The Act of Finding

I figure, since I’m writing the last Scribes post for 2013, it’s sort of my DUTY to write the obligatory New Year’s thoughts and resolutions post.

Image by Sally Mahoney

I may not be the best person to be writing about 2013, though. In spite of reassurance from my friends and family, I look at 2013 as a bust. This was a tough year for me, and that toughness doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. But there’s something to simple difference of writing a new number at the end of dates that gives one a feeling of freshness and new beginning, and I’m damned ready for some new beginnings.

I have big plans for 2014. Not unrealistic plans, I hope, but plans. And I’d like to do some learning and growing along the way. They may be cheesy and abused, but resolutions are a good tool to help one do some of that growing.

I looked up “resolution” in the dictionary, and discovered that it has, well, pardon my French, a shit-ton of meanings. Aside from the standard “something that is resolved, i.e. when one makes a definite and serious decision to do something,” resolution can mean, “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc. : the act of resolving something,” or, “an answer or solution to something.”

The act of finding.

I like that rather better than “a serious decision to do something.”

It fits with my own theory of resolutions, as well. Every year, the Spouse and I make a list of our resolutions and a set of joint resolutions and post it on our bedroom wall. Last year’s list included “Yoga!” for me and “Finish data-gathering project” for Spouse, while together we resolved to read nonfiction together each month.

We had mixed success, but I observed that, in general, we did better when we resolved to a process or a series of goals rather than one lofty end. If we had committed to reading together, for example, we might be checking that off the list, while if I had said, “Learn about different types of yoga,” I might have made some progress. Spouse could have focused on learning the skills that would have helped him finish his programming project. But by giving ourselves impressive goals (“I will be a yogi by the end of 2013!” “I will have a completed web-app by 2014!”), we essentially set ourselves up to fail.

To go all fortune-cookie, self-help on you, when you focus on the destination, you forget about the journey—and you may realize you have absolutely no idea how to get to that magical destination. When we say, “I will lose 10 pounds by the end of the year!” we neglect to give ourselves the guidance and support we need to reach that goal—and then, when we fail, we blame ourselves for being lazy or uncommitted or whatever adjective suits the situation.

But it’s next to impossible to simply BECOME or DO something that you are not and cannot, certainly without guidance or reasonable expectations of a drawn-out process of learning. How can we not fail, when we expect ourselves to change without even the aid of a magic wand to make the transformation happen?

We’re too hard on ourselves. All of us.

So this year, let’s focus on finding instead of on doing. I’d like to find the right school of yoga for myself. I also want to learn to play my long-neglected guitar. I want to learn a little about using my fancy DSLR camera, as well. Those are all good, specific, manageable goals, but, more importantly, they’re processes. I’m committing to a journey of learning, not a destination of being a yogi or a rock star or a photographer. I want to find new hobbies, new skills, and I want to incorporate those skills into my life. These are long term commitments, not idealistic wishes.

So I ask, with our new definition in mind, and a spirit of searching rather than doing: What do you want to find in 2014?