The Netherlands, the country where I was born and raised, has more bicycles than people. Rather than take the car to run an errand, the Dutch jump on their bikes and get what they need. Kids go to school on their bikes, and many grown-ups get to work that way. It keeps them in shape, and it’s good for the environment.
Because the Netherlands is extremely flat, the wind has free range. As a kid I’d love to have the wind in my back because it seemed my bike was almost flying by itself. Adverse winds were a challenge (especially combined with rain and snow).
Here’s the thing, though. When conditions are favorable and the wind is pushing you, you don’t have to do much to get to where you want to be. But when you’re going against the wind, you’re really using all your muscles and determination to get to your destination. It builds strength and character.
Sometimes life has us push through the pain of disappointment and loss, to make us stronger and more compassionate. Some of us need to experience darkness in order to appreciate the light.
The Netherlands is a maritime nation, and the Dutch have learned one very important thing:
We can’t influence the winds, but we can learn how to adjust the sails.
The stronger we are, the easier it is to make those adjustments.
As a child I thought everything would be different once we greeted the new year. As an adult I know that this was magical thinking. Things usually change over time, not overnight. And things certainly don’t change just because we flipped the calendar.
As we’re about to ring in the new year, I had to think of the difference between intentions and actions. At the end of December, many of us are full of good intentions. There are habits we’d like to leave behind, relationships we need to let go of, and friends we must forgive.
Fast forward a few months, and these intentions have been forgotten. Intentions without actions are another example of magical thinking. Life does not reward fantasies, unless you act upon them.
So, instead of starting the new year with daydreams, start making a list of concrete day-deeds; actions you’re going to take that will bring you closer to specific goals. Emphasis on specific.
It’s fine to use your imagination. In fact, I’d recommend it. But be sure to make what you imagine realistic, practical, and measurable.
Determine which concrete steps you’re going to take so that you can hold yourself accountable.
And lastly, these must be steps YOU are going to take. YOU have to be the instigator.
Too many goals are never reached because they depend on people or circumstances we have no control over.
So, what’s 2023 going to bring?
It’s up to you to make sure the new year is going to be life-changing, or same old, same old.
Joshua Alexander says
I’ve always loved the well-known acronym “SMART” for goals: Strategic, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Perfectly sculpting these types of goals can be difficult, but is so worth it. The component that is so worth it to me is the “measurable” part of it…that helps me keep on it, to track my trajectory and see if I’ve drifted off course, and to be aware of my proximity to accomplishing it. I *must* have goals. Goals that are unseen are not goals in the slightest.
Paul Strikwerda says
In the way I’ve been taught SMART goals, the “S” was for Specific. Vague goals lead to vague results.
Joshua Alexander says
You are right! I forgot…the “S” is for Specific. Going a little too fast there…
Jon Gardner says
Day-deeds. Love it!
Tony Collins-Fogarty says
Great article. The bit about being a child thinking everything would be different when greeted with a New Year really stood out for me. It is magical thinking, and of course, nothing has really changed. But, I would say that your own mindset changes your expectation at that point, so it can be an opportunity to refocus and think differently or try a new approach. You could also just as easily do that in August or anytime!