THE BLOG
12/31/2015 11:27 am ET Updated Dec 31, 2016

Cultivating Contentment in the New Year

"We don't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." -- Pema Chodron

Yesterday, I found out one of my best friends is applying for a higher position at work and is likely to get it. While happy for her, this brought to the forefront for me how I haven't moved up in position for a long while now.

Much of this has been deliberate, as I have decided to focus on my mindfulness practice and teaching, as well as my family, rather than continuing to climb the career ladder. However, if I am truly honest, part of me wants the prestige, the power, the sense of accomplishment and admiration that comes from moving into the Leadership ranks.

The balance of ambition vs. contentment tends to always arise during the new year. This is a time when people generally take stock of how far they have come.

Resolutions to lose weight, watch less TV, commit to a new job or pursuit, or even resolve to be more kind and thoughtful abound. We are all trying to be better, leaner, smarter, stronger than ever. Gyms and yoga classes are full to the brim in the month of January.

And then... February hits. And many of us get back to our old habits and ways. We lose our resolve and succumb to the comforts of Modern Family and the 2 p.m. doughnut.

What if, this year, we turned it around? What if we allowed ourselves to focus on contentment first? For this year, can we use the new year not as an opportunity to beat ourselves up for what we have not yet done, but to truly appreciate and revel in all that we already have, and everything we have already accomplished?

Perhaps this new approach, while at first uncomfortable as we see our neighbors hit the gym with newfound eagerness, can bring us a sense of balance, stability and energy, from which a less frenetic, more wholesome action can then arise.

Similarly, as I see my friend moving into a job that is more reflective of her skills and abilities and provides her with new challenges, I can tame my inner critic and remind myself that just because I am choosing to be content with things as they are right now, it does not mean that I am less valuable, less accomplished, less worthy of being appreciated and loved.

I am enough as I am, and so are you. This new year, let's set out to soften our ambitions, to focus less on what comes next, and deepen our experience of each and every precious day:

  • When we first set our feet on the ground, we can come to see that we are alive yet again today! What a gift.
  • We can greet our loved ones with curiosity, gentleness, and a warm hug.
  • We can take the time to prepare food lovingly, and really, truly taste it.
  • We can notice the trees, the air on our face, the sunlight and clouds as we walk.
  • We can approach each task with inquisitiveness and profound attention, asking ourselves how we can best use our skills and talents to be of service in this situation.
  • And we can meet each other with profound presence -- caring about what is happening for one another in this moment, and listening with an open heart and mind.
  • In this way, we will truly change the world, one moment at a time.

May your new year be filled with wonder, presence, gentleness, and contentment.

Lots of love,
Paula