An Unfamiliar New Year’s Lens––No Resolutions and No Goals

An Unfamiliar New Year’s Lens––No Resolutions and No Goals


It’s 10:24 am as I sit down to write this blog post. I had planned to get up early and have completed the first draft by now. After all, I sketched out the blog yesterday, so it shouldn’t be that hard or take that long. And I would be able to reward myself with an afternoon of pure relaxation—finishing the latest book by Jodi Picoult. But my plan fell apart when I woke up, the sky was overcast, and I felt tired (probably because I read too late last night). So I stayed in bed a while, and then I lingered at the breakfast table over my coffee to finish not one but two podcast episodes. Feeling slightly guilty the whole time.

And I realize that my experience is the perfect example of the modern industrial lens on life that focuses on action and “to-do” lists, results, and accomplishments. Relaxation and contemplation must be earned by “enough” work, action, items crossed off the to-do list, and achievement of goals. My experience is particularly ironic because I decided only yesterday to write a year-end reflection about the possibility of a different, slower lens.


A winter morning at a village in the upper Zerafshan Valley of Tajikistan, shared by Munira Akilova during our recent Silk Road Design Encounter “Traveler” program.


Yesterday, I woke up thinking about the snowstorm that blanketed three-quarters of the country over the holiday weekend and my gratitude that the Southwest US (not Southwest Airlines) managed to skip that mess. So instead of jumping out of bed or planning what I needed to do when I got up, I let my mind wander wherever it wanted. Some of the seemingly random thoughts that came to my mind:

  • What a mess all the airline delays were going to be.
  • It’s incredible how one flight delay can have so many ripple effects across the country and on the lives of those who have to deal with it. And even more ripple effects on the people who are affected by the delayed travelers. Multiply those ripple effects by thousands in every direction, and you have a worldwide impact. Because everything and everybody is connected in one way or another.
  • The world is like a giant jigsaw puzzle with billions of pieces.
  • One of the hallmarks of modern industrial life is that we insist on trying to exercise power over nature, like flying thousands of airplanes and millions of people in every direction in the middle of a crazy “once in a generation” snowstorm.
  • In nature, winter is an extended time of hibernation, of quiet rejuvenation.
  • What if modern humans took more of a seasonal approach to life?
  • In traditional societies and traditional arts, the seasons and cycles of nature play a prominent role.
  • The concept of the number “four” often appears in Central Asian traditional art patterns––the four seasons, the four stages of life, the four directions.
Two hand-embroidered pillow covers from Armughon Handicrafts of Tajikistan with a “Chorkona” (four rooms) theme.
  • Nature––landscapes, the sky, water, flora, and fauna––figures prominently in the meaning of Central Asian traditional art. It’s also central to the traditional art and culture of Native American and First Nation communities. Another connection!
  • The modern world of Amazon, “fast fashion,” and short-term results leaves no time to consider the ripple effects on people or the planet. That’s arguably the hallmark of modern capitalism.
  • A memorable recent podcast emphasized that lack of sleep, a bad diet (fast food), and stress correlate with a tendency to develop Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Focusing only on goals and results leaves no room for what Simon Sinek calls the “why”: The compelling higher purpose that inspires us and is the source of all we do. (To explore this concept more fully, listen to Simon Sinek’s original 2009 TED Talk “Start with Why” and his more recent TED talk on “How to discover your ‘why’ in difficult times.”)
  • Another recent podcast speaker invited listeners to consider if their actions contribute to the good, the true, or the beautiful. (Check out this episode.)
  • So much of modern global society centers around achieving and maintaining “power over”—power over nature, power over other (mainly “different”) people, power over other nations, power over circumstances.
  • Imagine the world we could enjoy if we focused on the concepts of “power with” and “power to,” so beautifully outlined by Brene´ Brown in her summary overview.

So what does all this have to do with New Year’s Resolutions and Goals? Before you leap to creating a New Year’s resolution or a 2023 business (or life) plan, I invite you to:

(1) take plenty of time this weekend (and beyond) to sleep, rest, relax and de-stress, and

(2) look at your life and what you want to do over the next year through a new and perhaps unfamiliar lens––a lens of slow, quiet reflection and contemplation, something more attuned to the traditional winter season.


Another shot of a winter morning along the upper Zerafshan Valley of Tajikistan. Photo by Munira Akilova.


Let your relaxed and rested mind wander for a bit, with no achievement goal, no “to-do” list, no ”action-oriented” focus, and just see what comes up. Consider your own “why.” What kind of ripple effects do you want to generate? How are you and your actions connected to other people? Can you use “power with” instead of “power over” in a meaningful way? How does your life or work contribute to the good, the true, or the beautiful? Instead of your goal, think about your direction, your path forward. Write down your thoughts so they don’t disappear.

Then, if resolutions, goals, and plans help move you to action (instead of just creating guilt when you don’t stick to them), build them around the more meaningful ideas and visions that emerged from your quiet “winter” contemplation. I believe that you’ll find this approach will allow you to start the New Year with renewed energy and motivation. And then, who knows what impact you might be able to have in the world?

Happy New Year! And thank you for being a member of the HoonArts community. Your continued commitment to our shared values inspires me to keep going.




  • Denise

    Thank you for this beautiful, contemplative post! I can relate to much of what you’ve shared – the tension between the urge to cross items off to-do lists as I was taught but also to just be with the present, unfolding moments. Wishing you a renewed, inspired start to the new year – whatever direction it may lead! I appreciate following your journey along with HoonArts…

  • Rachel Biel

    Great post, Rikki! I love Simon Sinek and he actually changed my way of thinking several years ago and that has made a huge difference in how I experience success, failure, goals, etc. I hadn’t seen this newer talk of his and it was so gentle and kind…. Thank you for all that you do to inspire people in the cross cultural roads, in art and in meaningfulness… Happy 2023!

  • Glenn Geffcken

    Well said Rikki. I too have been feeling the need for more slowness.

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