Typically, I avoid resolutions. Scrolling through YouTube each January, you will find endless videos of excited people proclaiming their goals for the coming year. In the past, I would simply click away from these to the videos of goats yelling like people or a clip of that 5-year-old dancer on Ellen. This year, however, I found myself watching video after video, allowing fellow humans to profess their intentions for the new year to me. I'll admit to being hesitant each time I hit the play button; "motivational" videos such as this can send me into a spiral of self doubt and negativity if I'm not in the right mindset (seems backwards, but I'd be willing to bet some of you know what I mean). This January, the first surprise was the fact that I was immediately attracted to these videos, interested in the goals people hope to reach in the coming year. The second surprise was the stirring that welled up in me to brainstorm some intentions for myself.
Now, I don't mean to say that I'm typically an unmotivated person. That's not it. I am highly inclined towards planning, and I thrive off of the thought of new action to take (like starting a blog, you see?). I always have multiple lists of things to accomplish strewn about my life: my house, my car, my desk at work. I make weekly lists of everything I need to accomplish, and as if that's not enough, I make daily lists to supplement. Sometimes I even set reminders on my phone for the same tasks written on these lists. Still, I often reach the end of the week having yet to accomplish every task. I begin to notice that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I knuckle down and copy several of the same tasks over to next week's list. To many of you, this probably sounds pretty relatable, maybe uncomfortably so. It's that "I-didn't-do-enough-and-maybe-I-never-will" feeling. It's shame for the past, the forgotten or dismissed tasks; It's fear for the future, the unplanned goals.
It boils down to this.
I fear making long-term goals because I see how little grace I extend myself when I fail to complete short-term tasks.
They're not lying when they say you are your own worst critic. And so a vicious cycle begins of the making of tasks, the moving of tasks to the next day, the next week. Whether it's "go to the gym every weekday" or "order laundry detergent", the sticky note is soon buried under a pile of new notes, color coded bits of anxiety. I watch the neon papers cover my life and let go of any hope that I am capable of something larger than "clean off coffee table". The fear settles in, I forget what grace feels like. Repeat my weekly, monthly, yearly routine. I've had enough, and for real this time.
Left foot, right
I don't exactly know how to explain my sudden interest in everyone and their mother's future plans, and I certainly did not expect these resolution themed Youtube videos and podcasts to encourage me to set my own intentions for 2018. However, something flipped in my head as I watched and listened to enthusiastic men and women describing their goals: to spend more time alone, to journal every day, read ___# of books, keep a consistent whole foods diet, quality over quantity. These goals sounded enticing, they sounded worthwhile. These goals sounded attainable.
I began to realize that I had always associated New Year's resolutions with goals that were either huge or vague. For instance, "start a business". This is both huge and vague. What kind of business? Doing what? Selling something? By what date? This goal is destined to fail, at least for most people I know. It's not that starting a business is unfathomable; it's that you have steps to take before a big leap, or you aren't going to make it very far. If your goal only considers the big leap, you're missing out on all of the steps to make it count, the process. As my mind began churning through the information I gathered from these videos and podcasts, I realized that my desires and plans that bubbled to the surface were not the "huge leap" goals; they were the small steps to make it count. I surprised myself with the thought, "I can do this".
Habits for healing
Yes. I can do this.
Give me habits and intentions over goals and resolutions. Habits are developed to be long-lasting, gently life-altering as you apply them. Intentions are like goals to me, but with a little more grace. Goals ignite that fear in me, remind me of my pile of wrinkled sticky notes. The word "intention" feels like it leaves room to grow, to fail, and to try again. Intention focuses on process while a goal focuses on product. Little did I know before researching "intention" further, there is a medical definition: "the healing process of a wound". My wound is past failures and fear of future ones; my healing is grace for trying anyway.
So in 2018, I have good intentions. This is not a cop out or avoidance of "real goals", but rather a slow path allowing a little more grace for my messy, day-by-day life. I have good intentions to make habits that last. Habits that heal the sore wound of fear and failure, and provide me with the tough skin to handle future struggles. I'm taking small steps that might turn into big leaps. For once, I'm settling into the now, creating my habits for each day, instead of shaking my head and backing away from a pile of worry labeled "To-Do".
Here are just a few of my small steps:
- 5 AM exercise every week day. No snooze. No argument. My husband groggily completing this step with me.
- Write a new blog post every two weeks, at least. Let grace abound with this one.
- Read a book every month. Short, long, fiction, nonfiction. Keep a list.
- Get three more plants for the house. Keep them alive.
- Create a series of themed illustrations. (This will be developed a tad more, but my plans may not be fully revealed, sorry!)
- Give the guest room an extreme makeover from giant junk drawer to welcoming space. Finally.
- Take an anniversary trip. Whether it's to Nashville or California, take an anniversary trip.
You see, I don't want to grow my business or further my creative endeavors through mounds of post-its and negative self-talk and fighting the Instagram algorithm. I want to make more art, sell some, and give some away. I want to better myself by starting the day with movement. I want to cultivate a space for rest in my home. I want to sit down, breathe in the air freshly purified by my three new plants, and read the next chapter.
Don't worry about where you'll go this year. Don't worry about what the new you might look like. Take a step back, and give yourself the space to move through 2018 with slow intention. You can stop making "To-Do" lists for things that will get done anyway. Let your habits form imperfectly, gradually. There's grace for the process.