I have never been one for making big (or even small) resolutions as one year ends and another begins. While statistics show most people don’t keep those resolutions they make as the ball drops (at least for very long), that’s not why I stay away. First of all, I’m terrible at making and keeping some big resolution — whether it’s well thought out or an impulsive, end-of-year obsession. If it’s not part of my routine and something I’m driven to do, I inevitably don’t stick with it. Second, I don’t really believe — at least for myself — that making big, sweeping personal changes (or verbal commitments to) is the way to achieving real, lasting change. And, I’m not sure “change” is what I have ever been looking for anyways. It’s more about tweaks to the status quo, or building on top of — or altering — a foundation already in place. Think self expansion vs. self improvement.
The last time I saw my grandfather alive, he told me to “have fun and enjoy life.” And while his way of doing that for his life is sure to be different than mine, I have always committed to doing just that. For me, it’s curiosity that drives everything I do.
I look at each day and new experience as an opportunity to expand. My brain. My perspective. My abilities. Therefore, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to feed my curiosity and deep desire to always be learning and growing. So, rather than a resolution to lose 10 pounds or save more money, my focus is on building on what I have, where I am and who I am today.
If you’re looking to do the same, here are ways I focus on and commit to expanding:
Reading. I love reading (what better way to expand your brain and perspectives), but with two young children and a full-time job, this can be difficult. To overcome the challenges, I don’t over-commit myself, and make it a digestible — and realistic — part of my routine. Specifically, I add to my to-do list (because that’s the only way I get things done) to read 10 pages. Sometimes I do more. But it gets me in the habit without feeling overwhelming.
Family time. For some people this may not seem like “self expansion,” but for me, there are few things that feed my soul more than my boys. While we tend to spend a lot of time in the same house, it doesn’t always feel like quality time. So we have a family reading night where we read books out loud together, followed by silent reading time for my husband and me. (See how I incorporated two areas?) We also have a family game night where we get to see just who is the most competitive amongst us. It’s something we all look forward to each week and have so much fun doing together.
Travel. I wish I could spend my days traveling and learning about the world and its people. Talk about feeding the soul — traveling to new places as a family. Each month we put money into a separate “travel” account so we are able to make travel a priority. We also spend time talking and learning about new places, and are about to create our travel plan where we list the places we want to explore and in what order. I have also made a list of local adventures so we can explore our local community together.
Staying connected and informed. I firmly believe that it’s important to be educated on the things that are impacting the world around us. To do so, I make NPR (National Public Radio) a huge part of my daily routine. Whether it’s at home, at the office, in the car or at the gym, I find a way to make sure I listen to my favorite programs.
Doing things differently. The brain is a muscle; therefore, it can be “trained” to do things differently. I love to identify the areas in which I believe I can grow, and do things to exercise my brain accordingly. For example, I am currently taking an improv class to help expand my “think-on-your-feet” ability and commitment to “yes, and” rather than “no, because.” In addition, I like the app Brain Yoga, which has exercises that work different parts of your brain.
For many people, self expansion can be so much more achievable than big, sweeping resolutions made once a year – often in response to some nagging unhappiness. If you identify areas in which you want to “expand” and some things you can integrate into your everyday life, it becomes more than achievable; it becomes part of your existence. Because your mind is always focused — even subconsciously — on growing, you are more open to new experiences and opportunities.
Our minds, souls and hearts have endless capacity; wouldn’t it be awesome to feed them with what excites and energizes us, without making it feel like work!?!