Take the Driver’s Seat This Year

(Originally published for The Dragontree)

The first of January has sometimes felt to me like an arbitrary date to divide our lives by, since most of our projects and phases don’t conform to the calendar year. But I’ve decided it’s as good a time as any to make resolutions, and perhaps there’s some group momentum we generate when we all align ourselves around virtuous intentions together.

Maybe you’re familiar with the concept of “drafting” or “slipstreaming,” whereby someone in a vehicle can ride in the wake of moving air or water created by a vehicle in front of them. It reduces resistance and helps pull them along, making for an easier ride. Cyclists and racecar drivers do it all the time – drafting the bike or car in front of them by staying right behind them. The only one who doesn’t benefit much from it is the vehicle in the front. In the case of our New Year’s resolutions, we’ll all be drafting a guy named Barry who lives in Hoboken and is really jazzed about his new diet.

So, let’s take the opportunity to consider what we want 2015 to be about. My friend Andy Drish chooses a theme for each year at its outset, and he says the year has a way of conforming to the vision he establishes. When he looks back, it’s impressive to see just how many things seemed to fall into place along the lines of year’s theme.

Some of his past themes included The Year of Exponential Growth, The Year of Being a Man Who Fearlessly and Courageously Gives His Gifts to the World, and The Year of Self Love. I think this is a brilliant idea, and I recommend you choose a theme for 2015 right now, and write it down. For me, this is The Year of Deep, Unshakable Happiness.

If you feel especially inspired, you can even choose a theme for each month, such as The Month of Serving My Species, The Month of Learning to Ask for What I Want, and The Month of Letting Go of the Struggle. If you’re the kind of person who thrives on structure, this can really help keep you on track while supporting you to focus on several different areas of growth. Each month could be a sub-theme that supports the year’s overarching theme. If coming up with twelve more themes sounds too complicated, just stick to your one theme of the year.

Once you have settled on a theme (or a yearlong theme plus twelve monthly themes), get a piece of paper and jot down some things you could do to support the actualization of this theme. It’s not so important that these actions directly produce the condition stated in your theme. Just think of them as the supportive part of the contract you’re creating with yourself and the universe.

To use my own theme as an example, even though there’s no formula for being happy, there are certainly a handful of things that can help. My intention for the year is to tap into that happy-for-no-reason state of mind that isn’t dependent upon particular life circumstances. To support the actualization of this state, I’ve agreed to do a bunch of things that I know are good for me, such as meditating, eating well, exercising, spending more time with friends, going on more dates with my wife, journaling, and abstaining from complaining or criticizing.

I set parameters around each of these actions (once a day, once a week, once a month, etc.), and I know that as I keep these agreements, I reinforce my trust in myself. Virtually everything I say I’m going to do gets done, because I know my subconscious is watching, and because, well, keeping your word matters – even (perhaps especially) if it’s just with yourself. Another thing that happens when I’m conscientious about noticing the agreements I make and being sure to keep them is that my mind becomes easier to manage. I don’t have the mental burden of broken or forgotten agreements weighing on me.

The result of this consistency is that a kind of momentum develops – my own slipstream. And when I’m in this groove, I notice that magic happens.

Try it. It doesn’t require talent, excessively effort, or charisma. Just choose a theme, make some supportive agreements – nothing that exceeds what you know you can follow through on – choose parameters (frequency, time period), and then honestly keep these agreements.

This year, I know more people who are consciously engaging in a process like this than I’ve ever known before. I’m excited to see what we accomplish. If you feel so moved, please share the theme of your year in the comments section below.

Be well,

Dr. Peter Borten