The New Year’s theme

This year, I’m taking the advice of author Steve Shapiro and establishing a theme for the year instead of list of resolutions. Steve is the author of Goal-Free Living and estimates that only 8 percent of Americans achieve their resolutions. He advocates choosing a one-word theme instead.

“Resolutions are things to do,” says Steve. “Themes are a way to be.”

Examples of themes are:

  • Service
  • Flow
  • Flexibility
  • Health
  • Confidence
  • Travel
  • Self-expression
  • Harmony

The year 2010 was one of the most challenging of my life, so for me, the theme for 2011 is “joy.” For my son, it’s “fitness.” What’s your theme for 2011?

Using a compass instead of a map

I recently read a heretical book called Goal-free Living, and loved it. Among other things, author Stephen Shapiro advocates navigating life using a compass instead of a map, which I found especially relevant, given the fact that I created a tool whose very purpose is to help you access your inner compass.

Our first maps are given to us by well-meaning parents, teachers, clergy, and employers. They provide a bird’s-eye view that enables us to “see” destinations that may be thousands of miles away. Unfortunately, they cause us to become so destination-focused that we don’t see where we are in the moment. Compasses, on the other hand, give us a sense of direction, but don’t provide information beyond our line of sight. They keep us in the present.

Why would anyone choose a compass over a map? Because using a compass forces us to look within, identify the true north of our passions, tool up to pursue them, and follow where they lead. Using a compass means making room for synchronicities and serendipities in life. It means being alive, NOW, rather than postponing life until after our goals have been met.

I called this book heretical because ours is a very goal-focused society, and a book on goal-free living seems to go against everything that we believe in. Nonetheless, as I’ve spoken to others about it, I’ve encountered relief. Some have said that they live life in a goal-free way, but have felt guilty about it. Shapiro’s book makes them feel validated. Others have recognized that living goal-free is a more feminine approach that has been frowned on in our patriarchal society. They weren’t really able to put their finger on that distinction until they were exposed to Shapiro’s book.

I agree with that. Motherhood blew the map right out of my hands. I lived goal-free for a decade, picked the map back up earlier this year, and then another gust of wind came. Now, here I sit with my compass, feeling validated, excited, and scared all at the same time.