Wordplay Wednesday: Replacing Resolutions with Precepts
Happy New Year! For many years I anticipated the beginning of the year by engaging in the time-honored tradition of making resolutions and goals for myself in a host of areas. To be frank, in my enthusiasm I tended to go overboard in this endeavor and after a few days of frenzied activity I’d lose momentum and most things fell by the wayside. Since I can be a bit hard on myself, the whole resolution-making process ended up being more harmful than beneficial.
This year I have decided to replace resolutions and goals with precepts, which are defined as “words to live by.” I stumbled across this idea after reading R.J, Palaciao’s middle-grade novel Wonder. (As an aside, the book is a terrific read for adults as well as children. I highly recommend it.) In the story, a teacher presents one precept per month to his students which they discuss and later respond to in an essay. As a follow-up book, Palacio published 365 Days of Wonder, which is a collection of daily precepts focusing on the virtues of kindness, strength of character, overcoming adversity and making the world a better place.
I decided that rather than compiling a huge, overwhelming list of goals, I would use the book of precepts and approach the year as a growth mindset, using a day-by-day, step-by-step process. The precepts are not a list of things to do, but rather ideas about how to be. I have decided that what I do should reflect who I am and who I want to become.
As a way of internalizing the precepts I am using them as writing prompts for my Morning Pages. I write the precept at the top of the page and then respond to it. I think about what the precept means in terms of how I view the world, how I treat others and what actions it leads me to take. From my Morning Page reflections on the precepts I am uncovering what actions or course of behavior I need to adopt in the areas of relationships, creativity, intellectual growth, spiritual growth and health.
For instance, the entry for January 3 was a quote from Henry James: “ Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind and the third is to be kind.” As I pondered and wrote on this precept I thought about what it looks like to be kind to others and also to myself. These ideas will now inform my actions going forward as I adopt behaviors for kindness to my body, my mind, my creative nature and my relationships with family and friends.
This gentle, intuitive and thoughtful approach to change and growth feels much more natural and doable to me. In the past I felt harried and pushed by trying to keep up with a checklist of too many new things to do. So far I am experiencing a sense of possibility and anticipation as I daily embrace the precepts and really think about how to apply them to my life.
My precepts so far are:
Both of those short statements offer a multitude of choices for thoughts and actions I can apply daily for the rest of my life. I am excited about what practices and ideas I will adopt as the year unfolds.
If the idea of resolutions leaves you overwhelmed, I encourage you to try precepts.