The beauty of a simple goal for the new year…

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on

Learning to do and think less is an important skills that can be practised and one for which you will be rewarded.

Moshe Bar

Setting goals and expectations for the new year seems to get more challenging as I grow older. (Not old, mind you, just older!) This past year saw most of my plans derailed by a loved one’s health issues and I am left wondering about whether failing to set goals is any worse than not meeting them. So I have been reading about this time honoured tradition and the corresponding litany of suggestions about how to set goals that you will actually pursue throughout the entire year.

Seems that not meeting one’s goals may be more common than succeeding in achieving them. And one can only assume that not meeting your own personal expectations will lead you straight into an emotional mine field, replete with berating yourself up for such failure. And that would be failure with a capital F.

Truly, I wonder why humans persist in doing so many things that cause us to feel badly about ourselves.

This scenario is so typical that it is difficult at this point in the calendar year to avoid media reports, podcasts, and articles about this phenomenon. So why even bother?

Most of us know what our overarching goals are, and at any point in our lives during the course of a year, we are perfectly free to add in new ones. To try different ways to better ourselves in any way we conceive of whenever we want. So the necessity of having a new years resolution, new goal or series of them, is a traditional type of thing that has become an ingrained cultural habit.

And this yearly ritual is not always a helpful habit. But still most of us persist…

So when I read an article relating Moshe Bar’s theory of thinking and doing less as an essential skill that one needs to build, I was intrigued. It turns out that it is okay to let our brains follow us on a path of doing nothing. Our tendency to clutter our lives and our minds with noise and busyness and constant stimulation makes it harder for our brain to function in an optimal way. Most of us feel guilt if we are not doing something all of the time. But it turns out, our cognitive function is enhanced by allowing ourselves to embrace moments of distraction, losing focus, or by zoning out.

Neuroscience has demonstrated that allowing your brain to “mind wander” increases both creative problem solving and decision making. Those are both critical skills for a writer to have in their executive functions tool kit. Moving our bodies, say by just going for a walk or training ourselves to see ordinary things in a new light using photography or mindfulness techniques are a couple of ways to cultivate this.

Research suggests that learning to enjoy times of silence, cultivating a daydreaming habit, and clearing away mental clutter may all help to allow us to become more self-aware. And the more we get to know ourselves, the easier it is to work on meaningful projects or skills which ultimately will serve our desire to have purpose in our lives.

So for this year, that will be my focus. Learning to do and to think less. As life has a tendency to crowd out smart goals anyways, learning and developing what sounds like a simplistic (although likely not) skill seems to make sense to me this year. So cheers to 2023!

Happy New year!!

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