This may have been a challenging year for all of us, but as my colleague April Bingham put it, “even garbage fires can provide the spark you need to light the way to revolution, big or small.” I personally found that the endless daily barrage of headlines and notifications and my forms of resistance had me retreating to my home and cultivating my own personal revolution. In 2017 I became a morning person, relishing in the quiet alone time of mornings, and created more and more new habits that I am definitely bringing with me into 2018.
Author John Green of the Vlogbrothers’ therapist inspired me to do this exercise, in which you write out what you’re leaving in 2017, and what you’re taking into 2018. What struck me is that there is so much more that I’m bringing with me than I’m leaving behind. That means I like more of myself than I don’t right now. That is a big giant success, something to celebrate, and something that wasn’t always true. It’s also something I think can be attributed in large part to small goals, read on to see why.
What I’m bringing to 2018
Small goals – Almost all of the achievements I’m most proud of in 2017 started as small goals. I’ve always been afraid of setting goals (sad but true), but small goals actually have the power to change the way our brains work. I wrote about it extensively in my first Small Goals post last January:
Crossing a goal off your to-do list gives your brain a shot of the feel-good hormone, dopamine, and activates the left side of your brain that’s positive and goal-seeking. It also builds momentum into achieving your next goal, which is why Robertson recommends “nesting” your goals, or building smaller goals within a large goal (like a marathon) to condition your brain and build better habits.
My Noise – This is a tiny, easy addition but one I use daily in my work day: MyNoise.net. Put on your headphones and you could be in a deep cave in South America listening to water dripping off stalagmites, or you could be in a Japanese garden complete with Shishi-Odoshi – those bamboo water features that fill up with water until they tip with a satisfying thump to scare the deer away. As I type, I’m on the Irish coast listening to waves on pebbled beaches. It’s helped me to focus and to feel calm in stressful moments.
Meditation – I’d dabbled in meditation before, as in I used the free trial of Headspace and tried guided meditations on YouTube and in yoga, but it wasn’t until I read the book “The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness” by John Yates that I feel I really meditated. My friend Daniel recommended both this book and My Noise to me, and I honestly feel they’ve had a giant impact in my life. If you take one thing away from this post, I hope it’s that you try out this book.
Waking up early – This, along with going to bed earlier, took months of small goals to achieve in 2017 but I finally got there and I’m very proud of that.
Morning yoga – Looking back through my small goals posts from last year, it took 23 days to motivate myself to go to my first yoga class, and now I’m going every morning before work. Re-reading my small goals posts reminded me that what feels so natural to me now actually took a full year of work building new habits.
Reading & writing – I read 14 books this year. I’ve always loved to read, but never prioritized time for it in my day except the 5-minute window before falling asleep. This year I started a book club at work and had over 1,600 people join me in reading a book a month. I also bought the Law of Attraction cards which I use as a quick writing exercise every night.
Just finished Pachinko by @lee_minjin. It's an eye opening (and often painful) read that follows a family over 4 generations and intimately shows the way Koreans and women living in Japan have been discriminated against and institutionally disenfranchised. Like all the best books, I learned so much and it reshaped my perspective on current events. Highly recommend! Thank you @savvy_jane09 for lending it to me.
Paying for help – I invested in a coach to help me craft my career path this year. It can feel scary to ask for help, and even pay for help, but rather than feeling bad about the things I’m not adept at, I decided to pay someone to make me better at them. In case you’re wondering, I worked with Mavenly and I can’t recommend Tallia enough!
Reaching out to people – This was another small goal, and one that honestly used to terrify me. But reaching out to strangers and then meeting up with them has become genuinely enjoyable to me, and something I plan to continue doing, hopefully always!
Shopping secondhand – My 1-year secondhand shopping challenge may have come to a close, but I appreciate the new, more creative perspective that it brought to the way I dress and the way I shop so much that I will definitely continue this lifestyle in the new year.
What I’m leaving in 2017
Consuming social media – I hate the idea that I may inadvertently be posting copycat photos of things I’ve seen other people post on social media. It’s hard to avoid the played out travel photos and the cliche food photos, but Instagram has taken on such a staid template that I fear I too have fallen into. I hope that consuming less will prevent accidental copycatting, so that when I do post I know it’s all me.
Doubting my abilities – If there’s one damaging habit I need to crush for good, it’s this one. I’m still working on this, and if you have any tricks for kicking it to the curb I’d love to hear them in the comments.
Fear of discomfort – The one drawback to curating my life and home to be just the way I want, is the fear of risking it all for something new. Perhaps, like small goals, I will just have to make small uncomfortable changes to work up to larger ones.
Perfection paralysis – Anyone with a blog probably knows this feeling well. You don’t want to push a post out or even start a blog until it’s perfect. In 2018 I hope to produce more and different kinds of work and embrace the imperfection of challenging myself and making mistakes.
I hope you’re starting your year ready to lead your own revolution, big or small. And thank you so much for following along with me on mine.