Words as Trail Markers: Some Favorites for the New Year
Instead of landing on just one word or goal, what words could set the right tone for the journey you want to have in 2018?
From looking around at all the people I love and admire online, it seems like everyone has their own way of moving from one year into the next.
Some are eager to sit down with their resource of choice - their Desire Map or their PowerSheets or some other introspective guide - to carefully go over what happened last year, and how to shape the coming year. They reflect, and they brainstorm, and they plan. (This is me. And it takes an embarrassing amount of restraint not to want to use #allthetools.)
Some follow the same exciting, ambitious goal setting process year after year.
Some sit quietly, and share lovely observations about this time of year.
Some turn to tried-and-true habits and tools to reintroduce intentionality into their routine.
Some take beautifully bold stances and reject what is expected of them.
Some land on a ‘word of the year.’
...and some feel completely stressed out at the thought of sitting down and deciding on changes to make, words to adopt, habits to nix, or goals to aim for. (I’m engaged to one of these people, and I love him for it.)
Personally, I’ve been bouncing around between a few year-end reflection and planning exercises - things like Find Your Word, the #DecemberReflections challenge, PowerSheets, and some good old fashioned conversation and reflection. To some of you, all of that might sound overwhelming – and I get that. But I’ve learned that exploration is a phase that gets me really jazzed up, and I like to indulge that a little extra around New Year’s.
The key (for me) to keep things feeling manageable has been to approach it with curiosity and hope, rather than rigidity or self-inflicted pressure.
When I sit down to reflect and set intentions for the new year, it’s important that I do so from a place of hope and optimism about the future, rather than using my resolutions or goals as a tool for self-punishment.
Maybe you already know what works for you. Maybe you’ve even already gone through your personal process for moving into the new year – whether that’s making a bucket list, jotting down some goals, doing more of a deep-dive into your goals and intentions, or simply making the choice to move into the new year without devoting much time or energy to resolutions. If that’s you, fantastic! I’m not here to sell you on a new process, of tell you about a new set of questions to go through before you can set out to have a great year.
Instead, I wanted to share a little about something interesting that bubbled up for me this year.
In all the reflection and goal-setting work I’ve been doing these past few weeks, a few patterns and repeating ideas have gotten my attention. When I was trying to land on one word for the year, a few popped up instead. As I was setting personal goals, I could see unifying threads among them. At first they felt like competing ideas, and I started feeling the pressure to pick one.
But as I thought more about it, I realized these ideas aren’t in competition with each other. Instead, they’re like my guideposts. They’re the trail markers I want to rely on to keep me on the kind of path I want 2018 to be for me.
This was also interesting and almost confusing to notice, because the words themselves were markedly different from the ones that have historically popped up for me. My comfort zone involves words like ‘energy’ and ‘nourishing’ and ‘connection’. To show you what I mean, I want to share a little about each of these words that kept showing up for me:
When I thought about what didn’t go super well for me in 2017, a lot of it came back to where I put my energy. I spent more of it than I like to admit on things like guilt, envy, and feeling stuck – particularly in my creative work.
There’s this tricky thing that happens, I think, when we know exactly where we want to be – we can picture it! – but when we notice how wide the gap is between that place and where we are now, that gap feels totally insurmountable. It’s deflating, and pretty soon, it’s easier to throw up our hands and shy away from the dream than it does to do the work to close the gap, one tiny step at a time.
Those steps don’t feel glamorous or inspiring as they’re staring at us on daunting to-do lists, which is why we don’t take them. They’re not as fun or exciting as the big new idea, the brainstorm session, or the shiny vision of how it’s all going to look when we ‘get there.’ But they’re the answer, and they’ve been the answer for everyone we admire who came before us. They’re the only way to bridge that gap, and they demand stubborn resilience. I’m done searching for silver bullets:
This is the year I feel ready to commit to the unglamorous, unflashy small steps I don’t always feel like taking – because they’re the way forward.
I’ve been thinking a lot about those people I envy, who’ve already gotten where they (or I) want to be. It’s easy to tell myself they found some stroke of luck that I haven’t found yet, or that getting to where they are was somehow easier for them.
But more and more I’m realizing: in all likelihood, they had to trudge through all this stuff too. They had to do stuff they didn’t always feel like doing, because they were committed to moving forward – and they didn’t always wait for inspiration to strike. They didn’t ‘strike gold’ one day and find some silver bullet that catapulted them to success – they did the work and took the steps to become the kind of (artist/partner/business owner/healthy person) they wanted to be. They stayed in it.
There is of course a time for rest, and for giving ourselves permission to step away and refuel. But sometimes, walking away from the work isn’t what we actually need... it’s a way out of an uncomfortable challenge. An excuse to wallow in the gap. (I can be quite the wallower when I’m feeling small, or discouraged, or uninspired.) But honestly, this year feels like a cue to finally stop wallowing in the gap, and start deliberately moving through – it at my own pace, in my own way; to stop searching for silver bullet solutions for the things I want to accomplish, and focus instead on what it takes to become the kind of person I want to be. Not out of resentment or resignation, but out of love for myself and commitment to what I set out to do.
In my creative work.
And my health.
And my relationships.
And my finances.
And my personal growth.
Incidentally, I’ve been thinking more and more about this brand and this blog, and how it’s sort of organically becoming a new, evolved version of itself. And those areas of my life I just rattled off? They’re the same ones I want to keep exploring together as part of this bigger question of how to develop a rich, colorful relationship with ourselves as a foundation for all the things we feel driven to do and make and be. Bloomology may be shifting as a brand to reflect this wholler, more ambitious purpose – and I’m still figuring out what that looks like. But it feels exciting.
(Curious? Excited? Me too. I’ll be sharing more about this process on Instagram stories this month as I figure it all out. Come join me!)
This year I’m committed to reminding myself to spend less time envying, or saving my big ideas for ‘down the road’ when I'm ‘more ready'. I'm ready to invest that energy in doing the work to BECOME who I want to be, little by little.
While I hadn’t thought of it in these terms until very recently, curiosity has played a huge role in my personal growth journey in the last year – and as someone who’s always felt very rooted in my love of stability and routine, this realization has been super eye-opening and liberating.
The key here has been to explore and try new things not because of an external pressure, but according to my own intuition and desire for change. Cultivating that spirit of curiosity within myself and allowing it to challenge me to explore, experiment, and adjust provides a path toward growth, instead of an excuse to resign. It’s a new attitude for me, and one that has served me surprisingly well recently. And it’s something I want to continue creating space for in all the corners of my life this year.
I’m excited to approach everything I do this year with a spirit of curiosity, and willingness to experiment on my own terms.
How to carry this letter into your life:
These words are my guideposts for the coming year – some of them might resonate with you, whiles others might not. But by identifying a few key words, phrases, or gentle ideas that can flank your path and keep you on course, it will become easier to approach the coming year with a sense of purpose, intentionality and hope.
So, take a breath, wherever you are, and close your eyes. Think for a minute about the kinds of feelings and experiences you want more of in 2018. If committing to one word or goal feels like pressure, ask yourself:
- What words would set the right tone for the journey you want to have this year?
- What are some words that could help nudge you back on course, according to who you want to be and how you want to live?