It’s -3 to the new year and -5 to entering the last year of my 20s, and it’s a time of a lot of crying and feeling inadequate because while I am achieving a lot, I am achieving things that people normally achieve earlier in life and really, I’m just not good at this time of year. I never have been. It’s in this context of somewhat keeping a boyfriend despite being an emotional wreck on FaceTime every night of the week (I think the fact I am still surprised that not every man is only interested when you look as put together as a Victoria’s Secret model doing a photoshoot is a subject for another day…) that an email landed into my inbox. A Christian blogger I follow recommending two resources for reviewing the past year and setting goals for 2018.
I thought it would be a good idea to embrace the suggestion, and while I could have done that in private on my notebook with one of the pens that have been given to me as a gift lately, I thought doing it in public would be an opportunity to review the tools if you want to use them too.
I have to admit, a lot about her blog seemed the kind of things that I usually snub. Perfect people with perfect lives claiming that they are imperfect and you stare at them wondering why on earth they think that, and if they think you’re stupid for lying so blatantly. However, I had set myself to write this blog post so I stuck to it, and slowly came to see her as genuine: no matter how others see us, we see ourselves the way we do. And that way can be as imperfect, a mess and a failure. My sympathy for her grew together with some understanding and kindness towards myself.
The programme was split in 5 parts to do over 5 days. I have started as the 5 parts were all published and so did them all together. I wonder if I have missed out on something by doing so, but it has been the best and most productive morning in recent times. It did also come with two espressos and a Red Bull, but more on this later. Each part is built in steps, and you’re guided through reflections in a simple way, and given her own reflection as example. If you manage not to confront your life to hers, it’s a really fruitful time of spiritual growth.
Step 1 asked me to evaluate my life in a number of categories. Suffice to say that my life at the moment is not that great. I am the embodiment of how finding a man does not solve your problems and change your life overnight and you should never feel that way about being single.
Step 2 asked us to reflect about whether we have been chasing perfect. It couldn’t be any more timely, as I’m spending the holidays with my parents and my family has been historically bad at making me feel valued and good enough. My parents’ love is not, however, the only area where I am chasing perfect: success in life, especially financial, and being a good Christian are also areas where I fall into the perfectionism trap. I went to a presentation of a book on the subject a long time ago, and maybe it’s about time I do read it.
Step 3 was a hard one: look at what good happened in the past year. Some things were pretty obvious, but that’s basically all I could come up with. The most worrying thing, also, is that all of the things I wrote down had to do with someone else’s opinion of me, whether it’s work, politics or love. I seem unable to see any other positives. The second part of step 3, however, was about what lessons I learnt, which had a bit more scope.
Step 4 was what is one thing I want to cultivate the year ahead. As cliché as it sounds, it was my relationship with God as most things that happened this year seem to take root in what’s going on in that department. I have thought a lot about whether to write it in this blog post, because I am working on the disconnect I feel between the image of who I am supposed to be that living life as an out Christian projects, and how I am actually living my life. I don’t won’t to be a Pharisee.
Step 5 was a hard look at the challenges I faced in 2017. My health and my self-esteem seem to be an underlying theme of most more specific challenges I have listed.
Step 6 asked me to look at who helped me cultivate what matters in 2017. An interesting feature of my list is how few people were there at the beginning of it.
Step 7 and 8 were making a list of things I will be saying yes and things I will be saying no to in 2018. Lara really walks you through the process from the carbon to the diamond, and it was really good to just write down everything that came to mind and then refine the list through her analytical tools down to 3 overarching themes in my life. As someone whose brain is always too full and complicated, simplifying is a great gift and I truly loved this step.
Step 9 was also a highlight. Based on what came before, it was good to find a word to keep with me for the whole new year.
The final step (10) guides you through what you want to achieve, examining why you want to achieve them, and it aims to boil them down to goals you are actually motivated to stick to. So there is no goal to exercise or lose weight on my list, because they aren’t things I am motivated to do in themselves. They are part of a bigger, overarching goal of being less stressed (Goal 4) because that is something that has a huge impact on my life and I need to tackle it head on if I want meaningful change in my life in 2018. The other goals follow a similar pattern: read the Bible cover to cover in 1 year; schedule time to catch up with friends every week (I know I said something similar last year after Liam died, but I haven’t been too great at sticking to it so this year I’ve come up with a plan); and keep the blog active (also with a plan).
As someone who has always been wary of setting goals and the pressure that comes with it, I feel rather at peace about these choices. The only one that isn’t vague is scheduling time to catch up with friends, but it could be anything from a drink to a 10 minute phone chat. They’re more about rebalancing my life towards what matters to me, and not let things that don’t matter (or that are important because they enable me to do the things that matter, like work) run the show. In fact, the intended result of this new balance, of being rooted, is to be better in all areas of my life through being a better person, and hopefully improving the aspects of my health that are under my control.