I was a New Year’s resolution junkie. I’d take the opportunity every winter to assess all my flaws and bad habits, and then systematically (using coloured highlighters no less) chart my way to a ‘better’ me.
That was always the goal: to be better – beginning with skinnier and smarter.
Resolution-setting was about trying to change who I was and it was governed by this part of me that, when given a platform like a blank white page and markers, would put some of the toughest military sergeants to shame.
By spring, a time when I would naturally stop to gauge how far I’d come with my resolutions (because after spring comes summer and summer meant beach days) I’d realize that I was nowhere near the skinnier, smarter target version of myself.
Over the last few years, I have been doing things differently and that has led me to accomplish more and feel better about myself in the process. I’ve done away with resolutions and invited opportunities to add joy. Instead of pinpointing the bad habits I should be destroying, I’ve thought about the good habits I’d like to make time for. And I use empowering language.
Because I’m still a fan of charts, I came up with a simple, clear way to capture it all on paper. I call it my More Of/Less Of chart and it’s exactly that. In one column, I list all the things I want to invite more of into my life. Last year’s list included date nights, paid writing gigs, outdoor adventure, movement, time with friends, piano playing and reading for fun. In order to make space for these fun, creative and healthy habits I had to acknowledge there were some things I’d have to cut back on. These fell in my ‘less of’ column: internet surfing, T.V., junk food and writing for free were top of the list. In fact, I noticed that there wasn’t much I had to do ‘less of’ to make space for what I really wanted out of life. And I didn’t have to shame myself into vowing ‘never’ to do something again (which completely set me up for failure). This was motivating! I didn’t have to revamp my entire existence to cultivate a joy that is authentic to me!
So, I identify what makes me happy and then name what doesn’t serve me; it’s a recipe for a great year. The whole point is to know who I am and allow myself to be that person.
Of course, there’s still planning required to make sure I incorporate the things I want to. For example, we committed to monthly date nights at a minimum, we did our research on the type of kayak we wanted and included that in our budget, I found Zumba classes that work with my schedule, and I started tracking books I read for fun while keeping a separate list of fiction books recommended to me.
In the last couple of years, I’ve also chosen a guiding word: something that reminds me of the type of year I want to have. 2016 is my year to ‘shine’. This means that in all the things I choose ‘more of,’ I don’t hold back. I allow myself to shine as a woman, a writer, a teacher, a mother…and every part of me. I create opportunities to show my soul to the world, and accept myself wholly – whether I am standing in front of a crowd or lounging in my pyjamas at home. Shine represents all of that to me.
So, as we enter a new year, I encourage you to be mindful of the words you are choosing to describe yourself and your goals. This really is just one of many opportunities throughout the year that you can cultivate more joy in your world.