I spent some time working in the ER over Christmas, but I did get to spend time with family, share good spirits and have some fun. I hope you did too.
This is a quiet time between the end of the last year and the beginning of the next one. I have always tried to dedicate this week to rest and reflect on my life over the past year – and try to give some shape in my mind to the year that is to come. This is a bit more work than a simple New Year’s resolution, but it has always made me feel so good and it has helped me so much that I want to share it with you.
This is an important year because we are in a critical time in human history. You will hear a lot this year about the ancient Mayan prediction that 2012 will be the end of the world. While it is certainly hard to predict the future, it does feel like we are on the cusp of great change in the world.
On the one hand, there are a number of crises that may reach a tipping point this year. These include political turmoil, food and water issues, pollution, social problems and climate change to name a few. On the other, there is an incredible surge in awareness occurring around the world. People everywhere are waking up to these problems, but we are also more aware that we can fix them. Individuals have more power than ever because we are more connected than ever. What you do matters – now more than ever.
This is not just about health, but it is a great way to heal yourself. I treat a lot of people with chronic diseases that are related to how they live their lives. Even if you don’t have an immediate health problem, you know that what you do on a daily basis has a lot to do with the health and wellness of your body, mind and spirit.
This might be related to the food you eat, the air you breathe or the water you drink. It might be related to your job, the books you read or the TV you watch. It might be about the dreams you’ve never gone after or the projects you’ve always left for sometime in the future. Everyone has a few things they want to do – or know they should. If you are reading this, you are a seeker. Now is the time to think about creating a better life for yourself.
One way generate ideas is brainstorming. If you can, you should do it today. Even if you are reading this in July. If you are afraid of doing it alone, call a friend or family member right now and ask them to meet you so you can do it with them. Better yet, ask them to do it with you.
Turn off your cellphone, TV and music and set aside all distractions. Pour yourself a glass of water or make some tea. Sit down with a clean, fresh pad of paper and a pen or pencil. Turn the paper sideways so it is short and wide.
Write down 4-8 key words across the top of the page that will help you sort your ideas. Some examples include work, home, family, learning, friends, family, sports, exercise, nutrition, detox, travel, purchases, vices, books, movies, clothes, treatment, spiritual, charity and activism. Choose the ones that matter most to you right now.
Now write down everything that comes to mind. Be as ambitious as you like. If this is your first time doing this exercise, don’t make it about 2012. Feel free to think in terms of your whole life. Think big. If you have trouble finding ideas, pause for 30 seconds or so every five minutes to stretch and take a deep breath. See how many ideas you can come up with in 30 minutes.
Now fold up that piece of paper and keep it with you for 24 hours to think. See what else you can come up with. It is often helpful to spend some of this time at a bookstore, in the mall, in the classified ads, with friends, watching TV, surfing the internet, reviewing your old high school yearbooks. When a goal or dream comes to mind, add it to your list.
Take another look at the list tomorrow. With a blue pen, circle your most important lifelong goals. With a red pen, circle the ones you will do this year. Rewrite the whole thing on another clean, fresh piece of paper and put it into two columns. One is called This year. The other is called Someday.
As a doctor, I often try to point my patients in the right direction, but I don’t do enough to help them get there. I do what I can, but most people need more. There are hundreds of self-help books and courses to help you set goals and achieve them. You may also want to invest in a coach if you are serious about personal growth and self-improvement. Coaching is an amazing tool. Olympic athletes and CEOs have them, and you should too.
I’ll be doing this on December 30th and 31st, just like I always do. This year I have been humbled by the realization that my calling has become louder. My message is that integrative medicine can heal healthcare and the world. As time passes, it becomes clearer, more urgent, more relevant and more necessary. Important things will be happening this year. I will continue to do my best to answer this call by becoming better at making things better for us all.
You may not know it yet, but this may be your calling too. When you hear it, I hope you’ll join me.
Happy New Year
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