What do you want your 2019 to look like?
Do you want to do more volunteer work? Perhaps you’ve thought about taking up surfing.
Maybe it’s time to make good on your dreams deferred. Remember that business you wanted to start in your twenties?
Your life, though, is already so full: Jobs. Bills. PTA meetings. Social clubs.
“The start of the new year is the perfect time to think about what you need to let go of so you can figure out what it is you actually need,” said Pax Tandon, a positive psychology expert and author of Mindfulness Matters. “And you can do that by starting a mindfulness practice in 2019.”
Practice mindfulness, you say? Does that mean a life of nonstop yoga and meditation while eating only kale? Can one practice mindfulness and still enjoy french fries?
Sure, Tandon assured me.
“Mindfulness is the ability to be present in your life and its truth without expectations, judgments, or resistance,” Tandon said as the rain crashed down outside her Rittenhouse Square condo last week.
You get there, Tandon said, by checking in with yourself. How do you feel at any given moment? Are you antsy? Or are you calm? Does your job make you want to jump out of your skin? That could be a sign it’s no longer a good fit for you. Do you feel all warm and fuzzy when you are playing board games with your kids? Arrange your time so you have more of that.
“You can check in with yourself through meditation," Tandon said as we sipped peach-infused tea. “But sometimes you can ask yourself these kind of questions when you are doing the mundane, like washing your hands or tying your shoelaces. The key is to tune in to how you really feel. These can all be mindful activities.”
It’s not lost on me that we are surrounded by boxes at Tandon’s condo. She’s in the midst of preparing to sublet — she’s decided to let it go because how can one move across country to surf or study French in the south of France with that kind of monthly monetary obligation?
“It was weighing me down,” Tandon said. “Some things are physical. Some things are emotional. It’s really about finding the things that stop you from honoring your inner voice and releasing them.”
That sounds all unicorns and rainbows. But what if you don’t want to let go of your home, your car, or other creature comforts? I sure don’t. Does that mean I’m destined for an unfulfilled life?
This is where mindfulness comes in, Tandon said. Start small: By reserving as little as 10 minutes each day without checking texts, e-mails, or playing Candy Crush, you give yourself time to sit quietly with your thoughts. You might discover you don’t need to move back in with your parents like Tandon to connect with your creativity. But maybe you need to give up the standing happy hour with the girls, or cut it back to once a month.
“You have to let go of old habits to play bigger,” Tandon said. “When you let go of things, you open up space to allow new ideas to grow.”
And with any luck, if we start making some sort of mindfulness practice an everyday thing, by 2020, we will have a 20/20 vision of who we are and how we want to show up. So in the spirit of living a 2019 full of good intentions, get quiet. Get mindful. Breathe. And let it go.
Newsflash! You are not the person you were in college. Your dreams have changed and you want different things. And it’s quite possible those old expectations ― running the Philadelphia Marathon every year, or wearing your hair bone straight ― no longer serve you. “Don’t ignore your gut,” Tandon said. “It will tell you when these old visions of how your life should be are no longer making you happy. Then it’s time to ditch them.”
There’s an old saying that what others think of you is not your business. “You are living your life for you and you don’t need to live your life for other people because, quite frankly, they have their own life to live," Tandon said. So you like the way you look in a pair of Michelle Obama thigh-high Balenciaga boots, but you are a mom, or a businesswoman and you don’t think the world will approve. And — gasp! — what will your Instagram followers think? Pshaw. If your bliss is in Balenciagas, get them.
Too often, Tandon says, we look for people to make us whole when we are really whole already. “We have everything we need,” Tandon said. By expecting others to be the source of your joy — especially our spouses and children ― we are giving others control, not only of our emotions, but of our personal success. “It’s not up to anyone else to do that for you, you have to do it for yourself,” Tandon said.
That means your life has no timeline. You don’t have to have a crystal clear vision of your 2019 by Jan. 2, the end of February, or even the first day of summer. The first couple of times you sit down to write that book based on your grandmother’s timeless recipes or attempt a handstand in yoga, you may come up blank or tumble on your backside. The key, Tandon said, is to have faith in how your life will unfold. “What can be helpful here is not setting resolutions, because they tend to be set in stone," Tandon said. “That makes us feel really uncomfortable because we are setting ourselves up for failure. Intentions are much more soft. They allow us to put a desire out and still leave room for evolution, change, and growth.”
It’s chic to be busy these days. But the reality is that by working all the late hours, going to SoulCycle twice a day, and hitting every professional and social event, we are avoiding our thoughts. “We have become such good escape artists that we need mindfulness to bring us back to look in the mirror,” Tandon said. By busying ourselves, all we are doing is putting off the work we need to grow. If you are constantly making plans, where will you find the time to write that business plan?