01/04/2013 11:30 am ET Updated Mar 06, 2013

Wholehearted Beginnings

The start of a new job, a first date, a new school -- all of these are opportunities to meet new people, have new experiences and start fresh, or at least we'd like to think so. Our culture is obsessed with second chances, fresh starts and do-overs. We all crave new beginnings and opportunities to reinvent ourselves.

But eventually second chances become third chances and so on.

Einstein told us that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. And yet, why is it that we keep changing our clothes, our jobs, our diets, or even our spouses to find happiness?

New beginnings are beautiful opportunities for positive change, but I know that many times I have forgotten that the change starts and ends with me. If I change my clothes, but I myself don't change my behavior and work on my relationship with myself, I'll be right back where I started.

I've recently had my fair share of new beginnings: the start of my life after high school and my first semester of college, the beginning of life as a legal adult, and the experience of living on the West Coast -- all clear markers of the start of something new in my life.

Beginnings are great, but I've learned from my experience this semester that I am who I am regardless of where I am or what I'm doing. My fears, hopes and struggles may evolve, but at the end of the day they're mine, and they're just new adaptations of the old ones.

This being said, we can always let go and move on, but a real fresh start means wholeheartedly committing to beginning anew. Sure, I can change the music I listen to and other things on the physical level and pretend that it makes me someone else, but I'd be lying to myself, and ultimately that lie will catch up with me.

I've learned that if I want to make a change and I want to make it stick, I have to commit to it on all levels -- inner and outer. Appearances can only carry us for so long before they crumble. Deeds and decisions in alignment with our intentions for change will carry the day. Integrity of this sort is what helps us transition from the start of something new to a new way of being.

This is why I am choosing this New Year to be alive to the tough stuff. Lao Tzu said that by being alive to our challenges we could move through them. I am going to be present with the stuff I wish wasn't so, the things that are ugly, bad, and difficult. Because if I really want to make a change I know it means beginning with integrity, and this starts with seeing the situation for what it is.

Wholehearted beginnings bring us happy endings.

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