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Wordplay Wednesday

Wordplay Wednesday: Replacing Resolutions with Precepts

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

Choose Kindness.

Embrace Wonder.

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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.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Oh, I’m so glad I stumbled upon this post. (I read your comment on The Art of Simple website, which led me here. :)) I love this idea of precepts instead of resolutions! I also struggle with setting too many goals/resolutions all at once (and then accomplishing exactly ZERO of them). My son read Wonder and 365 Days of Wonder and loved it; maybe I need to read it as well! 🙂 Thanks for the helpful idea!

    • Thank you, Amanda. The precepts seem to be leading me gently and gradually into changes which I have come to believe is the only way true and lasting growth happens. I appreciate you kind comments.Are you aware that Wonder is being made into a movie? It comes out in the Spring.

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