With a New Year comes an opportunity for a clean slate. As busy schedules, conflict, and the unexpected events of life crash over us, resolutions begin to fall away. Although I am not a big proponent of placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves that will later only lead to guilt, I do believe there are some bad habits that are worth fighting to break and better behaviors that are worth fighting to put in their places. These changes can help you lead a happier, healthier life with less external and internal conflict.
Listen to Others: At the core of conflict is a lack of understanding and communication. It is impossible for understanding to be established between two people if listening does not take place. True listening is an active, not passive, activity. It is important to try listening to what someone is actually saying. Not about what your response is going to be (I do this all the time). Not about what time it is or what you're going to do/who you're going to see next. Not a funny story that kind of relates to what they're saying. Listen with the intent to understand. Listen with the intent to learn about that person. It's amazing what people will reveal about themselves and their needs, you need only to be receptive.
Have Compassion on Yourself: We're all familiar with the commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself." The first time I heard that, I immediately felt shame. Why did I have to be so selfish? This rule in my eyes focused on my having to give others more love and denying self. However, instead of a commandment of self-deprecation, I now believe it is a commandment of self-care. May you love yourself with the same compassion and acceptance that you love others. A popular quote by Carla Gordon has been circling the internet,"If someone talked to you the way you talk to yourself, you would have kicked them out of your life long ago." Is that true for you? If so, it may be time to change self-talk and begin to see the beauty and value of your true self.
Remember to Laugh and Breathe Often: Whether it's the extra oxygen to the brain or just having a brief moment to relax and regroup, remembering to take a deep breath seems to clear away the smog of stress from the brain. Laughter releases endorphins and, less scientifically, is good for the soul. Remembering to add these two easy things can help you find perspective and peace in the midst of a stressful and busy schedule, especially when in a job or home filled with conflict.
These are a few simple ideals that are not very easy to implement. However, if you continue to try and exchange a few bad-habits based around these simple, but powerful, thoughts throughout the year, you may find yourself in a more peaceful place. And while our external environment is many times out of our control, internal peace can go a long way to help weather the storms. Definitely a goal to fight for in 2013.