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As the new year sets itself before us, the traditional question of “what are your goals for this year?” can be an engaging conversation starter or it can evoke a sense of anxiety, especially against the backdrop of the last several years. I began my meetings with patients and clients by asking instead what their vision is and what it is they truly want. This requires us to not merely ask ourselves what we want to accomplish but who do we want to become as we choose the experiences we get to have.

Who do you want to become?

For many of us, the last several years have been difficult, revealing the parts of us we are not so proud of or basically just tired of dealing with. We may have experienced frustration, failure and disappointment in doses that have burdened us deeply. Oftentimes this causes us to be more self-protective and avoidant of others. Yet life is about moving through experiences with the mindset that we have choice no matter what circumstance lies before us and this cannot be done without genuine connection with other people. I am a goal setter and a goal lover but I have learned that goals are not enough and come short when the heart desires something more. I think the “something more” we all crave is an inner transformation that leads to a life of greater freedom and connection… freedom, meaning that we have and can grow our capacity to make choices that align with the moral compass of our heart and its desire for our life…and connection, meaning we experience genuine acceptance and meaningfulness in relationships that draw out our true selves.

If transformation is what we seek and not just greater mastery over our productivity, we must prioritize showing up for ourselves and for others..

First.. show up for yourself….specifically for what makes your heart come alive. This requires a strong prescription of solitude, silence, and simplicity. We live in a world addicted to distraction and entertainment and we wonder why we feel so hallow and so shallow…. So disappointed by what dazzles before us. Our hearts are made for depth and anything less leaves us underwhelmed. So, in addition to setting those goals, it would be wise for the yearning heart to lean against the simple practice of silence in solitude and listen to it’s deep desires.

Practically this means taking more time to be silent… to listen to yourself (writing is a good start, so is mindfulness)… to learn from the emotions that are evoked within you (give them a story), and to consciously face what is being presented to you (fears, hopes, dreams), especially when it is uncomfortable. Ask yourself this question..  When I imagine myself moving through the year, how would I like to be? (peaceful, graceful, kind, patient, calm, creative…etc)…and then practice the things that helps you become more of that… Here is an example: If you want to be more peaceful and calm… show up to 15 minutes of a meditation practice or yoga exercise or coffee in silence practice (which is my favorite…I drink coffee and look at the mountains every single morning). Mastery and perfection are not required, showing up is required…when we learn to show up, even if it is for a few minutes, we will slowly learn to trust ourselves and this habit will transfer to other areas in our life… someone who can learn to show up to silence for 10 minutes every morning can transfer this habit and show up to health, to exercise, to dreams, and on and on. A transformation from the inside out…

Second, we want to start showing up for others. With the backdrop of isolation from covid years, I think it is safe to say we have become a bit more self-focused. Showing up for others means refocusing on connection with the humans who are nested around us. How many of us know the names of our neighbors? … let alone anything about them. Showing up for others requires curiosity and openness. It requires a new way of seeing people.. That each human is full of glory, to borrow from C.S Lewis, and that each human is endowed with uniqueness and beauty. This does not mean being friends with everyone. This means seeing people with both of our eyes.. The people in the grocery store, in church, in traffic, at the park, etc. This means noticing, smiling, and really, it means, being present to the movement of people around you. We are happier creatures when we perceive connection. Sometimes this connection looks like being present to the fact that another person in the café is enjoying their coffee just as much as you are. And we do not want to stop here. I think practicing “seeing others” is a great way to practicing presence and therefore increasing greater connection with those we are already in relationship with.. family, partners, kids, coworkers and so on. Presence increases attunement which forges stronger connections.

Most of us know that things do not make us happier. And most of us know that true connection with ourselves and those around us does make us happier. So it would be wise of us to prioritize connection with ourselves and with others.. And this can be very practical… as practical and simple as 10 minutes of a nature mindfulness walk in the morning or noticing the people moving by you in the day and offering them a smile…

Throughout this year, I will offer new ways of connecting with ourselves and others with the hope of making growth into joy practical and simple. Follow me along on my Instagram or Facebook.



Dr. Alina

Tulsa Trauma Counselor

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