January is rapidly approaching. It is almost time for us to resolve to change our lives.
We will compose the usual lists: lose weight, quit smoking, exercise and meditate more.
This time last year I set resolutions. I thought I needed a list that set time constraints on my achievement and had objective measurements to determine my success.
I was battling with my personal process of “becoming” and revealing the authentic me. I struggled with how I should aspire to accomplish this.
What goals would make the list?
Live presently? Or use positive energy and love to manifest the things I want in my life?
Don’t take things personally? Or set strong personal boundaries?
Love who I am? Or strive to be better every day?
Be independent? Or seek connection?
I was completely confused.
I needed to see the challenge differently. At the most opportune time, when I had given up and was open to anything, a good friend challenged me to come up with “commandments” for my life…a new set of operating instructions. Start at the core. I needed a list of what I wanted to focus my attention on instead of a bunch of things to cut out or sacrifice.
What new inner dialogue or operating system could I write that would supersede my list?
I needed a framework for it.
It is a better use of our time to come up with a philosophy for our lives than focusing on the dos and don’ts—that is too superficial.
Digging deeper creates a new inner dialogue.
It is amazing what we discover when we try to determine our guiding principles and who we want to be as we intuitively move forward.
I would change the focus of my attention.
I came up with my directives, the framework. I put them in the present tense to indicate my desire to manifest them in my life. The following were the raw values that became the foundation of my new outlook:
I am kind: I offer compassion and kindness to others and myself.
I am resilient: I will not be overwhelmed or crushed by the challenges in my life. I will not take what others say/do personally now, not get bogged down with things from my past, and not worry about the future. I will do my best to live in and enjoy the present.
I keep my heart open: I see the goodness in people and the joy and lessons in experiences. Vulnerability is difficult, but it is a risk worth taking to have moments of pure joy. I would rather be seen as naive than world weary of my life!
I am honest: I set and maintain healthy boundaries. Living to please other people is self-deceptive and shows a lack of the authenticity I seek. It is acceptable to say “no,” to do what I want to do, and to have my own opinion.
I am giving: Within healthy boundaries, I give my love, time, attention and material goods to those who want/need them.
And…drum roll please:
I do my best! This is based on Agreement #4 of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is an amazing tool for examining your life. And, as my best may change day to day, or even hour by hour, only my present capability matters.
To formulate your own personal operating code, there are no real rules but the following may be helpful:
- Write down your directives. There is power in making a physical blueprint.
- It doesn’t need to be a work of art. Simple bullet points will do as there can be a tendency to get bogged down in the words. Focus on the emotion and spirit of this process.
- It should contain the core principles that you want to direct your life. Not every quality in the world that you admire. Start with the most basic, focus on them, and then expand. For me, the directives were all geared toward being an amplified version of my basic nature. It boiled down to a mission statement. I am kind, but I wanted to be mindful of being kinder. I do go out of my way to be vulnerable, but I try to remember not to shut down when faced with situations or people who can hurt me.
- Be realistic. Don’t prioritize values that you wish you had or think sound valiant. For example, individuals who are shy by nature might not want to start with “I will be outgoing” as a directive. What are your core directives that govern your actions?
- Remember that there is a distinction between directives and goals. Directives come first as they are more universal. Later, goals can be added as they are normally time-oriented and specific. These are the applications to run on your operating system.
- Do not set up directives as Pass/Fail. This process is meant to be an attempt to set the tone going forward not a tool to find fault. You may need to debug the directives or change your goals. (See next point.)
- This is a living breathing document, like a Personal Constitution. Your personal operating code and system structure. Some parts may be more practical, such as life skills that you can master, whereas some will be a constant struggle. For me, people pleasing was a destructive pattern in my past, and if I am not vigilant, I can fall back into it. So for me honesty with others and myself will always be on my list.
As soon as my directives were formulated, tests to my commitment started. It was as if the world noted the core change and set up beta testing. People that tested my ability to be compassionate were thrown in my path, and multiple problems fell on my shoulders to test my resilience.
I have learned to recognize the “challenges” as they come, and I admit I don’t enjoy the struggle. I may be testing and revising my directives because life is always going to test my system.
Now I know that my personal constitution—my operating system—is aligned with my values and can handle any tests that come.
Author: Lisa Foreman
Apprentice Editor: NV Randall / Eitor: Renee Picard
Image: Robert Couse-Baker at Flickr