“Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.” Morgan Freeman
From weight-loss goals to other resolutions, a New Year offers the alluring hope of new beginnings. We usually have a slate of goals and numerous to do lists.
These are all wonderful aspirations. However, if you are like me, you might be weary from the last two years of COVID-19 restrictions. Therefore, the thought of compiling a list of goals, much less completing it, seems burdensome.
In this day and age of over-committed, over-scheduled and generally overwhelmed life, I’d like to offer a radically different approach: This year, instead of rattling off a list of things you have every intention of doing, but will likely not accomplish, why not have a change of mindset?
So, if you’re weary like me from the disappointment of unmet goals and the frustration of disruptive changes COVID-19 has brought to our lives, then the following suggestions might be helpful for your new year.
Let’s first consider how much time we spend being, instead of doing. According to a 2019 New York Post study that surveyed the everyday lives of 2,000 moms and dads, the typical parent has just over 30 minutes a day to themselves once work and parenting duties are tended to.
And with the onset of COVID-19, I would argue these numbers are even less. So, it’s no wonder the average American parent can’t meet the dictates of a New Year’s resolution or weight-loss goal. The stress, in fact, of trying to reach new goals might even add more stress to the average American parent. Instead, why not consider ways you can alter your mindset.
One way to accomplish a new mindset is to imagine what your day might look like if you had moments carved out to stop and just take a deep breath.
Instead of filling your day with something that wasn’t a necessary task, just stop and be. These “spaces of being” are different for each of us. I like to incorporate them into my life first thing in the morning, during my lunch break, during carpool pick up with kids, and in the evening after dinner.
In considering these blocks of time, choose spaces or places that are peaceful and not distracting. For me, these are mainly in nature or in my car without my kids.
If the weather is amenable, I often get up thirty minutes before my girls, get completely ready and walk outside to catch the first rays of morning light. If possible, I walk the 10 yards down to the Mayo River behind my house and just sit in silence. I try to use this as a time to listen and watch for nature to awaken with the sunlight. During these times, there is nothing expected of me. Instead, it’s an opportunity to just sit and inhale morning’s beauty for 10-15 minutes.
Sometimes this will bring a song or hymn to my lips, but I don’t consider that activity, but merely a response to nature’s glory. During lunch, if working from home, I will take another 15 minutes to walk around our pond or sit on my covered patio to listen and watch the natural world.
My days are often spent talking or thinking deeply or strategically, and it’s important for me to stop, take in beauty and just listen to its calming effects. It’s amazing how much these small blocks of time can charge and refuel you, especially if you enter into them with no expectation. And they can serve to make you feel like your available time has expanded through the calm.
In the afternoons, I often leave 10 minutes or so early for carpool, and I cut off my phone and sit in silence to wait in the carpool line. By intentionally allocating this time to silence removing the temptation of my cell phone, I am forced to simply sit quietly in a way that the hubbub of life does not often encourage.
I find that this prepares me mentally and emotionally to focus on my children and to separate my mind from my work.
And finally, in the evening, I try to carve out 30 minutes while my girls are bathing or completing evening chores between around 8:30 p.m.
Achieving this time does take a little preparation and discipline, but I try to give clear direction and expectation for my children and I even set the timer on my oven to let them know when chores and bedtime routines must be completed.
During this respite, I might again step outside if there’s still daylight or read a devotional or listen to a sermon. Of course, this last block of time could differ, based on your faith and interests. But I would encourage you to either use your evening or morning for reading something that offers peace and hope. I find the evening to be better for me, as it provides a more certain and larger block of time in my busy day.
While many might consider these blocks of time difficult to carve out each day, it might help to consider what you choose as your priorities during the day. Then assess the activities remaining and try to either remove or abbreviate some duties so you can achieve three to four times per day to simply be.
I truly believe that once these become part of your life’s routine, the peacefulness you long for will multiply and fuel not only your time, but open the door for more joy to enter.