Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results.
Well, call me insane.
Most years I make myself a list of things I want to do or achieve in the following twelve months. They often include countries I want to visit, books I want to read, playing the piano again, a creative challenge or two and the age old “learn french and spanish” that has sat on the list since 2008. It’ll happen one day. Then I set about my little life doing a whole bunch of stuff and feeling a lovely sense of busy achievement. Lists seem to have the power to make me do things.
But this year I found it hard to write a list of things I wanted to do. Perhaps I’m just a little exhausted, but I was trying to think over what new mountains to climb, adventures to pursue or challenges to create and I kept coming back to the question, “who am I becoming amongst all of this busy activity?” It’s been the background reflection of the last year as I’ve come to realise the speed at which I’m rushing through life and for some reason the questions have now become more prominent:
Do I choose joy when life feels hard and work is stressful? Do I have peace as I take on new mountains and pursue new heights? Do I choose forgiveness as I walk through difficult and challenging situations? Do I practice kindness rather than judgement with those that I meet?
These questions have stayed with me for weeks and have become the words that circle my mind. They’ve stayed with me because they don’t have the answers I want yet and my desire is to pursue them.
And it is a pursuit. Some days more than others. I am surely learning that these things don’t happen by accident, they are hard and must be worked at. Shame really.
And that’s what lead me to the quote above. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I wondered how many times I had committed to changing myself, tried really hard to be different, and then as the will-power subsided given up and carried on as normal. Fairly often I think. So what would be different now?
I didn’t want to be labelled as insane, I wanted this time to be different. It’s going to need to be a choice – a continual choice – and I’m going to need to be intentional about it, for these things need to be cultivated.
I started out with very grand plans and gestures that would surely have me a changed woman in a few short weeks, but I was reminded by the wonderful Rhythms Community that it is little steps and small actions repeated over and over again that produce meaningful change. And so I reconsidered.
I want to learn to choose joy, choose peace, choose kindness and choose forgiveness even when I don’t feel like it. I want to practice these things in the smallness of life and in the everyday, in hope that it will continue to build in me. So I’ve decided to start writing down the things I’m thankful for in my journal because it makes me more grateful – and gratitude leads to joy. I want to start collecting stories of hope and beautiful things and create a space in my house to pin up things that will inspire me and encourage me towards peace. I want to practice kindess more, I want to make friends with my neighbours and invite them round for dinner in the next few weeks, I want to take up those little opportunities you get with strangers to be generous and make them smile. I want to be honest with myself where there is still a need to forgive people and actually let things go, I want to start praying for those I’ve found hard to forgive, and I’m going to keep doing that until I actually mean what I’m praying.
I’m not going to expect my heart and mind to simply change while continually doing the same things I’ve always done. In truth – and partly based on the experience of the last few weeks – I’m feeling hopeful and expectant, but with all of this I think I only have one real goal: Better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today.