Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Happy New Year!


A new year is a great time to plan and reflect on personal growth, but it doesn't have to be an "all or nothing" endeavor.

I'm a bit relieved to see that some of my favorite blogs have also been relaxed about writing a post for the new year. As someone who's worked in journalism, part of my thoughts toward writing about a new year include a nagging voice that screams, Timeliness! Immediacy! Content generation! and I feel guilty for not writing more or sooner, especially in regard to a fresh start or a new year. However, as someone who also strives to live a calm and gentle (tres chic!) life, I tell myself to relax, smile, and enjoy doing something that I love and on my own terms.

Which brings me back to my own resolutions, the first of which is to: Do more of what makes me happy! This, I realize, is a very unspecific resolution, but I completely intend it to be that way. If I put too much demand or focus on one aspect of my life, I'm afraid it will make it all the less pleasing to me.

Too often, we become trapped in our own good intentions until they become no longer enjoyable to us. For example, to exercise more is a common resolution. Exercise is really an adult form of playing (think of all the running, jumping, and climbing you did as a child!). With all of the great community sports, fitness machines, gadgets, and exercise classes available, exercising should really be something fun for adults to do. But, we tend to develop an "all or nothing" mindset when we grow up, and this sucks the joy out of a lot of things. So rather than trying to find happiness by focusing on one small aspect of my life, I'm looking at my life in a big-picture, nonspecific way.

Over the past year, I realize that I have developed a habit of over-committing myself to a lot of things, which creates unnecessary stress in my life. In my eagerness to try to be a better person, worker, friend, family member, housekeeper, etc., I over-extend my resources and end up making myself feel stressed out and resentful. With my "all or nothing" mindset committing me to whatever else, my own happiness had been put on the back burner. What good is that? This year I am giving myself permission to withdraw from some of these scenarios and let my own needs (no matter how small) become a priority-- even if that means saying no to other things.

In regard to blogging (something that I enjoy), this also means that although I can still hear that nagging voice telling me I'm not following best practices, my resolution to do more of what makes me happy gives me permission to tell that voice Shhhhh, and just let myself do what I enjoy on my own terms.

Finally, my last resolution for 2014 is to be less obsessed with social media. I can't even count how much time I must have wasted over the past year checking on and waiting for various networks and feeds to update. Why would I ever need to know what happened to literally hundreds of acquaintances within the span of a few minutes, let alone hours or even days? Truly, I'm realizing what an abysmal waste of time these networks can be--time that I can instead be redirecting toward my first resolution! Imagine all of the reading, writing, jogging, listening to music, etc. I could be doing instead. Therefore, I will now try to limit (not eliminate) my social media use to quality interactions, rather than quantity. Rather than checking in on these networks several times a day, I will instead limit myself to a few times a week when I can check in on those I care about while sharing what's new (if anything) in my own life.

In French Women For All Seasons, author Mireille Guiliano (who first sparked a resurgence of American Francophilia with French Women Don't Get Fat) reminds readers that, "French women appreciate that Rome wasn’t built in a day (and neither was France), but rather ‘little by little.' The progress of your life towards peak experiences in all aspects of living will take time." She goes on to state that drastic changes, like many new year's resolutions, are often short-lived and unsuccessful. For lasting improvement to be made in our lives, we must take small but consistent steps in that direction.

Keeping in mind this sage advice, you may remember that my resolutions from last year were equally few and simple: To write more (success!) and to curate greater cultural awareness. (Some small victories here: I did see my first Broadway play last summer!) The year before that, I made a resolution to stay out of debt-- and that's something that I've continued to be successful with to this day! (Pardon me while I pat myself on the back.) The resolutions I make are goals that I strive to attain, not just for the span of a year, but for my entire life.

With my increased consciousness toward living a better quality life, I no longer see resolutions as grandiose or drastic upheavals in day-to-day life. Mademoiselle Guiliano writes that when we commit to making, and more importantly upholding, small improvements in our lives, it's more likely to stick. "And if you slip up a bit, you won’t feel a failure; you will know how to get back on track because it isn’t all or nothing. It’s a game of inches." I especially like her affirmation that it isn't all or nothing. By making small but purposeful changes in my life, I can continue adding to my list of resolutions until I can ask myself, "Am I a better person than I was a year ago? Five years ago? Ten?" and my answer can be a most confident, "Mais oui!"

I would love to know, what resolutions have you made for 2014? Have you fulfilled your goals from last year?

The above photo was taken by me of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland in 2012.

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