Witnessing Asher and Annabelle grow up has taught me that it is possible to change a lot in the space of one short year. At the beginning of 2016, Asher was still very much a toddler — in terms of his physical abilities, speech, sleep, and sweet little baby face. But now he confidently runs, holds lengthy conversations, sleeps through the night, and even looks like a little boy. Annabelle’s growth is even more pronounced. As a three month old, she slept, ate, and pooped. Now she walks, talks a bit, flips through books on her own, cooks meals in the play kitchen, and chases after her brother to tickle him. In just twelve months, Asher and Annabelle learned so much.
My kids’ development inspires me to be more intentional about how I want to grow this year. So much is possible, but the days seem to slip by. Taking care of two little ones (and a husband!) is exhausting and completely time consuming, so I need to have a plan for how I hope to change this year.
In the past I have focused on things I want to accomplish — find a new job, travel to a different country, buy a house, publish a piece of writing, run a half marathon. It was helpful, even life-changing, to have clear goals and determine steps I needed to take to accomplish them. And these were important achievements for me, but this year I want to try paying more attention to how I want to feel rather than what I plan to do. Because the truth is that you can give birth to two children and still feel weak; you can always be with people and still feel lonely; you can graduate from a prestigious university and still feel inept; you can have all of the material comforts you ever wished for and still feel sad. In my experience, when I chase after accomplishments and stuff, I am left wanting more. I am left with this feeling of not enough. So I wonder if it might be more fulfilling to modify my approach and concentrate first on how I want to feel and then what I can do to experience those feelings. They say that most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions by February, but one can’t give up on feelings, right?
So as 2016 came to a close, I thought a lot about how I want to feel in the new year. I reflected on the moments when I’ve felt most alive and confident in my skin. I also considered the times I’ve felt uncomfortable and scared and disappointed. This was a challenging, yet incredibly liberating process for me. I let go of expectations and worries about what others might think. I know that I am my best self and most able to help others when I feel good — and not when I am attempting to emulate some societal construct of who I should be. Ultimately, these are the feelings that most spoke to my heart:
I want to feel strong.
I want to feel connected.
I want to feel creative.
I want to feel joyful.
My next step was to brainstorm small, doable steps I can regularly take to feel strong, connected, creative, and joyful. For example, I feel strongest when I am regularly exercising and eating life-giving foods. So I developed an intention to exercise six times a week and to mostly eat foods that come from the earth. The beauty of this approach is that I can revise the steps at any time; the point isn’t to rack up a certain number of workouts — it’s to feel strong (and also joyful!). I wrote these intentions in my journal and I plan to revisit them every month or so and make changes so that I am always doing things in service of feeling a certain way, and, therefore, becoming my best possible self.
New Year’s resolutions seem to be going out of vogue, but these intentions feel really good to me. I am excited to focus on feeling strong, connected, creative, and joyful. How do you want to feel? What small, doable steps can you take every day or every month to cultivate these feelings? I look forward to learning how you are planning to make 2017 your most fulfilling year yet!