Endings and Beginnings: Lessons and Possibilities (Part 1: Most Important Lessons)
The end of the year is usually one of the best times to pause and reflect on what worked, what went well, the challenges we faced, and what went wrong.
As we say goodbye to the past year, we also welcome a new year with a promising new beginning, and all the possibilities that come with it.
Personally, 2014 has been a good year. There were lots of teachable moments and experiences. The following are the highlights I’d like to share with you. I hope you find them useful as you look into the past year and move forward.
These are the top three lessons I’ve learned this year.
1- Surrender is the way to inner freedom
One of the main highlights for me this year was a focus on letting go and surrendering in many areas of my life. I chose to let go of past grievances and pain. I let go of some of the projects I was holding on to for too long without doing anything.
I also let go (to some degree) of wanting approval and validation. It’s still a work in progress.
Letting go of resisting what I was feeling was the biggest thing I’ve learned. I’ve practiced allowing the feelings to be, noticing any rejection or judgment of the feelings (resistance) and focusing on the physical sensations (over and over) till they subsided on their own.
I also let go of wanting to control others and accepted them as they are. And I felt much better about my relationship with my family. I learned to trust that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have and from their own perspective, not mine.
I started the practice last year, but this year I did it consistently, almost on a daily basis.
Because of letting go and surrendering to life as it is, I’ve been feeling lighter and more at ease. This is not an accomplishment for me. It’s not something that I’ve achieved. I look at it as an essential part of life (like breathing) that I intend to do for the rest of my life.
Some situations did not change for me, but I’ll continue letting go anyway. Surrender and letting go are more beneficial and empowering than reverting back to our old ways that only compound the pain.
Surrender and letting go of built-up emotions and pain, limiting beliefs, resentments, expectations, and demands will lead to freedom to be who you are, for life to be what it is, and for others to be who they are.
2- Too much of a good thing
I have been tracking a lot of my activities for a few years. Every year I add a couple of things to my list. Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I realize that not all of my tracking is useful. I got carried away with tracking and I created more work for myself without much added benefit. Here is how it went.
Some of the useful things that I’ve tracked were calories and food consumed, exercise, meditation time, and music practice. In these situations the tracking helped with motivation and analysis.
Other things that I tracked that were not of particular help included time spent on entertainment, Internet surfing, reading, or cleaning. The tracking did not motivate me to do better, or modify the behavior. I knew from previous years which activities I was spending too much time on, and which ones I wasn’t doing enough of. In these situations, I felt discouraged and guilty.
This is not to say that tracking doesn’t work. It does. Tracking is a great tool for gaining insight about our behavior. If, however, the tracked behaviors are not modified after a while, tracking them is useless, counterproductive, and possibly harmful.
In these cases, it’s best to find other ways to motivate the change rather than tracking.
Also as I kept tracking time spent, I became obsessed with how long any activity was taking me. I used a timer for almost everything. And over time, it felt like I was racing against the clock. Again this wasn’t motivating; it was painful and exhausting. So moving forward I’ll track only the very few things that are really important.
The lesson is: excess works both ways—with good, or not so good actions and habits. We need to stop and evaluate every now and then, and decide if it’s more helpful to discontinue an action or habit than stubbornly (or fearfully) doing it for no good reason.
3- The wisdom of silence and patience
In my attempt to help others, and admittedly to be appreciated for the help, I said some things that created situations that were not helpful to me or the other person. It would’ve been better for me to remain quiet, until I had better understanding, instead of jumping in with my thoughts and opinions.
Not rushing to respond can be a great tool in clarifying a situation. While wanting to help others is a great motivation, sometimes it’s a mask for deeper unconscious motives of wanting to control the conversation, or wanting to feel like the hero saving the day (i.e. validation)—both are not helpful.
Observing the situation quietly and patiently can be more helpful than rushing with responses and answers. If you’re in doubt, choose to be silent and trust that things will work out the best way possible for everyone involved.
The above three lessons will guide my action in the upcoming year. Please take some time to reflect on your experiences, and use the lessons learned to grow into more of who you are.
If you’re interested in gaining more insight, check out this article. My friend Sandra has created a list of great questions that will guide you as you reflect on your year.
Got time? Check out articles from previous years for more reflections and lessons.
- 2013 - 13 Life Lessons from Investing in Stocks
- 2012 - Reflections on Distractions and Focus
- 2011 - Looking Back to Move Forward
- 2010 - A Year of Connection and Gratitude
Hope you had a wonderful year. I’ll see you in about a week with a few ideas for the New Year.