Whatever you can do, or think you can, begin it!

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

                                                –Goethe

Many people like to take the opportunity at a time of transition-a new year, for instance-to change a habit, re-commit to a practice, pursue a goal. Now may be a good time to assess where we have come with our commitments, if we made them at the start of the year (or at any other time).

Mine often live between the realms of some new practice or accomplishment via my work, a desire to cultivate greater community connection, and the importance of physical health, creative pursuits, and spiritual practice.

It can be a heavy load.

I’m reminded of a line from Neruda’s Keeping Quiet: “If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence would interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves…”

In trying to create change, there can be a zeal that causes us to miss things-a “competing commitment” as organizational and behavioral theorists Kegan and Lahey call them-and can stop change on an individual or collective level before it even is able to take root.

In his teaching and writing on the idea of “committed action without attachment to outcome”, Donald Rothberg quotes T.S. Eliot: “ours is in the trying, the rest is not our business”. It can be paradoxical to be in a place where we are committed to creating change in a personal and/or social context, but not attached to how things turn out.

While it’s important to have a vision and set goals, these can sometimes create unrealistic expectations for how things should be and can affect our process for achieving the changes we seek (especially if we fall short and become discouraged).

Buckminster Fuller famously said that “there are no failed experiments, only experiments with unexpected outcomes.” As counter-intuitive as it may be, change requires resolve and a commitment to new habits and practices without holding too tightly to what might be.

 

Monthly Practice: Systems Over Goals 

In a recent article in Entrepreneur magazine, James Clear encourages readers to set up a process for change, rather than setting goals. He sees the creation of practices within a particular system (running a few miles a day) more powerful than the end result (compete in a 10K road race). Ultimately, it is the habits supported by a system that create change, rather than the goal somewhere over the horizon.

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