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This year, resist the dark side

There’s a moment in Star Wars: The Force Awakens when Kylo Ren calls on the spirit of Darth Vader to remind him of the power of the dark side. Feeling pulled toward the light and wondering if he has the strength to complete his latest mission, Kylo Ren hopes that reconnecting to the power that first seduced him will help him re-commit and finish the job.

And who amongst us hasn’t been there?

How many of us, staying late at the office, or battling infuriating bureaucracy have not questioned why we took on that latest project or promotion? With the burden of obligation settling on our shoulders and pinning us in place, how many of us have seen the previously enticing images of prestige and power fade in their allure?

I mean, really.

Have you ever saddled yourself with something because it came with a raise, an impressive title, or a perceived boost to your reputation?

Have you done the opposite – rushed toward something you couldn’t rationalize because you felt inexplicably, exhilaratingly pulled toward it?

As we look to start the year with intention, I encourage you to draw wisdom from both the shadows and the light. And I think Yoda would agree with me.

Dark Side Image 2Yodic year in review

Luke Skywaker’s boldly honest mentor taught his young Padawan that Jedis don’t allow superficialities like excitement and adventure to divert them from their purpose. Nor do they use the Force for attack, rather they call on it for knowledge and defense.

What does that mean for you? That your experiences last year – both good and bad – are a wealth of information that can arm you for better protection, shrewder offense and further triumph this year.

Give it a try. Think through the year, month by month and ask yourself when you cowed down to your own dark forces and when you embraced the light.

Which accomplishments rang hollow, and which resonated with you in a way that transcended their apparent importance?

  • When did you feel most alive and invigorated? Most subdued or tied down?
  • Where did you approach something with anticipation only to encounter it with disappointment? Or move toward it with trepidation to end up enjoying yourself?
  • Where did you surprise yourself?
  • Where did something appear that was better than you could have planned?
  • When were these delights cloaked in challenge? Challenge obscured by delight?
  • When did you feel as if you had no choice?

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Your answers to these questions provide insight into when you align with the dark side – whatever that is for you – and when you stand in your own light.

When we allow ourselves to be seduced by others’ definitions of success, by perceived or explicit expectation or by politics and ego, we stray from our own true purpose. Realizing our specific temptations can inform that purpose and our manner of staying on it.

So how does all this impact how you want to approach this year? Consider the following:

  • Which hollow accolades are you considering pursuing now, and what would bring you more fulfillment?
  • How can you prevent feeling restrained or submissive, choosing instead to make more space for the experiences that invigorate you?
  • What do the unexpected outcomes from last year point you toward now? Which undesirable effects can you avoid or minimize, and which surprisingly satisfying moments can you multiply or amplify?
  • Where are you currently feeling powerless and what choice could you exercise in that area now?
  • How will you leave space in your planning for the universe to rise up to meet you, for the Force to present something on your behalf?

Finally, as Yoda said in assessing young Anakin Skywalker for training in the Jedi Order, “Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.”

And somewhere in there between anger and hate is resentment, a surefire sign that you’re beholden rather than empowered.

So here’s my last question:

What is it that would most scare you to do – or not do – this year? And how can you start now?