Like many of us, the end of December has me busy thinking about the year that’s passed and what I’d like to see in the year ahead. It’s a time of feeling reflective, which truly feels a bit odd as I’m not always one to give much attention to personal goals as the calendar moves from December to January. Sometimes New Year’s resolutions can feel contrived or obligatory – neither of which appeal to me very much.
Yet this year my brain has been quick to latch on to a few ideas that seem to resonate – things that I’ve been thinking about longer than the week between Christmas and January 1st. Things that have been percolating for some time. I’ve found myself coming back to a few areas again and again, noting that I want things to be different – yet simply allowing time to pass hasn’t produced marked change. On the contrary, I’m quite convinced change will happen when I show up and put in a bit of effort.
Before I get too far in – it’s fair to note that I struggle with this very notion of resolution. I personally don’t like the word. Honestly? I am not super determined. I am not resolved. I am not intensely passionate and willing to put extraordinary amounts of effort into a goal (or goals) that I make. That’s not how I roll, perhaps those who are more passionate and energetic may be on it – and if so, you are amazing in your zeal and commitment to lofty goal setting. What I can see happening in my own life however, rather than grand sweeping resolutions, is intentionally implementing some small movements that create shifts in the overall feel of my life. Am I resolved? Nope. But I’m definitely willing to try and make a little room for some new ways of being in the world.
One grand overarching goal for the year ahead didn’t seem to fit. What I am choosing to reflect on this year are small actions that work towards movement in specific areas: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual arenas for myself, and then a broader idea for how I move in the world beyond me. In an effort to try and keep myself on track I’ll note said thoughts here – and hopefully look back in a years’ time with at least a measure of success at intentionally putting these into practice. And a bunch of grace if all the ideas don’t come to fruition.
Physical: Simple goals. More water. More movement. Counselling is a sedentary profession. And coffee is my vice. Please note, I am not addressing coffee consumption – simply increasing water intake to balance it out.
Mental: Read more books. More textbooks. More fiction. More poetry. More words. More voices. To accomplish that, I may need to also be on my phone less.
Emotional: Breathe. Slowly. Deeply. Mindfully. With intention. Breath is our brain’s remote control, with breath helping to encode memories and moderate emotion. My efforts to be present in therapy with others relies on my capacity to regulate myself well, and breath is a part of that.
Social: More impromptu gatherings in my home. I used to be better at having folks over, and somehow have gotten out of that groove in the past couple years. I want more spontaneous last minute shared pot-of-soup get togethers, more hot dogs roasted in the backyard while the kids run and play, and more brunch dates with friends.
Spiritual: More podcasts. More reading. And my goal for the year [tune out, non-theologically driven folks] is to figure out a cohesive understanding of atonement theory – because this past year has been shaping in my understanding of what it is not, and I have yet to fill in the gaps in a coherent way.
And in the service of all of these arenas I also aim to spend more time outside. Because time spent in nature is time spent pouring into growth in all of these areas of life.
It seems incomplete to look only at goals that push towards my own self-development; as a citizen of the world it’s my responsibility to think intentionally about my part in how to make the world a better place now, and leave it a better place for those who come after. I can think of many small ways and simple actions that can be outward goals to strive for. But the one that sticks out is simply to throw out less food. Which means buy less food. It means being more intentional and thoughtful and resourceful, and taking for granted the ability to buy/grow food less than before. If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll add giving up plastic grocery bags and driving less to the list…though I’m only committing to start with the first.
I’ll admit, there’s something a little uncomfortable and unnerving about putting things in print. It makes it real. It means that there’s a bit of accountability. And yet in each of these arenas I feel freedom to move towards something and can achieve success along the way – rather than working to reach a pinnacle of action or some supreme marker of a satisfied goal, and that makes it feel way more manageable to set out on the pursuit of change.
So as the calendar comes to a close, perhaps this is a year to move towards change in one area – or a few? Or maybe it’s a year to practice grace and self-compassion by bowing out of the holiday tradition of looking ahead. Wherever you are, in whatever way you choose to mark the new year ahead – I wish you moments of peace + joy + stillness + connection that will sustain you throughout the year.