To Ring In the New, Look Back
Have you noticed the trend away from New Year’s resolutions?
People have realized that simply setting a couple of goals at the in-some-ways randomly selected time of January 1st does not necessarily mean that you will meet those goals.
Meeting new goals is in large part about changing habits in our lives. Which is hard to do. Forget about willpower. We’re terrible at willpower, and if our goal asks us to show up with buckets of willpower every day, it is likely that we won’t meet it. True habit change is about lifestyle, about finding ways to incorporate something new into our daily or weekly routines that can begin to blend in seamlessly — thereby increasing its likelihood of success.
So other than a goal to get busy with my new Duolingo Spanish app on a regular basis this year, I haven’t really set New Year’s resolutions. But I definitely do an intentional retrospective on the year prior. Think of it as an 80/20 exercise of sorts: what 20% of things in my year produced 80% of my happiness or positive experiences? What few things produced the most negative experiences or feelings? Because I want to learn from my life. I want more of those good things. I want to be intentional about how I’m living.
For me, this is as simple as doing a mental comb through of my year from start to finish, where I was, what was happening, and looking at the things that stand out. And then I like to journal. I just do it in notes form in Evernote, but whatever way works for you is fine. I title it “Year in Review” and then I make two lists: “Positive” and “Negative.” After I make the lists, I note any themes. This is important, because there are definitely themes that emerge for me. I also go back and look at my prior year notes and those themes, because it’s really helpful to note my evolution (or the way in which I’m not actually making progress on a theme, and then ask myself what else I need to do to really change that).
Next up, I do another note called “Lessons.” This is where I try and distill my year of experiences and the themes that emerged into my biggest lessons of the year. And I do all this not as some sort of busyness exercise, but because I believe ALL of life is growth and lessons. And frankly if I’m not awake enough to be learning them, I’m not really doing what I’m here on this planet to do — grow and evolve.
Here are my biggest lessons of 2018:
1. Go (BE) where you feel most alive.
In the first week of 2018, I moved to San Diego. It was a scary, expensive, solo trip, with two unhappy felines in tow. But I feel it in every cell in my body: California is it for me. San Diego feels like paradise. I have lived in some lovely places, but none really grabbed me in a way where I felt like I wanted to put down roots, felt truly blissful there, a feeling of joy and relief in coming home after being away.
And so I have learned deeply that sometimes places siren us, and we are meant to go. There is something in us that needs to bloom, and it needs to be there to do it. If that is the case, push through the limitations and discomforts that may seem like barriers to getting there, for those barriers are actually part of your lesson, part of the growth. We deserve to feel a sense of expansive exhale in the place where we live. I feel that every day when I throw open the curtains and greet the sunny San Diego morning, every day when I take walks and soak up the sun and marvel at the exotic plants from outer space, every time I breathe in the Pacific ocean and feel myself relax deeply. After a year, I’m no less in awe of all that than when I moved.
2. Nature heals.
Related to the last for me (see: sunshine, beaches, flowers, cacti, ocean, hikes, blissful temperatures, etc), this is so simple it’s almost maddening. But with 2.5 years of health issues and their healing still underway, I can’t overstate the power of being outside to heal body, mind, and soul. Why we somehow think we should be chained to desks and screens eight hours a day is beyond me. Take a break. Take a walk. Get a little sun. Discover a new hike. Go outside and really open your eyes, walk with the intention of finding beauty, even if it’s the smallest detail. When I don’t do this, I notice my body and mood feel worse. When I do… ahhhhhh.
3. Real growth takes time.
Things are happening exactly when / as they should (even if you feel like they’re not happening fast enough). Don’t judge it.
Of course we want to change our lives for the better. But — we want to make one change, read one book, get an immediate answer, and fix the thing right away. It doesn’t always work that way. Real inner growth is a process that is ongoing. Outer change in our lives can take months, years. Building a bridge is fine. We don’t have to go from zero to 100 in life in a matter of weeks, or months. Just keep at it, and stop fighting where you are. You are right where you should be.
4. Follow the pings.
The term “ping” is borrowed from Lacy Phillips (@tobemagnetic) and refers to those little hits of intuition. It’s the little voice inside that says, “Do this. Go here. Try that. Investigate this. Pay attention to that. Remember them?” Or even just, “Huh…that’s interesting.”
The pings are very, very important. They are your guideposts to all the things you want, that slowly, in little tiny flashes, eventually come together in a magnificent mosaic. But we have to listen, we have to make it a practice to pay attention. And then we have to ACT on them.
The thing is, the pings usually don’t make sense to our logical brain. I had one recently while walking outside that said to send a rather ballsy, candid email to the CEO of a company I was interested in. Our logical brain would say, “That will never work. How will you get his email? He won’t respond, your email is too long,” blah blah blah. We can’t let the rational brain talk us out of the pings. (My ping yielded some very interesting results!) We must follow them, or, if they are just not affordable or feasible at this moment, keep a running list of these so you can return to them. I came across this Oprah quote recently and it says everything for me: “Life only speaks to you in whispers, guiding you. Your ONLY job in this life is to listen to the whisper and to follow it.”
If you’re hustling and grinding and pushing all the time, the pings don’t come. They need rest, room to breathe. They need you to turn off the TV and put down the phone sometimes. They need you to be able to get quiet with yourself. You need to heed the whispers.
5. The name of the game: worthiness & living our truest authentic expression of self.
I’ve come to believe that the core of much of life’s work is about uncovering / unblocking our worthiness, and uncovering / de-conditioning to become our most authentic, unique selves. Worthiness emerged as the primary word for me at the end of last year. I have spent much of this year really working on that. And the work continues. We all are worthy of everything we desire, and we all come into this world with unique gifts to give. This is a process, a continued journey requiring us to keep showing up for the work.
But beginning a practice where I view everything through the lens of, “Does this feel like it has dignity for me? Does it feel in my worth?” has been very powerful. For much of my life, I have been very, very afraid to say no to things that don’t feel like that. I have been terrified I will be alone, unwanted, that nothing better will come. No more of that. It takes a lot of spine and faith to hold to NO for the things that don’t feel in our worth. But we MUST start practicing this if we are really to rise in our worthiness.
I also have spent much of my life shrinking from my truest expressions of self. What do I mean by that? I mean the interests, gifts, talents, and qualities that I came into this world with, the things I naturally love and gravitate towards, my unique expression, the greatest gifts I have to give. There are things, themes that have shown up in my life since I was very young, that I believe are a key part of what I came here to do, to give, to express. But I got a lot of programming in my young life that some of those elements that are truly the essence of me were either not lovable, not safe, or frivolous and not something that would earn me any money. It is taking a lot of work on myself to deprogram those limiting beliefs and begin to structure my life and work in greater alignment with my core elements, the things I gravitate towards and have since childhood, the things that are the most unique expression of me.
Sometimes you are reminded what your true self and true gifts are by being reminded of what you are not. And when things feel really hard — when something is a struggle, when we experience failure — this is really just feedback from the Universe saying, nope, not that way. Not quite that. Adjust.
6. Love blooms when you don’t need it.
I have learned a lot about love this year. I have learned that, in a romantic relationship, it is not something you NEED, not something you are desperate for, or feel as though you will finally be happy when, or that somehow the things you don’t love about your life will be solved when you find that person, that relationship, that love. Ironically, really healthy, supportive love is not something that happens when you are lonely. You have to really love yourself first, really be ok alone first. Then, when it happens, there is an ease to it. There is no grasping quality, no needy quality. Your self worth is very strong, therefore your boundaries about the caliber of how you are treated are very high. You are very ok with saying no if it’s not right.
And then… when all that is pretty strong, here is how it feels: Warm. Nurturing. Playful. Easy. Magnetic. You can be all of you without feeling badly about the imperfect parts. You feel seen, and valued, and appreciated. You feel very ok being apart and doing your own thing, and joyful being together. You feel comfortable with that person when you’re alone, and also out in the world. You feel very cared for, that the other person is kind and giving toward you, without an ego-ic need for validation for their giving, an expectation of tit for tat, or a desperate need to be needed.
In my own relationship, I’m taking it as it comes. I’m letting it unfold. I’m just being in it, allowing it to deepen, while just continually noting if it feels really good, really nurturing. A huge thanks to E., my very special guy, who is helping me learn a lot of these things in a very beautiful way.
7. Forgiveness begins with oneself.
When we can begin with ourselves, forgiving others becomes much easier and our judgements tend to melt away. So rather than, “I should really work on being less judge-y / triggered / annoyed, etc by so-and-so,” it is really an exercise in self work. It is a mirror asking us to hold it up and look inside at what needs attention, acceptance, integration. We have the whole spectrum of the human existence in us, the good, the bad, the ugly, the shadow-y, the vulnerable, the imperfect, and the perfect. The more we can begin to really shine a light on all those parts, and be gentle with the ones we don’t like, the more whole we become, and the less our shadow-y, shameful parts control us invisibly.
I have someone in my life who shows me my shadow, the scarce or fearful parts of me I don’t like and don’t want to become. I’m working on showing up with more grace, more acceptance, more forgiveness there, which really asks that I be ok with myself. That I integrate the parts of me, so that I like who I am, I’m ok with my imperfections, know that I can move beyond my fears. [It’s worth mentioning here that I’ve gotten a lot of benefit this year from these tools (particularly Reparent and Shadow). Add to that the work of Brené Brown on shame and you got yourself some solid help.] It’s an exercise in patience and shining a gentle light on the parts of us we don’t like, rather than shoving them under the rug.
If 2017 for me was about massive upheaval, about hitting rock bottom and jumping off a cliff, then 2018 was about beginning to build the change, about digging in and looking at everything in myself still fearful, still blocked, still limiting. It was about the work. It was about going deep into myself, deciding to throw open the doors to the attic and the basement, to wade into into all the dark, dusty, bug-filled corners of my own shit I still carry around and begin to deal with that. It was finding tools to help in that work. It was as though the end of 2017 came with the realization that my self worth had been very low. 2018 then asked, “OK, you ready to roll up your sleeves and wade into that then?”
It was also about bravery and navigating being alone and really working to connect with others and find kindred spirits. It was about joy and dancing and sunshine and greater clarity in who I uniquely am and my deep value. It was about deserving more and loving and being loved.
The feeling I get going into 2019 is one where I feel more ready to take the reins and ride, really open up and gallop. I rumbled with worthiness. I now feel ready to fucking manifest the fruits of that. Rise. Create. Receive.
Happy 2019 to everyone. May you rumble and rise, too.
Vintage illustration from 1913.