So, here’s an interesting thought that I stumbled upon the other day: the best way to maintain habits that you are trying to cultivate (i.e. working out, giving thanks, meditating, not procrastinating) is to alter your own perspective about your identity.
What this article argued was that by thinking of ourselves as the type of person who eats healthily, or the type of person who writes letters every week, we have a much easier time fulfilling those goals. It makes a lot of sense to me. Imagine having a goal to learn French. If you consistently tell yourself and others that you are the kind of person who is bad at learning languages, you’re automatically setting yourself up to accept failure. Success in that area is fundamentally ‘not you,’ and therefore much harder to achieve.
So where does this fit into my life here at the Monastery? Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of person I want to be for the rest of my life–going to a liberal arts college tends to do that to you. Being here at the monastery is not only a chance for me to start over in a new setting, it is also an opportunity to be around people who are more like I want to be.
What I’ve learned, even in the first two weeks, is just how intelligent and traveled these women are. Benedictine sisters aren’t trapped in their isolated towers their whole lives, though I think some people hold that misconception. I’ve talked to women who taught for thirty years in five or six different cities. I’ve had dinner with women who are fluent in three languages (every Tuesday night there is a Spanish-language-only table). I’ve met women who studied art and Greek classics, women who had a career and then returned to school to pursue nursing, women who played three or four instruments and composed beautiful pieces. Most of them have been to another country. A lot of them have been to Europe. And they talk about politics, the news, canning, soap making, and all the people they know from all over the country.
These women inspire me. They continue to teach me new kinds of love, new kinds of gratitude, and plenty of new ways to wash the dishes.
So, what kind of person am I?
I’m the kind of person who listens and learns from others. I’m the kind of person who embraces every day. I’m the kind of person who takes care of herself so she can take care of others. I’m the kind of person who is so very grateful for the opportunities, big and small, that life provides. I’m the kind of person who will loves experiencing new places, new cultures, and new people. I’m the kind of person who finds beauty in everything and everyone. And I’m also the kind of person who writes, prays, sings, reads, thinks, and breathes deeply. (And it’s only the second week..)
The whole point is that I have to believe I am (or at the very least, can be) the type of person I want to be. Because that’s the kind of goal that is lived out every day, without guilt or pressure or shame.
So it’s time for you to decide. What kind of person are you?