Each new year brings with it a chance for a new you. It’s a fresh start, a long-awaited event onto which we pile all our goals to look and feel better.
But what if we looked at our resolutions more broadly, as if our decisions — including our resolutions — affected others.
After all, “each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others,” Pope Francis shared in his talk at a TED conference titled “A Future You.”
He emphasized how our very lives flow through our connections with others. If we think of it that way, we are constantly affecting, impacting, and influencing those around us.
Making the choice to include others in your resolutions starts with building awareness of “the other,” as Pope Francis put it.
“The other has a face,” he stressed. In order to extend the reach of our goals outside ourselves, we must build our knowledge of the needs of the outside world. Pope Francis offers some invaluable advice on where to start.
With that in mind, we ask, how can we incorporate this challenge into our New Year’s resolutions? The following are small steps to start us off on a journey toward building “The Future Us.”
“We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state.” —Pope Francis
An aspect of solidarity that Pope Francis emphasizes is the need to renew our relationships with those around us. Simply having a connection is not enough. We must also consider the condition of those connections. What we do, and what we fail to do, affects those in our lives, and even those beyond our personal lives. “We all need each other,” Pope Francis shares. “None of us is an island.” We are naturally social beings and therefore, we rely on the support and direction of others. We want to make sure they can rely on us, too.
With today’s communication technology, there is less of an excuse to lose touch with people. The Internet and social media present us with an unlimited directory right at our fingertips. And yet, more often than not, it is that very technology that distracts us from our relationships.
Why not try a different approach to communication by picking up a pen and paper and communicating the “old-fashioned” way? Writing a thoughtful letter to someone who has made a difference in our lives allows us to reflect on that relationship; it also reveals to that person how we feel about him or her. The words we take the time to write can not only replenish but preserve the connections we hold with others for years to come.
“A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you.” —Pope Francis
It doesn’t take an entire movement to instill hope. Hope begins where we plant it. All it takes is a single seed, and from there it grows. If we don’t have hope that the future holds brighter things, then what is the point in working toward it? In the words of Pope Francis, “the future does have a name, and its name is Hope.” Our very future is built on the hope that there is a better world to come.
We miss out on a lot of chances to spread hope by failing to realize that there is a need for it all around us. The future is as close as one breath away from where we stand now. Hope, then, is needed exactly where we are.
As a result, every person we walk past is a chance to spread hope. What if instead of keeping our heads down, eyes trained on our phones or the ground, we looked up? Spreading hope can be as simple as sharing a smile with a stranger.
“This is tenderness: being on the same level as the other.” —Pope Francis
Tenderness is a vital element of solidarity, and it is not always easy to practice. There is a reason Pope Francis warned that tenderness is only for the strongest, most courageous individuals. Tenderness means looking out at the suffering that exists in the world and recognizing that you have the ability to change it. It is acknowledging your power to do so while also accepting the humility that comes with the realization of our innate equality with all people. It is reaching a hand out to those in need and taking their hand when they reach back.
Our world could always use more listeners. Or rather, it could use better listeners. Our voice is invaluable, but it becomes even more so when we know to refrain from speaking, as well. When we listen to people’s stories, we have an opportunity to grow both in knowledge and compassion.
Whether it’s a friend venting about a relationship or a colleague sharing a difficult work experience, we practice tenderness when we lend an ear and engage in his/her struggle, meeting them where they are. People don’t always need advice — sometimes they just need to be heard.
Resolutions can be tricky to stick to, but involving others in them presents an added incentive to succeed. When we focus on the well-being of all people, rather than just ourselves, we widen our expectations of what can be accomplished in the new year. As Pope Francis shared in his TED Talk, “The future, most of all, is in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us.’”