I’ve always loved the beginning of a New Year. It offers us time to reflect on the past and consciously look towards a better future. Despite this, however, New Year’s resolutions can be a challenge. We frequently get a little ahead of ourselves, offering up a list of overzealous and idealized things to “check off” in the New Year—perhaps eating better, losing weight, making more money, or [quite ambitiously] changing the world.
I’m a real idealist, and so every January 1st, I feel totally in control, like I can accomplish anything I set my mind to in the coming year. What ends up happening, however, is I let myself down, feeling pressured by stress I’ve imposed on myself.
In 2017, I want to be mindful about how I am setting goals that will weave into the New Year. Rather than resolutions, this year I am setting intentions. Want to join me? Mine are listed below, and if they resonate with you, I've provided some tools that may be helpful to guide you. Have different intentions for 2017 that you want to share? I’d love to hear yours posted in the comments. Need help finding some that suit you? Remember, intentions are really about giving yourself the room to grow, without placing too much pressure on the end result. They really can be anything. And can even be very simple. Go with your intuition, it will guide you!
Live in the present, but search for the bigger picture.
If the past two years are any indication, life moves too fast. My first year out of University felt like a total whirlwind, constantly going, going and then gone. My body literally had an adverse reaction to all the commotion, landing me in the emergency room with a few big health scares. Another year later and I’m a year into a new job, with a new group of crazy amazing friends, new hobbies, and new ambitions.
Individually, I have a tendency to always be searching for what’s next—the next career move, the next outing with friends, the next trip around the world. While it’s good to be constantly progressing, it’s important to be there for the present moment. As scary as it sounds, when I look back on 2016, some of the memories I have are already a bit fuzzy, likely the product of not fully being present as I experienced them. Additionally, it can be difficult to see the bigger picture when things are moving so fast around you.
2017 will be about living in the present. It will be about allowing myself to fully be there mentally and physically for my friends and family and the work that is important to me. All we are is a product of our experiences, right? Being present to them—and then reflecting on them later will serve us even better for our futures.
Helpful tool: A journal. It sounds simple, but it can be really helpful. Pick a theme, moment, or experience, and when you write reflect on what happened, why it's important to you, and what you want to focus on moving forward.
Set goals, but relish in the journey of getting there.
There are a number of concrete goals I have for the new year, namely stepping up in my role at work, traveling more frequently, developing a new technical skill, and exploring a business plan to develop an entrepreneurial pursuit (see? I’m already getting ahead of myself here—there’s so much I want to do…) Rather than focusing on accomplishing the end product of these as discrete “goals”, however, I want to focus on the journey towards reaching these goals. Making note of how I am feeling at each step of the journey and reflecting on the narrative of my own development will help me recognize whether they were the right goals to begin with and how best to continue forward.
Helpful tool: Create a journey map of sorts to help guide you to your goal. Allow space on the map to reflect on moments in your journey that may be important or emotionally significant. Remind yourself that your path can change, and that’s ok.
Your body is a temple, be kind to it.
Rather than “getting fit”, going vegan, or perfecting a new fitness routine (although these are all great things to do!), I vow this year to listen to what my body needs. If it needs an intense workout? Then kickboxing it is. If it needs to slow down and stretch? Vinyasa Flow. This goes for food too. I usually maintain a pretty healthy diet, but with food allergies and sensitivities and frequent travel for work, I’m not always able to eat the best foods. 2017 will be about learning to accept this, not feeling guilty if I don’t “eat clean” at all times. This is the year of balance, and inversely, moderation.
Additionally, this applies to mental health too. Acknowledging when I need some self-love and taking the time I need to decompress after a hectic work week is beyond ok.
Helpful tool: Tuning in. What is your body feeling? What does it crave? Listen to it. The body keeps the score.
When things are beyond our control, acknowledge that they affect you, look for a solution, and move on. Make the best of the situation, no matter what.
Coming home from an international family vacation recently, my flight to connect in Brussels was an absolute (cover your ears, kids) train wreck*. After 2 hours of sitting on the plane (at the gate) they announced that there was a computer malfunction and we all had to de-plane and get new ticket assignments. Then, while waiting for our luggage, they announced that the flight was back on and to go back through security and back to the gate, only to find that indeed, the flight was still cancelled. It being early in the New Year and with many people ending their holidays, no re-routes were available and so I was left with a 24-hour layover option in Brussels.
I had a sort of revelation in the airport. On the verge of tears, I started talking with the people around me, who were also in the same boat. One woman in particular—Amy—and her family helped me bear the tumultuous terrain. They helped me find my lost luggage and even joked that I was their “adopted” oldest daughter. Prior to this, I’d wanted to scream at every airport attendant, “why can’t you figure this out, why can’t you fix this, this is your job, etc.”** The family’s humanness made me feel so good. It calmed me down and helped me think more rationally about the situation at hand. I realized I was taking my personal frustration on people who didn’t have any control over the situation. A little human decency can go a long way, people, and 24 hours in Brussels is not the worst thing that could happen. Everything in perspective.
Helpful tool: A mantra. When things get tough, say this mantra out-loud to yourself. Nothing is permanent. We are resilient. My mantra in this instance? “Breathe, smile, repeat.”