Many people begin new years by thinking ahead, envisioning what they want to achieve, and perhaps even resolving to make different choices in the days and weeks to come. I am one of these people. I find this experience enlivening, joyful, and helpful in grounding myself solidly for the unknown of the future.

Some people, however, find such visioning and resolution-setting to be a negative experience. Perhaps they’ve done it before and “failed.” Or they might fear that their reach will not exceed their grasp and failure will be their booby prize. Maybe yet they find it difficult to picture a semi-distant future and thus refrain from thinking any further ahead than absolutely necessary.

Success or Failure

The larger issue in my mind as I write is that visioning and planning are intricately linked with our own ideas about success and failure. Daily, from the moment we’re born, we’re given messages about succeeding and failing, doing well and doing poorly, being right and being wrong. Because this is the water in which we swim, it takes many of us years to even realize that these ideas aren’t concrete, immutable realities, but are rather merely human judgments. These ideas can end up being applied within a great many areas of life, from daily activities, to much larger concepts, like how well we might be doing in our career. While I believe that there are many widely-held values (compassion, fairness, honesty, etc.) and thus much consensus about what it means to succeed or fail, I think that it’s dangerous to the soul to navigate life’s waters using any “standardized” definitions.

  • Decide for yourself what a life successfully lived will look, feel, and be like.
  • Get clear on the values you hold dear and are willing to live by.
  • Let go of any societal, familial, or cultural demands that don’t really fit who you believe you were made to be.
  • Refuse to pass judgment on others since you’re not really an “all-knowing” god-human.

To close this post, I offer a video I found to be most intriguing and thought-provoking. I hope you’ll give Mr. de Botton a listen and consider what his ideas mean for your life. Whether or not you vision for the year ahead, I wish you the greatest success, joy, and love that matters to you.