ve called these New Year’s resolutions, but there is a movement away from that concept. The problem with resolutions is that they tend to be about eliminating or limiting a bad habit or incorporating or creating a new good habit. That in itself isn’t bad, but when we limit ourselves to adding or subtracting specific actions (especially if they are hard), we are setting ourselves up for failure when we don’t follow through – and then we tend to give up.
The movement away from resolutions focuses on a key word that becomes your intention for the year. It may very well resemble the kinds of things you’d make resolutions about, but it suggests a desire or a general goal to help guide your path. Words like healthy, focus, peace, balance, courage, enough, patience, love, faithful, present, notice, etc. The idea is that you wake up each morning with a clean slate, not worrying about how you did yesterday or whether you can keep it up all year, and you claim your word and declare your intention to do your best to live that word out today. Then tomorrow it starts all over again – kind of like a resurrection. If you’d like to learn more about this concept check out these two websites: myoneword.org or oneword365.com
There is a spiritual practice that is parallel to this. It comes from St. Ignatius and it is called “the examen”. The examen challenges us to pause at the end of each day and prayerfully review our day – not to see where we were good or bad, or where we were holy or not – but to see where we sensed and savoured God’s Presence that day, or not. What were you doing when you noticed God’s Presence? What were you doing when God’s Presence felt absent? After you ponder your day you express gratitude for the times you noticed and you commit yourself to being open to noticing Presence tomorrow, and then you go to sleep. Like the “one word” movement the examen is not about judgment or failure, it’s about intention and awareness. Surely, God is in this place! May 2017 be a year of noticing!