When we want to make changes in an area of our lives, we often think we need to take big, significant steps. At the beginning of every year, it’s common for people to make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, as many as 45% of Americans resolve to make at least one major change each year, with the most common resolutions being to lose weight, start exercising, or quit smoking. Sadly, however, over half of these people give up on their goals by the end of June, and many quit much sooner.
Although there are many reasons why people abandon their resolutions, I believe a common explanation is that they over-commit and attempt to take on more than they can handle. For example, a person who wants to start exercising joins a gym the first week in January and starts going to daily boot camp classes. Another individual who wants to lose weight shifts from eating carbs all day long to consuming an ultra-low-carb diet consisting of mostly meat and vegetables. It’s no big surprise that such people struggle to maintain such difficult regimens and ultimately end up abandoning them. Of course, some can and do keep up with their lofty plans, but it’s a recipe for failure for most of us.
“Baby Steps” Can Lead to Big Changes
As I mentioned several posts ago, I didn’t set any New Year’s resolutions for 2018. Instead, I just chose a single word – essential – as my guiding intention for the year. That doesn’t mean I don’t have specific changes I want to make in my life, however. There are actually quite a few shifts I’d like to see happen in various aspects of my existence, but I’ve learned that small steps are the best way for me to successfully make and maintain change in my life. What follows are two such examples of how taking “baby steps” has led to meaningful shifts in terms of my health.
Yesterday morning, the power went out in my apartment and didn’t come back on until late in the afternoon. In today’s post, I share my thoughts about that experience, what I learned from it, and how I plan to take these lessons forward in my life.
It’s a strange feeling when the power goes out. Everything just kind of … stops. It’s not a common occurrence around here, but it happens often enough that I wasn’t too rattled by it. Usually, the power comes back on after about an hour, so I decided to read a book I’d been meaning to finish and just wait. When close to two hours had passed, I began to panic a little bit. I didn’t want my entire day to go down the proverbial tubes. I called the power company to find out what was going on and learned that city workers drilling into concrete nearby had damaged some electrical equipment. It wasn’t expected to be fixed until at least 3 p.m.
The Best Laid Plans…
I had planned to do many things yesterday, including writing and publishing a blog post. I was understandably annoyed at the turn of events, but it actually ended up being one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. Instead of raging against something I couldn’t control, I decided to just go with it. What I didn’t expect was how quiet and peaceful it would be. All of the normal hustle and bustle of my neighbors running appliances and milling around was gone. I felt like I could breathe more easily and I gave myself permission to remove any expectations around what I would accomplish.
Last week, I shared that my word for 2018 is “essential.” This word is already making quite an impact on my life and I suspect that I will be writing a number of posts on its influence as the year progresses. Today I will address the subject of information and what is and isn’t essential. I actually started an essay on a different topic yesterday, but I had an experience last night that pushed me to write and publish this one instead. I suspect that I’m not alone in my struggle with information overload, and I hope that perhaps we can help each other develop a more balanced and peaceful (my themes for the past two years…) relationship with the input that is coming into our brains and our lives.
Too Many Articles!
I first wrote about the subject of information overload back in 2014, and I have since made a lot of progress in cutting back on how much information I consume. I no longer subscribe to magazines and I have reduced my email and blog subscriptions dramatically. I stopped using the Pocket app for saving articles, as I had amassed hundreds of articles that I never got around to reading. Unfortunately, those shifts mostly just put a Band-Aid on the problem as opposed to actually solving it. I still have far too many browser tabs open and too many emails in my in-box at any given time. When I take the time to close tabs and clean out my email queue, I often end up saving articles into a browser folder that I have labeled “To Read.” Much like my Pocket queue, this folder has expanded to hold a large number of articles, probably verging upon a hundred as of yesterday.
I enjoyed hearing from some of you regarding your insights and lessons from 2017. It’s definitely not necessary to answer a lot of questions in order to come to these understandings, but I wanted to provide resources for those who feel they benefit from structured introspection. I find that it often helps me to have questions to ponder, although I agree that taking on the task of answering fifty questions can be overwhelming!
Today’s post is all about yearly themes, having a word or phrase that directs our focus and our growth for a given year. I highlight a few resources to help you select your word, if you have not yet done so but would like to. I also debrief how I fared with my 2017 theme, “peace,” and share the word I have chosen for 2018 and why.
Reaching out for a more peaceful life…
Why Select a Word/Theme for the Year?
I started selecting yearly themes back in 2014 during the second year of “Recovering Shopaholic.” Prior to that, I always wrote a long “laundry list” of goals I wanted to accomplish over the course of the year, many of which remained undone by the time December rolled around. While I still believe that goals can be powerful and effective, I no longer write a lengthy list of them each January. Instead, I select a word (well, I actually chose two words the first year, which I don’t recommend…) that encapsulates either the key aspect of my life I want to work on that year or the primary feeling I want to create in my emotional experience.
Although we’re now over two weeks into January, it’s still not too late to debrief last year and learn some valuable lessons to carry forward into 2018. In today’s post, I share some resources for how to do this, as well as provide a glimpse into my own yearly review process and what I learned from it.
How to Close Out a Year on the Right Note
There are many rituals we can use to help us powerfully close out each year and gain knowledge for better navigating our path into the next year. Of course, there is nothing particularly magical about the year end and we can do these processes at any time. However, there is a sense of closure as we move from one calendar year to the next that makes the time around New Year’s a great time for us to take stock. Our birthdays are also meaningful times to take inventory and set goals, as I wrote about in 2010, 2013, and 2016.
If you’d like to take some time now to debrief 2017, below are some tips from my fellow bloggers on how to do so. These processes range from a handful of questions to consider to as many as fifty, and they also vary in terms of their scope and approach. I’m including a variety of options because we’re all different and what works well for one person may either be overkill or not enough for another. Also, feel free to pick and choose which questions you wish to answer. Just because someone has presented a long list of debrief questions for us, it doesn’t mean that we need to take them all on.
Welcome to my new blog, “Full Life Reflections”! In this initial post, I will share what this blog is about and what you can expect to read here in the coming weeks and months. Also, if you were previously a reader of my last blog, “Recovering Shopaholic,” I will let you know why I decided to start a new blog and how this one will be different from what you were used to from me. Regardless of whether we have crossed paths before, I hope you will find “Full Life Reflections” interesting, thought-provoking, and helpful.
How Did “Full Life Reflections” Come About?
From 2013 through 2017, I wrote the blog “Recovering Shopaholic,” which focused on my journey to trade my full closet for a full life. I had struggled with compulsive shopping for over three decades and wanted to find a way to create balance in both my wardrobe and my shopping. The blog served as a means for me to explore the reasons for my maladaptive shopping behavior and ongoing wardrobe management issues, while correspondingly connecting with others with similar challenges. It also fostered accountability as I worked to clean out my closet, adhere to a clothing budget, and discover a personal style that resonated for me at my current stage of life.
Over the four years that I wrote “Recovering Shopaholic,” I made a lot of progress in terms of my wardrobe, shopping, and style, yet I continued to struggle with the “full life” side of the equation. I found that dedicating so much time and attention toward my wardrobe had become counterproductive and had begun to stall my recovery process. Accordingly, I decided to pause the blog in February 2017 and take some time to evaluate whether or not I wanted to continue blogging, as well as the shape any further writing I would do might take. I spent quite a few months mired in confusion in this regard but finally gained clarity that my next step would be this new blog, “Full Life Reflections.”
So much has been going through my mind since I published my last post. Crystallizing the thoughts I shared with you earlier this month was a breakthrough for me and has created an opening for new breakthroughs. I believe that this is the year when things will finally fall more into place for me after years of feeling stuck in the mire of my anxiety and discontent. Granted, I still feel stuck in many ways, but I see a light at the end of the tunnel, a clearing for a new and better reality.
Seeing a Clearing for a New and Better Reality…
Today’s post is another one I’ve been intending to write since the beginning of the year, but I wasn’t able to slow down and take the time to pull it all together. These more introspective essays don’t necessarily take longer to write than the ones with lots of photos and numbers, but they are more difficult for me to complete. I need to have the internal clarity in order to be able to express myself in a way that makes sense. My brain has felt like a big jumble for quite a while now with so much inner noise that it’s been hard for me to relax or sleep.
Back in September, I attended the San Diego session of Courtney Carver’s “Tiny Wardrobe Tour.” As I mentioned in my post the following day, knowing that I’d be attending this talk motivated me to create a hypothetical summer Project 333 capsule wardrobe (which I later decided to dress with for the month of October). At that time, I promised to share some of the insights I gained from the Tiny Wardrobe Tour presentation, but I haven’t been able to do so until now…
Courtney Carver’s “Tiny Wardrobe Tour” – September 2016, San Diego
A lot of thoughts came up for me during Courtney’s talk and I found myself on the verge of tears several times. I started capturing my thoughts shortly after the event, but I was unable to finish the post for some reason. I came back to it a couple of times, but ended up leaving it unfinished again. It wasn’t until this week that I was able to complete it to my satisfaction and share my musings here. Sometimes we need to sit with something for a while, and perhaps what’s happened in my life over the ensuing months has helped to crystalize the lessons in my mind.
It’s been over three months since I gave an update on how I’m doing with my gray hair transition, so I thought this would be a good time for me to fill you in on the journey. I’m now at just about the seven month mark and there have been some changes to my transition plan since I last reported on the process back in August. I’m still planning to stay the course, but it definitely hasn’t been easy! In today’s post, I’ll update you on recent new developments and share photos and thoughts on how my transition is progressing.
Since I’ve written quite a few posts about my gray hair transition, I created a new blog category to make it easy to access this content for those who are interested. If you’re pondering the process – or are currently in it – and would like some tips and advice, be sure to check out my “Going Gray & Getting Out of Hair Prison Follow-Up” article, as it is chock full of suggestions from readers and useful links to gray hair transition resources.
It’s been a while since I last shared my photos with you, so I’d like to highlight another one of my favorite places today. In the midst of all of the chaos and upset going on right now, this also seems like a good time to focus on what’s good and beautiful in the world. The lovely scenery abundant to the area where I live is a wonderful example of this, as I’ve shown in previous photography posts.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I drove to Pacific Beach for a walk and to photograph the sunset. It’s just a twenty minute drive from where we live, but it can feel like a world away. We took quite a few photographs on that mild autumn evening, the best of which are featured below.
These kids were enjoying a beautiful October evening in Pacific Beach.