The one question I’m asking before making my resolutions

A friend posted on Facebook that her only resolution was to write “2016” instead of “2015” this year. I had to laugh at that. Personally, I am a ball of contradictions when it comes to the new year. I write about picking just one word for my entire year, while secretly scribbling pages of things I want to change about myself, my family, my home and my life. I join the masses and sign up for a new gym membership – but ignore my friend’s text message about meeting her to work out.

This post-holiday season can be complicated. We’re coming down off the high of celebrations and acts of kindness and year-end donations and, sometimes, more family time than is good for our sanity. And we’re walking smack into the days of new! and better! faster! more! and I’m going to do it right and make it work this year!

It’s all a little exhausting.

And, if I let it, it’s a little discouraging, too, because after the lights go out and the leftovers are eaten and the tinsel gets packed away for next year, the remaining mix of gratitude and generosity, expectations and obligations, ambition and determination can create a heart full of discontent.

January can be rough. But it doesn’t have to be.

This year, before I start getting up early and contributing to a 401K and making freezer meals and DOING ALL THE THINGS that will make 2016 better than 2015, I’m hitting pause and asking one question:

What will I do if nothing changes?

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Because sometimes our best intentions aren’t as strong as our worst habits.
And sometimes our hardest work goes unrewarded or unnoticed.
Our list of resolutions can’t prevent cancer or rejection letters or accidents or layoffs.

And even when we check all the boxes and do all the things, we might find those goals and dreams don’t make us as happy as we anticipated.

Life is unpredictable and it’s impossible to know what the next twelve months will bring. But the one thing I can control, the one thing I can count on, is how I respond no matter how many dreams come true – or not; how many goals I meet – or don’t; how many resolutions I keep – or break.

My friend and co-author Sara wrote about the tension between hoping for the best and being thankful for the reality. Though she suffered from an autoimmune disease that caused incredible pain and left her housebound, Sara continued to face each day with positivity and gratitude. She didn’t give up on life. She made plans but held them loosely, and she made a commitment to choose joy. She didn’t wait for it to come to her – or tell herself that she’d be happy when X,Y, or Z happened. She determined to be thankful and joyful, no matter what life brought her.

It’s not an easy outlook for me to maintain – and I’m not dealing with chronic pain or disease! But as I’ve read Sara’s words over and over, I’ve learned that choosing joy makes all the difference when the unexpected happens, when disappointments come, when dreams are deferred or even broken. I’ve learned that it helps me keep perspective when I compare my everyday to New Year’s Day, when the reality of this year doesn’t exactly line up with the resolutions I made.

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So, as I face another January, another post-holiday season, I’m trying to choose joy the way my friend has taught me. I’m trying to love what I have more than I yearn for what I lack, and be grateful for the good things right in front of me, on both the good days and the bad.

I think our expectations of what we want life to be often overshadow the good things that are already in front of us – and that’s when we miss the silver lining … When my focus is on living the best life I can with what I have in that moment, I always find my silver lining. I’m not expecting the gold I used to have. I’m not looking for the gold that I think I should have. I’m looking at the silver right in front of me and saying thank you every day.

Now, let me just say that sometimes disappointment weighs heavy on me. But in my disappointment, the same rules still apply: I do the best I can with what I have. Is it usually all I want to do? No. But in the end, focusing on the silver lining is what gets me through the day.

I have to remind myself sometimes, but the more I acknowledge that silver lining, the less I notice the gold that’s out of reach.

I’ve stopped trying to adapt between what I want and what I have – and I’ve learned instead to want what I’m given. It doesn’t make the journey easy. But it does make it worthwhile.

(Excerpt from Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts)

As you make plans and set goals for this year, will you commit to choosing joy no matter what 2016 brings?

Have a good day,
again and again.

If you feel in your bones the need to simplify so you can live the life you're meant to live...

↓ This is for you.

10 Comments

  1. Pam

    Yes, I am choosing joy, and I’m also choosing to be brave – to show up for whatever it I. To be wholehearted. All in. Yes, I’m strongly influenced by Brene Brown.

    • Mary Carver

      Pam, I love that! I have a Brene Brown booking sitting next to my bed right now, and I’m looking forward to reading it!

  2. Allison Dey Malacaria

    Perfect question and good for a sit down and long think. It came to this – for me anyway – if nothing changes, would I have chosen to do what I’m doing anyway? Imagining a next Christmas looking back at all this work I’m doing to grow a cottage industry and potentially seeing not enough to justify it, I stepped back in my visioning and instead of working harder, or even working smarter, I am now focusing on working happier: doing the mixed media fiber art I love just for the sheer fun of it and bringing my products down to something so simple and so enjoyable that at the end of the year it won’t be possible for nothing to have changed, because I will have changed. I will have given and received more enrichment and joy in living. Thanks so much for the opportunity to reflect.

    • Mary Carver

      Working happier – Allison, I love that so much!

    • Denise

      Thanks, Allison, that is a great way of looking at things, especially so as I’m working on letting God lead me out in being creative again!

  3. Amie

    Absolutely. I’ve been thinking about this as there’s a lot up in the air for me headed into 2016.

    “She made plans but held them loosely.” I love that. There’s so much wisdom there!

    • Mary Carver

      I’m a type a gal who does not like “up in the air” one bit. But those seasons are inevitable, so stuff like this helps me cope better. I hope it helps you, too, Amie!

  4. June

    Yes! This is such a wonderful message! Coincidentally my word for the year is JOY. So I was happy to listen to the latest Simple Show and its message of choosing joy… and then read this article! PS. I wish you the best on the book release.

    • Mary Carver

      June, thanks so much for your kind words. JOY is a great word for 2016! 🙂

  5. Denise

    Mary, Thank you so much – I’ve been struggling a little bit this year, trying to decipher out a “plan” – one of the words I keep hearing this January. I’m looking forward to mulling things over from this new perspective! Thank you again, and I look forward to continuing to being blessed by your writings!

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