As New Year’s Eve approaches once again, many of us find ourselves slipping into a mini or full-blown existential crisis.
We reflect on our lives, confronted with the things we intended to do but didn’t, our shortcomings, and maybe even a regression.
But what if, just for a moment, we stopped paying attention to the endless stream of motivational quotes we scroll through daily? What if we freed ourselves from the productivity culture and the relentless race on the hamster wheel? What if we ceased pushing through our goal-oriented agendas and stopped checking boxes on to-do lists? What if, in fact, we imagined changing nothing and staying exactly the same? What would happen then?
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus (544 BCE) suggests that change is inevitable: Everything flows, nothing ever stays the same, and you can’t step into the same river twice. Even if the river appears unchanged, its nature is one of constant flux. The riverbanks remain in the same place, but the water is never the same.
I was struck by the truth of this a few years ago when a new job forced me to cut my yoga practice time in half due to a changed schedule. Practicing a style with a fixed, linear sequence meant stopping at the same point every day, leaving out the poses that followed. Concerned that I would remain stuck and unable to explore the rest of the sequence, I shared my worries with my teacher. His response, delivered with a smile, was enlightening: “You think that by not practicing the other poses, you’re not learning them?”
In nature, there is no intention; there is only the interaction of elements over time that naturally leads to change and evolution. By merely getting out of bed and being in the world, we are all changing and growing. Consistently doing the little things develops our capacity to flow naturally toward the bigger ones. Goals exist to set this mechanism in action. So, perhaps we could choose goals that align with our essence, ones that make this watery flow effortless.
What if we chose joy and consistency over the pressure for improvement? What if we allowed life to unfold more organically instead of worrying about how we can’t control it? What if we treated our journey in this world as an unexpected gift rather than a mission?
In doing so, we would still progress, perhaps with a little less stress.