03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Inner Activism: 3 Tricks To Starting Over

It is surprising that we so rarely feel lonely out here in space.

--Guy Murchie

Perhaps the most eye-opening statistic I've ever heard, and certainly the most heart-opening one, is this: No two people on Earth, regardless of their apparent differences, can be more distantly related than 50th cousins.

Sitting here at my computer at the moment, looking out at the mid-morning sky, I take time to reflect on the fact that I am perched on the edge of the planet, facing out into the vastness of interstellar space. Lying beyond the gray skies of the Pacific Northwest stretches the inconceivable depth of a universe that, to date, bears all the hallmarks of being utterly inhuman.

Yet, though we may feel awe--when we allow ourselves to feel anything at all about the enormity of our surroundings--we do not feel like we've been deserted on a rock flying through space. Why is this? After all, from a strictly rational perspective, that would be as valid as many other points of view. But instead, we feel at home here. Perhaps it is a question of family.

The human family is not just a pretty metaphor. It's a biological, genetic, fact. We cannot condone the killing of another human being without condoning the death of a cousin. We cannot ignore the hunger of another human being without ignoring the hunger of a cousin. We are, collectively, becoming too knowledgeable, sophisticated, and compassionate to allow our family to be torn apart by the divide-and-conquer tactics of those few who benefit from dissension. Although it is easy to feel powerless in the face of the overpowering forces holding us apart, people around the world are joining together to build the bridges needed to turn our dysfunctional human family into a harmonious one striving for peace and prospering for all.

So how do we make our personal commitment to starting over for the new year part of the global effort to starting over and creating a better world for all?

A good strategy ought to apply across the board, proving as equally relevant to relations between nations as to the business community, as equally relevant to relations between national factions as among family members, as equally relevant to our relationship with nature as to our own inner landscape.

Here are three suggestions for just such a multi-tiered approach to starting over--

If you're as careful at the end as you were at the beginning, you'll have no disasters.

--Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

1. End Things Well. Starting over implies ending something. Whether it's a habit or a relationship, a way of looking at ourselves or others, a new attitude or behavior, we start over because we are dissatisfied with the old state of affairs. But in ending something, we often forget how much effort and intention we put into starting it originally--we forget how meaningful it was when it began. It's important not to just toss the old overboard carelessly and unfeelingly because this would fail to honor the part it played in your life at the time. It was the best we knew how to do at the time, it made us happy at the time, it served our interests at the time. But the times have changed and so have we: we have outgrown the old, we recognize it is now obsolete, but we do not dishonor the past because in doing so we dishonor ourselves and our own best intentions. Honor the ending of something as if it were a funeral and in this way you honor your own commitment to moving forward. Successful endings make for successful beginnings.

The rope is this long because that is where I cut it.

--Frank Herbert, Dune

2. Declare Amnesty. We have all suffered wrongdoing, we have all committed wrongdoing. If we hold these memories in our hearts, it is like trying to sail while dragging the anchor along the seabed--yes, we may make some headway but it is slow and laborious and not nearly what we could achieve otherwise. Whether it's a sense of guilt or betrayal or the desire for revenge, there comes a point where it is no longer useful or beneficial to carry it forward any longer. Whether it means forgiving others or ourselves, there is no starting over without letting go of the feelings holding us back from attaining the happiness and well-being every individual desires. Someone must make the first move: let it be us. Whether it's a sense of grief or righteous outrage, we know we have to jettison it now, not just for our own well-being but that of all. The past ends here because this is where we started over.

Are we having fun yet?

--Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead

3. Don't Grow Up. What more is there to say? Your heart already knows. Don't take things so seriously. There's no such thing as absolute security. Life is about exploring, not working. Friends are about laughter and kindness. Love is about experiencing something greater than oneself. Absurdity is the highest form of metaphysics. And physics, too. Cultivate the mind of a wise elder, certainly. But don't lose the wide-eyed wonder of the child playing with the world. And above all, aim to recognize the child's heart within everyone you meet and strive to meet it halfway, cross your heart and hope to die that you'll share this glorious sandbox with all. Commit to making your life fun no matter what and you will have started over with one of the most dramatic changes in attitude and behavior possible. Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!

Leave a comment and share your own tricks for starting over!