There’s always a lot of hype around the new year, but never quite like I experienced at the end of 2020! It was such a difficult year for all of us and the desire to take full advantage of a new beginning was strong. Now that we’ve made it through January, maybe you’re feeling like it wasn’t all you’d hoped for.
I’m here to remind you that whether you’re already halfway down the trail or still looking for your shoes, it’s okay. Typically, I hit the ground running, but this year has been different. I start my personal “new year” at the end of October with my birthday and now that it’s February, I finally feel like I’m finding my groove.
Not all years are created equal, as we learned the hard way. Sometimes the best thing we can do is slow down and carefully choose each step we take rather than sprinting for the finish line. If you’re feeling like a slow starter right now, here are a few practices that have helped me navigate this strange new beginning with a little more ease.
There’s no such thing as late to your own life. You’re right on time, my friend.
Be Gentle With Yourself
While you may have thought you were prepared for the end of 2020, there have been massive upheavals in both our personal lives and collective spaces that require time to work through. You can’t rush that shit. Processing and integrating what we’ve learned after a year of tough lessons isn’t going to happen overnight. Give yourself permission to not have it all figured out right this second.
The last year may have left you questioning everything. We were harshly reminded that nothing is certain. I know there were plenty of moments I found myself wondering, “What am I working toward? What is it that I really want?” It seems natural in the face of such uncertainty, but sometimes we keep pushing forward and don’t take the time to create thoughtful answers because we’re afraid of falling behind.
There’s no right way to start a year. You are a unique human with your own rhythms and needs that deserve consideration. Try to be gentle with yourself. You don’t know the untold stories of those you compare yourself with. Celebrate how far you’ve come and stay true to what feels right for you. This is your journey and there’s no one right way to do it.
Take Your Time
We don’t all move at the same speed. We don’t all process at the same pace. It’s okay. There’s no need to rush. When we move forward without clear direction, it’s much easier to get lost along the way. One lesson that’s stood out for me is the importance of slowing down enough to get my bearings before hitting the trail. When you head out hiking, it’s helpful to orient yourself before rushing off into the woods. It’s the same with finding your next steps.
In the Before Times, it was so easy to let the momentum we’d created continue to pull us forward. At some point over the last twelve months, we’ve all been forced to pause. We had to stop and have a look around at where we landed by simply following the inertia. It’s time to ask, “Is this where I want to be? Do I want to stay on this trajectory?”
Processing, reflecting, and finding your way forward takes time. There’s no rushing the good stuff. In the past, I’ve rushed forward without understanding where I wanted to go just because I wanted to start moving again. It wasn’t helpful, I promise. Here are a few exercises I’ve started using to find my next steps rather than running off into the woods with no map or compass.
Try Intentions & Themes Instead of Rigid Goals
SMART goals are all the rage and I’ve used them most of my life, just like all my corporate training taught me. Once I stepped out of that world and mindset, they began to feel constricting and stifling. I’ve had to reimagine goals in a way that gives me clear direction while still leaving room for new possibilities and unexpected detours.
Rather than super specific goals, I’ve started focusing on different themes or projects, which feels much lighter! For example, instead of having my travel memoir completed by mid-July or finding five new clients by the first of April, I’ve made Writing and Connection priorities. This leaves more space for me to explore and each week I get to decide what feels fun and exciting within those themes. Of course, I have timelines in mind, but if a new opportunity comes up, I’m not going to shut it down just because it doesn’t fit my SMART goal.
The point of life isn’t to arrive at some final destination. How we show up for the ride is as important as what we do with it. Your days will pass no matter what. As long as you’re actively engaged in the process of creating a life you enjoy, you’re doing it right. Keep going, and don’t worry about being behind. You’re exactly where you need to be.
Share Your Thoughts
How have you approached this new year? Where are you feeling excited and energized? Where do you find yourself struggling?
I'd love to hear any tips you might have!