Improving your life at any time of year can seem overwhelming. That is especially true for mid-late January, with many people trying to implement new year’s resolutions or similar goals and strategies. Last year I wrote about keeping on track at a time when the weather is bleak and things don’t seem to be changing fast enough. I believe that my thoughts from last year are still valid, but you might want to add the ideas of Guardian columnist Oliver Burkeman to the mix. I wrote about him in 2009 and 2011, and he has a new book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. It has drawn lots of attention, in part because it reminds us that not all self-help is helpful, and that we don’t necessarily help the situation by constantly putting pressure on ourselves to improve.
Burkeman addressed the resolutions issue last month in a guest article for Newsweek/The Daily Beast, which among other things introduced me to “the Buddhist-influenced Japanese psychologist Shoma Morita.” He quotes this advice from Morita, about essentially starting where you are, with what you have, warts-and-all, to “begin taking action now, while being neurotic or imperfect or a procrastinator or unhealthy or lazy or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself.” Burkeman’s clear-eyed, realistic and fairly gentle way of bringing you back to earth is also evident in his latest column, about creative thinking, another area that is fraught with unreasonable expectations. A key takeaway for me is that there are many paths to improvement, happiness and enlightenment; you have to find what is right for you. The best authors in these genres forge a direct connection with their readers, a worthy aspiration that can slowly lead to improved lives.