While many of us have moved away from New Year resolutions, we should still set challenging goals for the short-time future and the longer-term future. We can build those goals from our values, interests, curiosity and wonder.
Certainly, there may be other considerations you want to add to your list but consider this journal entry as beginning a conversation about what is next for you.
My goals are very simply three.
First, I want to affirm us.
We made it through a year, which has been exceedingly difficult for many and challenging for all. You may feel a little beat up, pushed down, run over, ignored, stretched or stressed, but the good news is you made it through the year.
Second, I hope we will see we can do so much when we are willing to realize we are responsible for what happens next in our lives.
People who have been victimized suffer terrible things. However, don’t allow the trauma to make you feel powerless or unable to change yourself, your circumstances or your relationships. I believe such personal responsibility is one significant aspect of hope.
Third, let me push, nudge and encourage you to see this coming year differently than the experiences of this past year.
In 2021, we will still live in an imperfect world, and we will still be battling COVID-19 but with new vaccines and protocols to throw at this virus. Beyond the virus, we have our lives to reclaim, perhaps to adjust in light of what we have learned this past year and move forward hopefully together as communities and a culture.
So, to get started, take some time to get alone, without distractions, to pray, think and imagine.
What has this last year taught you about your values? Who are you in light of this last year? In what ways have your values been challenged, morphed or changed?
In my world, values are the core of personhood. Who are you now? Where in your values did you discover an absence, a shallowness, a realization you might need help to move forward?
All of those observations are valid and actionable.
How have your interests changed over this last year? When COVID-19 locked so many down, leaving millions working from home and millions out of work, what did you do next?
Did you take the time to find a new interest? Did you finally take up the challenge of a do-it-yourself project? Or did you pick up a bad or destructive habit, which needs to be addressed in a positive way?
Curiosity is a gift from God. It is not just the domain of science, astronomy, research, technological breakthroughs; it is an essential component of what it means to be human.
We have been placed in this world in which we can spend a lifetime exploring or educating ourselves about, but only if we are curious. Curiosity helps us see a complexity within us, around us, above us and below us.
Curiosity can lead us to wonder, which grounds us in gratitude – the passion to see what we see with different or fresh eyes and, in some ways, to take on a virtue of childhood often lost in the hustle and bustle of hectic living.
Some years ago, when our family lived in a two-story parsonage, we would go cut a tree to decorate in the “den,” which was almost two stories tall. We would get a tall tree, and then enjoy decorating it to our personal liking.
The youngest child in a family that visited us saw the tree and, with eyes wide open, said, “This is like those trees in the mall.” The awe and wonder were obvious and contagious. I never looked at that tree quite the same.
We are invited to wonder when we see one of God’s more interesting creatures. Some are powerful and dangerous, some are huge and lumbering, some are whimsical almost causing the person to smile or even laugh.
Living in a world of such variety in landscape, topography, climate and seasons means that wherever we travel, whatever we see will be mildly different or remarkably different. That is just the beginning.
Listen to this list of species, which inhabit our planet: 33,600 different species of fish; 391,000 species of plants of which 369,000 flower; 18,000 species of birds; 8.7 million species of animals; and 900,000 species of insects. We will never see all God has created and placed in this world.
When we move from nature to what humankind has created when we were (and are) at our best, we cannot help but express wonder.
So, as we dig out from a difficult year, what values do you want to lean into more, to deepen your understanding about? What interests have you taken up or wanted to take up? Make a list, however short it is.
What are you finding more curiosity about? Has this season sent you back to studying history, reading literature or studying politics?
Have you found yourself more immersed in a good coping skill or habit? Some of the most recent research shows it takes about 66 days to learn or integrate a new habit. Have the pandemic mitigation efforts let you practice a new, healthy habit?
Finally, consider do you plan to bring wonder into your life on a more regular basis? What would that look like for you?
Think about the unlived year ahead. Make some plans, set some goals, allow yourself to indulge your curiosity and be sure and remember to expose your life to wonder.
Wash your hands, wear your mask for others, mind the gap and be kind.
A private practice counselor working with veterans and survivors of trauma. Previously, Chancellor served four churches in Texas for 33 years, then ran a Mental Health Department of Alan B. Polunsky Maximum Security prison which houses death row.