Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Next Thing: Kindness

If you spend any time at all on Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest, you'll know that there's an awful lot written about the importance of planning, and varied advice offered on how to go about it.  I'm the pits at planning and always have been, so I read these posts with interest. 

Looking back, I realize that most many of my life decisions have been made in reaction to my circumstances rather than anticipation of what the future might bring.  I've always found it almost impossible to imagine where I might be in five years time or what I might be doing, and the idea of setting a distant goal is nothing less than overwhelming for me. 

I mean, seriously, how can any of us have any idea what the future will bring? If there's anything my life has taught me, it's that life in general is just one big long series of surprises.

But I'm turning fifty-five this week, and clearly I'm at a place in my life where some decisions need to be taken.  Plans need to be made.

So I'm reading about planning.

(lol!  Anything to avoid the actual task!  ;^)

All of the planning posts I read tell me that in order to make a successful plan you must set a end goal towards which you will strive. 

I ran through goals in my mind: 

Not being homeless or hungry in my old age?

Not being lonely in my old age?

Having plans in place for when Alzheimer's takes my mind?  (With our family history, this is likely to happen.)

They're all things that must be dealt with, to be sure, but they're about practicalities, not about passion or about joy.  If I'm to work towards a goal with enthusiasm, it must have a positive place in my heart.

So I sought out posts suggesting how I might identify my goals. 

Several suggested making a mission statement - like businesses do - as a means of defining values and clarifying priorities.  

Good thought!

Surprisingly though, when I set out to make a mission statement, only two words came to mind:

Be kind.

That's it. 

I'm sure it's hardly the sort of mission statement the bloggers I was reading had in mind. A person couldn't build a successful business on the idea, or use it as a basis for concrete plans, to be achieved in quantifiable steps.

But here's the thing:

A few years back, when I was at a very dark place in my life and ready to give up hope altogether, I sought a simple goal to work towards; one that would lift me out of my place of despair and give me the means to move forward.  A two word mission popped in to my head then too:

Be grateful.

I took those two words as my mantra and began to make a conscious effort to recognize and acknowledge the blessings in my life. 

In recognizing those gifts, I found within myself the strength to move forward.  Things got better and they are improving still. Not only does my life seem better to me now because I recognize and am grateful for what I have, but it really is better.

Over time, gratitude became a habit with me and it brought more gifts my way than I might ever have anticipated. Opening my heart to gratitude opened my heart to other things too, like optimism, and friendship, and creativity, and sharing, and - in opening my heart to those things - I made new social connections, learned new things, and found new work.

Perhaps "be kind" is simply the next logical step on my journey.

It's entirely possible that this next step may bring me no tangible benefits at all, but it will, at the very least, help me to have a happy heart. 

And for now that's enough.

I'll continue to work on practical day-to-day stuff too of course but, just now, and for the foreseeable future too, my two word mantra has been expanded to four:

Be grateful, be kind.  Be grateful, be kind.  Be grateful, be kind...

As a mission statement, it works for me.