For 2017, Spark Your Own Renaissance

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.  —Leonardo da Vinci

T he Renaissance was a period of time beginning in the 14th century that saw a great revival of art, literature, and learning in Europe and marked the transition from the medieval to the modern world. Though there are many views on how and why this shift occurred, the Renaissance reflected a renewal in scholarly thinking, art, and culture, across the continent.

The word “renaissance” means a renewal of life, vigor, and interest. It comes from the French word, “renaistre,” which means to be born again. It is a rebirth. As we close out 2016 and look forward to the year ahead, it seems the perfect word to embrace for our plans and aspirations in the new year.

The new year calls us to renewal. It is a call to an earlier time. A period that captured our imagination, our energy, and our hope. Of course, renewal isn’t about reliving a specific time in the past, it is about the spirit of another time. Tapping into  feelings and motivations; finding the joy that was kindled in former possibilities and moments. Renewal is a spiritual return to a previous moment in which, looking ahead, we felt that there was still much before us.

Renewal is a spiritual return to a previous moment in which, looking ahead, we felt that there was still much before us.

Another element of renaissance is rebirth. Rebirth isn’t about returning, it is about beginning again. Recreating our world in a new light, with new ideas, and fresh possibilities. The new year calls us to recreate ourselves in the reflection of our current capabilities, but with an eye toward our potential. Starting anew isn’t throwing everything out and starting over or relinquishing the gifts that brought us where we are. Rebirth is launching from this moment into the ones yet to be with a new sense of the possible and the will to make it real.

Where to begin? To spark a renaissance in your life will require you to tap into the spirit of renewal and walk with intention toward the possible; a quest that is both emotional and intellectual. Here are some ideas for instigating your own renaissance:

  1. Invest yourself in your renaissance.
  2. Open yourself to the inspirational.
  3. Shift your thinking about the present.
  4. Inventory the good.
  5. Map the aspirational.
  6. Steel your resolve with action.
  7. Set the station.

Invest Yourself in Your Renaissance

The first step is straightforward: simply decide to intentionally walk the path to your own renaissance. Once you’ve decided, commit to the process by setting aside time to focus on each step. My suggestion is that you carve out 30-45 minutes a day from now through the end of 2016 to focus on your renaissance process. Most people won’t commit. Most people won’t follow through. Renaissance is about doing things differently – start with the commitment.

Then, just do it. Two to three weeks of commitment to thinking about your future. Just a few minutes a day. Resolve to put in the difficult work of thinking and dreaming about what is possible. Invest your time. Invest a notebook. Invest a space. Invest your heart. Choose to believe that you can and will embrace renewal for your year ahead.

Open Yourself to the Inspirational

For me, reading or listening to books is an effective trigger. However, there are now so many sources of great inspiration: videos, podcasts, people. Open yourself up by reading, listening, or watching something that inspires you. I often turn to poetry. It sits outside of my day-to-day. Good poetry takes me somewhere else. The point is to get into a frame of mind and spirit that allows you to think clearly about non-urgent, less-than-concrete elements of your own life. Opening your time alone with your own form of meditation or devotion clears the baggage and inspires clarity of thinking.

Shift Your Thinking About the Present

The best way to shift your thinking is to introduce new ideas and concepts. I find that it is nearly impossible not to inspire possibility thinking when I absorb new information. Books, podcasts, and videos once again play a critical part. Now that you have opened yourself, feed your mind and heart with fresh notions. Challenge your brain with great thinking from other people. I have a collection of go-to authors that help me see myself and my world in new ways. Sometimes I turn to business related content and sometimes I travel farther afield and explore spiritual or philosophical material. Often, I find historical books helpful, particularly biographies.

The reality is that most of us want the bullet points, the cliff notes, and the soundbites. To shift your thinking, you will need to dig deeper and force yourself to consider new ideas, other perspectives, and the world beyond the trail you walk every day. In this process, you will build a new framework within which you might create new context for you own life.

Inventory the Good

Your own renaissance will be best sparked by building on the foundation you’ve created for your life. Grab your notebook and dedicate a few pages to the good and the beautiful in your life. List everything you can think of: your personal gifts, the wonderful people around you, your neighborhood or city, your education, your faith, your country, your pets, all of it. This list accomplishes two things: it creates a spirit of gratitude within you and inventories your assets. The positive energy of gratitude coupled with a solid list of what you have on your side provides a powerful spring into the aspirational.

Map the Aspirational

Of course, I mean map that which is aspirational. Call it what you will: goals, objectives, possibilities, resolutions, aspirations, etc. Get that notebook back out and compile a list of aspirations. Next year, the year beyond, five years – whatever.  Mapping the aspirational is about looking forward and considering the possible in the context of your desires. It might make sense to break these down into categories: personal, professional, family, spiritual, etc. Your renaissance begins with where you want to go, who you want to become, and ultimately boils down to becoming the best version of yourself. What is the best version of yourself? You’ve opened yourself up to inspiration, you’ve considered other people’s great ideas, you’ve taken an inventory of your gifts, and now you begin to consider what you are called to be, who you want to be, and how you might start down that path.

One suggestion: don’t be shy. Put it out there. Stretch. What would happen if _________? Often you’ll uncover things you don’t like about your life. Great! Renaissance is rebirth and change is in the wind. When you renew and recreate, you give yourself permission to remove things that no longer fit, don’t align, and/or poorly reflect the best version of yourself. Often we look externally. Resist the temptation. Changing relationships, jobs, homes, cars, clothes, et al. rarely addresses the real issue until we’ve aligned our self with the values, gifts, priorities, and possibilities that define us. Map the aspirational by looking forward to the best version of yourself and what that means for your life.

Map the aspirational by looking forward to the best version of yourself and what that means for your life.

Steel Your Resolve With Action

Forgive me for using the “A” word but it is absolutely necessary. Without action, all of your inspiration and aspiration will amount to little more than a slight adrenaline blip in a particular moment. To spark your renaissance, you’ll need to act, again and again and again. Of course, this means taking definite steps to actualize your aspirational map. Action could be as simple as eating to match your health goals, taking a class in a foreign language, learning to play the piano, putting a new resume together, or it could be a set of long term objectives like: going back to school, sailing around the world, going to all of your child’s school events for the next 10 years, taking your mom to breakfast every Friday morning, etc.

The great news about action is that it feeds itself. Action creates momentum and momentum reinforces our sense of progress. With momentum, action steels our resolve because we see it working and ultimately taking us toward our aspirations. One word of caution: don’t over-complicate this process. Take small steps. Sometimes we jump too grandly into a direction and lose our resolve in the midst of overwhelming scope. The other side of this issue is waiting for the perfect time. There is no perfect time. When you wait for the perfect time, you are simply giving yourself permission to do nothing. Sometimes, we need to steel our resolve by jumping-in without perfect information, perfect timing, or perfect readiness. One of the most powerful motivators is necessity. When you commit yourself to a direction based on an action, you often trigger the necessity engine, and your most resourceful self.

One of the most powerful motivators is necessity. When you commit yourself to a direction based on an action, you often trigger the necessity engine, and your most resourceful self.

Set the Station

None of what I’ve described above is a one time event. The reality is that we should always be in some state of renaissance for it is through the process of renewal that we grow. So, set the station. Program this channel into your routine so that you can return to it daily. Revisit it when you hesitate. Revisit it when you fail. Revisit it when you lose hope. Revisit it when you doubt. Make it a part of your toolkit that you use to repair, modify, and affirm all that you are and all that you might be.

The Year Before Us

Here we are. Another year before us. We have all been granted amazing gifts, free will, and possibility. They are ours to shepherd and nourish, or, ours to squander. The responsibility is staggering. What will you do with it? How will you spend it? In the coming year, trigger your own  renaissance by resolving to be more, to do more, and aspire to more. Then, commit to becoming the best version of yourself with intention and persistent effort. Who knows? You may just surprise yourself and those around you with a spark that truly makes a difference.

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