Updated: Sep 16, 2018
Every year right after traversing my personal highway of physical and emotional (not often spiritual) gluttony and indulgence – the trek from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years- I begin a process of resolving to be better. I resolve to eat better, remembering the bags of Swedish Fish and Skittles from Halloween, the decadent meals that my mom, my wife, and my mother-in-law made sure I ate enough of, and all of the beverages that came in between. I often resolve to begin a workout regimen to help reshape my now 43-year-old, and much less elastic body. I resolve to read more and perpetuate my desire to be a life-long learner. In short, every new year, I think of ways to make myself look and feel better; I am not alone. In fact, in a survey executed by YouGov, 68% of Americans said that they were making New Year’s resolutions, and these were the top resolutions for 2018.
Eat better (37 percent)
Exercise more (37 percent)
Spend less money (37 percent)
Self-care - e.g. getting more sleep (24 percent)
Read more books (18 percent)
Learn a new skill (15 percent)
Get a new job (14 percent)
Make new friends (13 percent)
New hobby (13 percent)
Focus more on appearance (12 percent)
Focus on relationship (12 percent)
Cut down on cigarettes/alcohol (9 percent)
Go on more dates (7 percent)
Focus less on appearance (3 percent)
What were your resolutions on January 1st? Have you stayed true to your resolutions? If you have, you are better than most.
However, whether you have followed through or not, I am wondering if we could consider starting a new tradition where we used the first day of spring as a time for “Spring Cleaning.” I am suggesting that on March 20th (I still think it’s the 21st as I am posting a day late) we could reassess our world and lives, and resolve to be better citizens of the world. We are nearly three months into the new year and the news of 2018, much like the news of 2017, has had as much nutritional value for the soul as a couple of bags of the sour Skittles (I prefer the purple bag), and it has been just as unpalatable. Multiple school shootings, political chaos, domestic terrorism, government shutdowns, and civil unrest at home and abroad are par for the course. And the good news, like the Parkland students modeling civic responsibility, is overshadowed by internet trolls reminding us how ugly the human soul can sometimes be. We need to resolve to be better as human beings: better listeners, better collaborators, better thinkers, and in short better humans. If we are constantly blaming the “other guy” or the “other side,” it’s likely that we are a part of the problem. So if we truly want 2018 to be better than last year we must decide to “be the change we want to see in the world.” Here are four resolutions to adopt if you want to be a part of Spring Cleaning for a better world.
1. Choose kind
In 2014, I read a terrific little book called Wonder (a children’s book that should be read by every adult) written by author R.J. Palacio. It’s a story about a young boy with facial deformities that had to navigate the sometimes, unfortunately, very harsh terrain of middle school. Throughout the book nuggets of wisdom are dispersed through a concept called “precepts.” One of the earliest precepts introduced, and one of my favorites, was a quote by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer; “If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”
Imagine if our politicians, business leaders, or even each one of us, adopted this practice even half the time, what would our world look like? I am not calling for a moratorium on difficult discourse (in fact, I am hoping for the opposite), I am just asking us to shift the way we communicate. Think about those we are trying to communicate with and treat them how they want to be treated.
2. Be more humble
In his 2015 bestseller, author and New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “Humility is the awareness that there’s a lot you don’t know and that a lot of what you think you know is distorted or wrong.” Imagine a year in which we all sought out the blemishes and imperfections in our thinking and our own beliefs, rather than trying to point out the flaws in others and their beliefs. Hemingway said it brilliantly when he wrote, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Imagine a year in which true growth and learning about ourselves took prominence over polishing and enhancing our online avatars. Let’s take some time to stop staring into the digital abyss and take a critical look into a true mirror of our minds and souls.
3. Volunteer more
This one is easy; give of yourself to those who have less than you. Everyone can volunteer, because we all have something to give that others can benefit from. Charity is great, but nothing truly soothes the soul like sharing of yourself with someone in need. My 81 year-old father-in-law, Alan, a retired lifetime educator, volunteers twice a week as a reading tutor in an underserved school in Hartford, CT. He is an avid reader, and for a couple of hours a week he works with a couple of elementary school students to help improve their reading aptitude. He gets to work with the same two kids throughout the year and starts with a new group at the beginning of each school year. When he speaks of this service, he is honored and thrilled that he sees growth in these kids, but he says that he is “not sure who gets more out of the endeavor” the students or him. While he is working with these students, Alan experiences what most people who volunteer with a full heart experience, something author and humanitarian Justin Dillon calls a “form of reciprocity” or the “soul’s endorphin rush.” Alan accomplishes this by combining a passion for reading and a generosity of his time with the needs of a few deserving kids. What can you give? It needn’t be a lot it just needs to be of you.
4. Be more vulnerable
In college I minored in Philosophy and in Brené Brown I believe we have found one of the truly gifted modern day philosophers. In Daring Greatly she speaks brilliantly about the concept of vulnerability. She writes, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” As human beings we are social animals and we all could use extra doses of love, belonging, empathy and accountability. And regardless of your socio-economic status, religion, race, sexual identity, or your political proclivities greater clarity, deeper lives and a sense of hope are great aims as we engage in spring cleaning. Some people, who probably aren’t kind and thoughtful people, may try to take advantage of you and take your vulnerability for weakness. However, Brown goes on to say that “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.” Be stronger for the rest of this year by giving vulnerability a chance.
Spring cleaning is just a start, but we all need that jump start. A better world cannot happen unless we all take a greater responsibility for it. Do you have any other ideas for Spring Cleaning 2018? If so please respond and share.