Every New Year most people talk of resolutions. Unfortunately, most of the talk is about how resolutions don’t work and end up causing more frustration and discouragement than any type of help. The thing is, I’m fairly certain that unless we focus on what we do want and what’s important to us, we likely end up with a year that looks similar to the one before, or worse, one that is significantly less fulfilling. In fact, without such clarity we’re like a person starting out on a journey with no purpose or destination in mind, or an airplane taking off without navigation. So rather than eliminate resolutions altogether, I came up with a new W.A.I (Welcome-Accept-Intentions) of looking at hopes and dreams for the coming year so that we may be better able to enjoy the journey for the next 365 days.
The first letter of my new W.A.I. is the “W” which stands for “Welcoming.” I first learned of this idea from a friend, author and workshop leader named Mandy Evans. Several years ago Mandy invited Thom and I to her house for a New Year’s Brunch. After spending time sharing great food and conversation, Mandy asked, “Would you all be willing to do an exercise?” We all agreed and this is what she asked us to do.
Mandy directed us to take a pen and paper and start writing down, “I welcome in 2013 ________________________”. It was, and is, a different way of thinking what you want to experience in the days ahead. She didn’t ask us, “What do you want?” Instead, she made the distinction, “What are you willing to welcome?” If I remember correctly, a large focus of what Mandy hoped to inspire in each of us was the awareness of who we were and what was of prime importance to us at that time in our lives. It wasn’t about getting stuff, or achieving goals, or even making plans for the year ahead. Instead, it was an excellent reminder that what we think about, we bring about. Or as the Buddha said, “What we dwell upon we become.”
The next letter in W.A.I. is the “A” and evolved out of that New Year’s Day so many years ago. Beyond using the “W” for “Welcome,” I decided that the word “Accept” added something essential to the equation. Every year on New Year’s Day or as soon as possible, I sit down and write out a list of things or experiences that I want to “Accept” in my life in the coming year.
The reason that I believe “Accept” is such a powerful word is because so few of us actually know what it is that we want and thereby accept in our lives and experiences. Years ago I heard Oprah Winfrey explain how one of her biggest frustrations was dealing with so many people who really didn’t know what they wanted. On several occasions she made the offer to make people’s dreams come true but when asked, most people came up with puny dreams that were hardly impressive. For example, instead of saying they wanted to work and train for an entire year so that they could finish the Boston Marathon and finish in the top 10—a woman would say she wanted to join the local spa and lose 10 pounds. Instead of asking for a trip around the world—another woman would ask for enough money to get her car fixed. Instead of asking for the financial aid and resources to go back to college and become a doctor—a woman said she’d like to get a raise of $10 more per hour. See what I mean? Most people want so very little and Oprah was astonished that they couldn’t dream bigger.
When I heard those examples I realized that instead of asking what people “want,” maybe Oprah should ask, “What are you willing to accept?” In the case of my examples, the women above could only see themselves accepting a small request instead of a huge dream that Oprah would have been happy to provide. I happen to believe the Universe is a bit like Oprah. If we believe in an omnipotent and unlimited Universe, then we are the ones putting the limits on our good.
Perhaps going deeper behind both accepting and welcoming our good is that some people don’t allow themselves to dream big or want much because they believe it is wrong to ask for it in the first place. It may be the way they were raised or even religious baggage, but some people don’t believe they deserve something extra-ordinary when so many others seem to have it tough. Some deeply believe that sacrificing for others somehow makes them appear more spiritual or compassionate. So rather than allow themselves to welcome and accept certain kinds of good—some people pretend they don’t want (or need) experiences or things, when what they are really saying is they don’t feel they deserve them. Ultimately, welcoming and accepting ask us to look at the benevolence (or lack thereof) of the Universe itself. It also reminds us that we choose a large portion of what we want to express and experience during our life here on Earth—and the Universe just says, “Yes!” Or as I’ve written about before, “Argue for your limitations and they’re yours.”
So this year—what are you willing to Accept? Another way to ask that question is, “What are you going to settle for this year? While there is certainly nothing wrong with hoping for a small raise at work, to lose a couple of pounds or to get your car fixed—all of those dreams are a willingness to accept or settle for a rather small amount in the scope of the unlimited Universe. But make no mistake, that choice is up to us.
The last letter in my new “W.A.I.” is “I” and stands for Intention. What do I mean by that and why does it matter? One of the best books I’ve read about how powerful our intentions are is called, “The Intention Experiment” by Lynne McTaggart. In the book, McTaggart defines intention as, “the projection of awareness, with purpose and efficacy, toward some object or outcome.” She goes on to say, “Even your current state of mind carries an intention that has an effect on life around you.” More importantly she says, “The evidence convinced me that we can improve our health, enhance our performance in every area of our lives, and possibly even affect the future by consciously using intention.” McTaggart’s book is filled with compelling facts and studies that remind us that while we are not in charge of the Universe, we do have an amazing influence on our individual lives. Keeping that in mind when deciding what is that we both welcome and accept in our lives every day, and every year, is paramount.
Hopefully now that I have shared some of these ideas about the W.A.I. to approach your future, you’ve been motivated to think about it a little more deeply than the casual New Year’s Resolution. Remember, this isn’t about what you’re going to get this year or another “to-do” list—but rather a better idea of what you hope to “be” in the days ahead. And, the details of what each of us hope to experience and express in the coming year is far less important than the clarity and the awareness of how we individually approach our future. On New Year’s Day 2013, I sat down, wrote out my W.A.I. list for the year ahead, and at the bottom, just like was suggested so many years ago, I signed my name. The good news is there’s plenty of time for you to do the same.