2018: word, resolutions, quotes, to-do’s

It usually takes me the entire month of January to sort out my New Year goals and resolutions, and this year was no different.  Considering my hopes and plans for the year fills January with a sort of energy that I know I’d struggle to find otherwise, though, so I make no effort to change this pattern.  It just feels right to spend December enjoying the present — the tastes, smells, sounds and sights of the holidays, the time with family and friends, and the sacred Advent and Christmas rituals — and to spend the dark and dreary days of January looking forward to brighter days and considering the things I’d like to change in the upcoming year. 

After 31 days of percolation, some concern and some crossing out and re-writing, I feel oriented and committed to the word, resolutions, and to-do’s that I’ve set for myself in 2018. 

Word of the Year: Reach

As I mentioned two posts ago, it was hard for me to think of a word for the year — and of resolutions at large — because there wasn’t an obvious area of needed improvement within my life.  I’m feeling fulfilled and happy within my professional and personal life, and don’t need a dramatic increase of levity (2016) or perspective (2017) to get keep myself sane.  That’s why I ultimately decided on the word “reach” for the year. 

Because I’m feeling positively about life overall, I have the energy and enthusiasm to take what’s good in my life to the next level.  In 2018, I resolve to go the extra mile in the various areas of my life:

  • With the relationships that matter most to me
  • With my writing endeavors
  • With work: with my relationships there, and with my projects (particularly, trying new things)
  • With my character: being a bigger and better person
  • With my taking in of the world: striving to be an active, not passive, participant in life

I have been so blessed with a family that I adore, wonderful friendships, fulfilling work, the opportunity to live in a lovely city and to travel more broadly, and a wide variety of interests.  This year, I want to consciously live this one life that I have fully and abundantly, for my sake and for the sake of the people I encounter. 

Quotes of the Year:

“Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.” —Flannery O’Connor

“For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” — John F. Kennedy

“Choose the bigger life.” — Gretchen Rubin

“We are what we repeatedly do.” — Aristotle

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but. No one things of changing himself.” — Leo Tolstoy

“We are all just walking each other home.” —Rumi

“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” — Rumi

“Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you.” — Thomas Aquinas

Reach Related Resolutions

  1. Write three smart sentences about the things that I read/watch/listen to/attend.
  2. Pause before speaking unkindly.  Remember that I have a choice in what I say and that choices have consequences.
  3. Go a little deeper.  Get to know people more.  Ask better questions.  Practice conversation.  Gather advice and input.  Listen deeply.
  4. Do the things that I have been meaning and wanting to do (see 18 in 2018).
  5. Invest time and energy in creativity and pursuing writing interests.  Take pictures, submit or pitch article ideas monthly, interact with other writers, do some sort of personal writing (unpaid) monthly.
  6. Consume consciously.  Question consumption.  Delay gratification.  Only but treats with treat money (Christmas, birthday, etc.).  Try to buy used good and local items.  Cook consciously. 
  7. Think contemplatively.  Keep trying to pray.  Look for thin places. 

18 Things to do in 2018

  1. Write a narrative essay and submit it competitively.
  2. Cancel old credit cards and get a new one in my name only.
  3. Sort out medical related things (find Caleb an eye doctor and dentist, go to my PCP).
  4. Read Infinite Jest.
  5. Wear everything I own once or get rid of it.
  6. Send favorite Cheryl Strayed essay to girl cousins.
  7. Write one Thank You note per month.
  8. Transcribe quote books and organize quotes.
  9. Sort out my feelings about being a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom.
  10. Do one special thing per month (go somehwere, host visitors, celebrate a holiday or liturgical season in a particularly meaningful way).
  11. Visit a new Ivy League.
  12. Organize passwords.
  13. Staycation at the Dean Hotel.
  14. Learn about and practice DSLR photography.
  15. Monthly sibling connection.
  16. Renew passports.
  17. Go on a retreat.
  18. Acknowledge birthdays. 

 

Photo by Andrew Knechel on Unsplash

Choosing Resolutions

I undoubtedly enjoy writing New Year’s (or birthday, or academic year) Resolutions.  As I’ve said before, I find goal-writing to be an orienting process, and new aims and goals put a much-needed spring in my step for the drudgery of post-Christmas winter, when the days are still so long, but without twinkle lights and the promise of a holiday trip home to brighten them up.

I felt a bit wary as I wrote my 2018 resolutions, though.  For starters, I had a hard time thinking of my word for the year (last year’s was perspective).  My work life isn’t the disaster that it was at this time last year or the year before, my relationships with friends and family are strong, and my physical, spiritual and emotional health are in a good place.  Without a dramatic problem area, it was hard to pick a particular item of focus for the year. 

On top that, I was struck as looked over my drafted list of resolutions at how narcissistic they all seem.  Learn this skill, read this book, go to this place, organize this aspect of my life, try this new thing.  The end of all these goals, ultimately, is self-improvement, and for the first time ever, I felt bothered by that end.

It’s not that I don’t see the value of self-improvement.  Look, so long as we are alive, we might as well live a life that we can be proud of.  Besides, the only person I can change is myself, so I might as well put some effort into becoming a better person.  I do believe that outer transformation (of the world) begins with inner transformation.

The problem is that focusing on self-improvement can become selfish as easily as it can become transformative.  And that’s the last thing I want.  I want to live an abundant and full life, but in the pursuit of that life, I don’t want to become so wrapped up in myself that I become a god to myself. 

In short, I want to be devoted to enhancing and enriching the quality of life for those around me.  I want self-improvement to be the pathway to a life that helps me look out into the world instead of inwards towards myself, a pathway to living a bigger, not smaller, life. 

Sometimes we do the right things for the wrong reasons.  And sometimes we do the wrong things for the right reasons.  And much of the time, our wrong reasoning and wrong acting stem from a lack of reflection. 

So this year, as I go forward with my word for the year (which I did, in fact choose, after much deliberation) and my potentially narcissistic resolutions, I’m going to keep these questions in mind:

  • Is completing this goal helping me to live a bigger life?
  • Am I improving myself/my life in such a way that I will be more equipped to enhance the lives of others?
  • How am I enriching the quality of life of the people I encounter?

 

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

School of Life

Some lessons you have to learn the hard way.  Some lessons you have to learn the hard and expensive way. 

My dad describes these lessons as having “high tuition in the School of Life,” a metaphor that has at least made me smile through the tears as I’ve lamented to dear-old-dad more than one expensive error in the past. 

Recently, I have made a few pricey and extremely frustrating mistakes.  I misread a text from an airline notifying me of a delayed connecting flight, and ended up missing the first flight.  I didn’t realize that a magazine subscription was set up for automatic renewal on an old (but not-cancelled) credit card, and so I missed a payment and had my first-ever late fee.  I backed into a fire hydrant, majorly denting my bumper, while making a seventeen-point-turn to get out of a dead-end street. 

What bothered me most about each of these situations — more than the toll they took on my bank account — was how sloppy they made me feel.  With each mistake, I found myself baffled by the fact that they were happening, and inwardly revolting: I’m not the type of person who misses flights and neglects credit card payments and drives badly.  I’m responsible!  I’m organized!  I’m careful!  I hate to be melodramatic, but the blunders messed with my sense of identity.

Education is an investment of resources, financial and otherwise, and this is as true for the School of Life as it is for grammar school, secondary school, college and graduate school.  As with any kind of investment, the hope is that the value gained exceeds the expenditure.

So, here’s to finishing these particular courses in the School of Life with good notes and significant insights!  Here are some key lessons that I’m taking away from a missed flight, late fee and a dented bumper:   

  • Read any text with important information twice.  Or three or four or five times.  Read it out loud.  Read it to a friend.  Do whatever it takes to make sure you really take in the information.
  • Don’t set up automatic renewals for magazines. 
  • Cancel old credit cards (or that one old credit card). 
  • When backing up, anytime, look very, very carefully. 
  • Don’t be afraid to tell a passenger that you need a moment of silence to concentrate. 
  • Remember: there isn’t a type of person who makes mistakes.  We all make mistakes because we are human. 
  • Give grace and hugs to people when they make mistakes.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Hard before easy

Recently, during the Sunday morning Coffee Hour at the church where I work, I had a conversation with a parishioner whom I hadn’t seen in a while.  It turns out that she had been on sabbatical from her job teaching at a local university, and had spent the last several months abroad doing research for an upcoming book. 

We got to talking about the writing process, and I asked her if embarking on a book project feels daunting.  By this point in her career, she’s done it many times.  She smiled and replied, “It’s much easier now that I have something to say.”

Of course writing is easier for her now that she’s been researching, teaching, exploring ideas, and formulating fresh insights for several decades.  How could it have been easy when she was fresh out of graduate school and still a novice in her field of study?  But, as life would have it, in order to get to this point in her career when ideas are forthcoming and she has done the research necessary to confidently take a stance on an issue or topic, she had to publish books.  She had to say things before it was easy, in order to arrive at a place when writing wouldn’t be so hard.

In the words of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Everything is hard before it is easy.”

I think that this idea is true, in one way or another, for all of us. 

I remember coordinating service projects during my first year working at the church; each time I brought a group of students to a different service site, I had to navigate a new and often complicated parking situation, meet the site’s volunteer coordinator for the first time, and answer students’ and parents’ questions based on what I had been told versus what I had experienced myself.  Each service project was a basket full of unknowns.  The same was true of the Confirmation classes that I taught, the retreats I led, the Peer Minister and facilitator trainings I offered and the prayer services I coordinated.  The newness of everything made my first year very hard.

Short of a fast-forward time-machine invention, there is no way around the particular set of challenges that newness brings.  The value in Goethe’s words is that they normalize the feelings of struggle.  They don’t hasten the ease, but they help me remember: this isn’t hard because I’m incapable, or unsuited for this kind of work.  It’s hard because it’s new, and everything is hard before it is easy.  Goethe’s words remind me that if I stay persistent, whatever I am working on will become easier.  I find this sentiment extremely comforting and validating; it enables me to embrace the “hard” and welcome the accompanying opportunities for growth, learning, a sense of accomplishment, and joyful surprise. 

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

A Habited Mindset

Charles Duhigg’s 2012 examination of habits, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business builds around the idea of the habit loop: a cue instigates a routine which ends with a reward.  The reward is satisfying, so we crave it, making us susceptible in the future to the cue that instigated the routine in the first place.  This pattern explains numerous behaviors that any of us engage in on a daily basis, behaviors that were once the result of deliberate choices, but are now so engrained in us that we’ve ceased thinking about them and simply do them. 

One of the central arguments of the book is what Duhigg refers to as the golden rule of habit change:  “You can never truly extinguish bad habits,” he writes.  “Rather, to change the habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.  That’s the rule.  If you use the same cue, and provide the same reward, you can shift the routine and change the habit.  Almost any behavior can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same” (62).

I found Duhigg’s thesis convincing and interesting, but surprisingly unhelpful.  My assessment is that the book would be most impactful for readers who have several habits that they are hoping to change, and I realized as I read the book that I don’t necessarily have bad habits.  I certainly engage in unfortunate behaviors, but they aren’t habits so much as they are character flaws.  For an example, one of my least favorite things about myself is my capacity to get easily annoyed.  This is more of a personality trait than a habit, and while I believe it can be tempered with effort, it’s not the kind of effort (changing a routine) that Duhigg’s book is about. 

What I did find extremely helpful in The Power of Habit was this brief little section toward the end of the book in which Duhigg writes about William James.  James, an early 20th century psychiatrist whose writings are now pillars in the canon of literature on habits, had a rough start professionally and emotionally.  In his early thirties, he felt so unaccomplished and unsure of his place in the world that he contemplated suicide.  But then, according to Duhigg, he made a decision.

“Before doing anything rash, he would conduct a yearlong experiment.  He would spend twelve months believing that he had control over himself and his destiny, that he could become better, that he had the free will to change.  There was no proof that it was true.  But he would free himself to believe, all evidence to the contrary, that change was possible.  “I think yesterday was a crisis in my life,” he wrote in his diary.  Regarding his ability to change, “I will assume for the present — until the next year — that it is no illusion.  My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.” (272)

Duhigg tells this story to illustrate the point that “the will to believe” is the most important ingredient in creating the belief in change, and that with belief in the possibility of change, change is possible.  (James is elsewhere quoted as stating, “Actions seem to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”) We can choose to adopt the habits/practices/ways-of-being of successful people, and if we believe that these actions will make us successful, likely they will have that effect.

This story spoke to me because it feels remarkably applicable to my life right now, in the form of my career.  I’ve second-guessed myself a lot in my job over the past two years and felt an overall lack of sureness when making decisions and coordinating events.  I worry that while some people will appreciate the program I’ve created, others won’t be happy with it, and still many others won’t even attend.  I worry that people think I’m not good at my job, and that I shouldn’t have been hired for it.  I worry that I’m going to disappoint people.  In short, I worry a lot.  And I realize that through all of my worrying, I’ve been sabotaging my ability to do my best work.  Worry has held me back from being enthusiastic, getting a wide variety of folks on board, and taking risks. 

But I can stop worrying.  Maybe not completely, but at least somewhat. 

Like William James, I am going to assume for the next year that I have the ability to change — and the ability to thrive — in my professional life.  I will continue to seek advice and input from mentors and the people I work with, but I’m going to stop second-guessing every decision I make.  I’m going to feel free to try knew things, knowing that, if they don’t work well, I can do them differently the next time.  I’m going to trust my vision of faith formation and put 100% of my work time effort into creating meaningful, well researched programming, but I’m not going to judge myself harshly if it isn’t well-attended, or if someone doesn’t like it. 

I’m going to get in the habit of thinking more positively about my work, and I’m going to get in the habit of acting accordingly.

Doing things and not doing things

From graduation speeches to self-help articles to general words of wisdom from relatives, celebrities and historical figures, there seems to be a prevailing sentiment that you should grab life my the horns and dive into it, to mix metaphors terribly. In the words of Mark Twain, which I’ve heard reiterated in numerous different manners over the years, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”Day Away

This is advice that I typically follow.  As much as possible, I try to say yes to experiences and events that I know will expand my world view, provide fun in the moment and memories to look back upon, and enrich my life at large.  A friend in Divinity school referred to this way of being as a “Yes Philosophy.”  I really do believe that it’s through getting out of my comfort zone and saying yes to opportunities that I develop, grow, find joy and live life fully. 

And yet, my two favorite days of the year are Christmas and my birthday, in part because there are great celebrations attached to each (festive meals and time with friends and family and gifts and sweets galore), but also in part because they are the two days of the year that I have no expectations of myself.  I refuse to make a to-list — even a “for fun” to-do list — on either day, and in fact, it would seem sacrilege to assign tasks to either day. 

Basking in the openness, the relaxation, and the coziness of the present moment never fails to be both enjoyable and restorative.  I end the days feeling refreshed and with a greater sense of clarity about who I am and what I am doing with my life.  And I am able to have these gloriously spacious Christmases and Birthdays precisely because I don’t say yes to doing things on those days.    

In a similar vein, I’ve said yes to a few travel opportunities recently: Caleb and I have a trip to Costa Rica planned for his spring break, and we’re spending the month of June in Europe.  These will be action packed weeks and I am thrilled that we have the chance to embark on adventure together.  I’ve also scheduled a retreat for myself, in the beginning of May, during which I’ll spend four days in silence (with the exception of a morning, afternoon and evening chapel services) at the country home of a monastic order.  Excited as I am about Caleb’s and my planned trips, I am noticing that I feel most eager for four days of silence, reflection and solitude. 

I think it’s worth paying attention to these feelings and worth considering what they are telling me about what I desire and need to live the life I want to live.  I’m going to keep saying a hearty yes to experiences and opportunities and to doing things, but I’m also going to make time for not doing things. 

Taking Advice

I take most advice that I receive with a grain of salt. 

First, there’s the most frequent form of advice I collect: unsolicited advice.  When bestowed unsolicited advice, I take it with a handful of salt in two senses of the expression: I’m not likely to take the advice very seriously, and I’m salty — inwardly eye-rolling and a tad-bit annoyed — that people feel entitled to share their opinions and suggestions for my betterment with me, without my asking for it. advice

Remembering words from Chicago Tribune Mary Schmich’s hypothetical graduation speech “Wear Sunscreen” helps me feel less annoyed than compassionate toward advice-giving enthusiasts, but still un-inclined to incorporate their “words of wisdom” into my life.  She writes, “Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

The second type of advice that I often receive is advice that I’ve requested.  I have my go-to advisors for everything from work to relationships to my emotional and spiritual improvement: my parents, my husband, a handful of friends, my sister, a few former work supervisors and a smattering of mentors.  But even with all of these people — individuals whom I trust and respect enough to go to for advice in the first place — I don’t always take their suggestions. I weigh their advice, considering how it feels — at a gut level — and imagining what it would look like put into practice in my life. 

Maybe fifty percent of the time I end up acting upon requested advice that I receive.  This isn’t to say that I don’t take seriously the advice that I ultimately end up discarding; if I asked for advice, I’m going to listen to it and consider it carefully.  I just may end up deciding that it’s not the best solution for me, considering all of the other pieces of the puzzle to which only I am fully aware.   

If I am being completely honest with myself, though, deciding that it’s not the best solution for me only accounts for a portion of the advice that I don’t take.  Sometimes I don’t take advice that I sought, even when I know I would be better if I did, because it’s too hard to take.  Maybe I don’t have the discipline to put it into action, or I’m afraid, or I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin.  Whatever the particular circumstances, these are not good reasons to discard advice. 

Seeing this tendency in myself to shirk advice that I actually know would benefit me to take, I’m trying something this year.  I am committing to taking all of the advice of one person: my spiritual director, Rosemary.  I’ve chosen Rosemary for several reasons: I completely trust that she has my best interests at heart, she is an intelligent, perceptive, and wise human being and so I know that her advice is good…and I only meet with her monthly, so there’s only so much advice that she can give me. 

I’m excited to see how this goes.  If she recommends a book, I’m reading it.  If she suggests a spiritual practice, I’m trying it.  If she tells me to lighten up, I will make my very best attempt. 

I’m curious to hear what others think.  Who do you go to for advice?  Do you always take it?  If you had to pick one person whose advice you unreservedly incorporated, who would it be?

Goal-Driven

I love setting goals in my personal life, as is obvious to anyone who has read my posts about New Year’s resolutions, words to guide my year, and summer intentions.  Goals orient my free time, give me a sense of purpose and enable me to stretch myself. 

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Given my affinity for goal-setting, it came as a bit of a surprise when I realized, through a conversation with a mentor, that I’m not particularly goal-oriented in my work-life.  I had given my mentor a call to ask for her advice about choosing a curriculum for Pre-K through 5 faith formation classes at the Church were I work.  It has become apparent to the faith formation coordinator with whom I work that our teachers are dissatisfied with the curriculum that we are currently using, but I don’t know where to begin in choosing — or advising our faith formation coordinator to choose — a new curriculum.  There are hundreds out there, and the thought of reviewing the pros and cons of each and making a decision to switch to a different one is daunting.

After explaining the situation to my mentor, I expected her to say: check out this publisher or that one; get this information from your teachers; consider this thought.  But instead, she posed a simple question: “What’s your goal?” 

My goal?

Truthfully, I hadn’t thought about my goal.  I had gotten so stuck on the little details — whether a curriculum offers a book or handouts, involves using the Bible as a base, or the liturgical calendar, and so on — that I had lost track of the bigger picture, namely the question, “What is the goal of the faith formation program at my parish?”  Why do I want children to enroll in the program?  What do I think children and their families should take away from the program?  How do I hope catechists will benefit from volunteering for the program?

My mentor reminded me that my actions and decisions should stem from my goals — not from minuscule distinctions between various curricula options.  Without knowledge of my goal, I will be lacking a compass when making choices, and not only will I get bogged down in the details, I will likely make less wise decisions. 

I’m going to keep this bit of wisdom in mind as I move forward in choosing a curriculum, and also when considering other areas of my work and life.  When at a loss for what to do next, asking the question “What is my goal?” will almost always be a good place to start. 

Have you thought about the underlying goals of your work and personal life lately?  What are they?  How do they inform your decisions?  I’d love to hear how this looks for others. 

Quotes for the Year

For my sixteenth birthday, one of my best high school friends got me this little pink polka-dotted journal, and since then, I’ve written my favorite poems and quotations in it.  When I read something in a book or magazine that speaks to me, I copy it down.  When a friend or family member says something that I want to remember, I record it.  When I see a quotation inscribed on a memorial, or floating around on the internet, or in a church program, I snap a picture to then later transcribe into my book. 

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I filled up my pink journal a decade after receiving it, and around the same time I found an old journal of my moms that had been used for the same purpose, with only a few pages filled.  I started a new “quote book” in it.  I return to these books time and again when I am in need of motivation, inspiration, comfort or hope. 

Over my holiday vacation, I spent several hours reading through the entire collection, and I picked out a generous handful of quotes to guide my year.  (Can you tell that I’m into New Years?  I’ve got words, I’ve got goals, I’ve got quotes!  It’s very orienting for me. And interestingly, though I didn’t intend this, I realize that they can roughly be categorized within my words for the year…plus one more category: perseverance). 

To use a quotation itself to explain my inclination towards quotations at guides: “One is pat to think of moral failure as due to weakness of character: more often it is due to an inadequate ideal.”  I agree with Richard Winn Livingstone’s sentiment, and for me, quotes serve as an ideal — a model, an example — to work towards.   

Perspective

“For there is only trying.  The rest is not our business.” —T. S. Eliot

Life is hard but love wins.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

“And now the you don’t have to be perfect you can just be good” – John Steinbeck

“Be joyful thought you have considered all the facts” – Wendell Berry

“Energy creates energy.  It is by spending myself that I became rich.” – Sarah Bernhardt

“At the best moments a great humility fused with a great ambition: to be only what I was, but to the utmost of what I was” – Stephen Spender

Prayerfulness

“Prayer uncovers the truth that sets us free (John 8:32)” – Henri Nouwen

“Grace is the assistance God gives us to do hat is good, true, noble and right.” — Matthew Kelly

“All moments are key moments, and life itself is grace” – Frederich Buechner

“To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, today is big with blessings” – Mary Baker Edy

“A sheltered life can be a daring life as well.  For all serious daring starts from within.” – Eudora Welty

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable” – Mary Oliver

Poise

“Be soft.  Do not let the world make you hard.  Do not let pain make you hate.  Do not let bitterness steal your sweetness.” – Kurt Vonnegut

“The most congenial social occasions are those ruled by cheerful deference for all” – Goethe

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance” — Brene Brown

Perseverance

“I am not afraid.  I was born to do this.” – Joan of Arc

“Everything is hard before it gets easy.” -Goethe

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act.  The rest is really tenacity” — Amelia Earhart

Words for the Year

New Year’s resolutions get a bad rap.  I always begin the book group I facilitate with an icebreaker question — a way for the varied members gathered to get to know each other better, and a way for me to be reminded of everyone’s names — and this past week I asked after any New Year’s Resolutions.  Not only did 90% of the group not have resolutions, they actively disdained the whole premise of resolutions. 

Haters gonna hate/to each their own/different strokes for different folks/insert your chosen cliche here, and I stand firmly and excitedly by the premise of New Year’s Resolutions.  Goal setting, in general, gives me a sense of order, the chance to self-examine — to reflect on where I am and where I want to be — and an opportunity for growth.  Sure, January first is an arbitrary date for initiating goals and reflecting, but aren’t all holidays arbitrary dates for celebrating the things that matter to us (patriotism, gratitude, faith, love) and the things that make life fun (candy, autumn, warm weather)?  And isn’t an arbitrary date better than no date at all?  Having a set date ensures — for me, at least — that reviewing my life and making plans to improve it will happen at least annually. 

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Because I so enjoy the process of making New Year’s resolutions, and goal setting in general, I tend to make many resolutions.  For the past few years, I have also picked a word as an overarching theme for the year.  This year, I chose three words (all related) and each of my more concrete goals relates in some way to the words.  The words are like the light at the beginning and the end of the tunnel, and my individual goals are like the path that stretches through the tunnel.  The purpose of each individual goal is to help me reach the end, but the light at the end is also the light that propels me to move forward and illuminates the path. 

This year, my words are perspective, prayerfulness and poise.  I spent the afternoon journaling about the words to help me get a better sense of what they mean to me — how I hope they will frame my year, and what I hope they will guide me towards. 

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Do you have New Year’s Resolutions?