This picture was taken from the top of Blood Mountain. In the distance you can see Lake Lanier.
Thanks to Jon Gordon and his book One Word, each year many of my colleagues choose one word to be their focus for the year. I’ve been thinking about this word over winter break and as we begin a new year. I’ve never fully committed to this practice but feel it may be a useful tool as a theme around my blog. I’m currently reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is a laugh-out-loud, truly inspiring book about creative living. It has inspired me to choose this as my word. CREATIVE. I want my word to encompass all of my life but especially that which is most important: family, health, and spirit. These three things are the foundational blocks for my values, my choices, my focus. I don’t want to forget my word. I want to think of it as I sit and reflect on my intentions, both long term and short term ones.
I am putting a lot of responsibility on this one word-big shoes to fill-to be a focus for an entire year. Almost like a New Year’s resolution. For many years, I valiantly set resolutions -ranging from eating healthier to regular exercise to no longer picking my nails to running races. I am no stranger to the lure of setting ridiculous resolutions that seem to inevitably fail. Last year I focused on my eating. I began the year with Whole 30. While I gained some new recipes, I was miserable trying to meet the requirements. And for what? I didn’t value the payoff because the time I spent meeting the goal lacked gratitude. Armed with all the awareness and experience of the past, I still feel the tug to set a resolution each year.
BUT-not this year. And for no other reason than I don’t want to change anything at this point. Do I need to eat healthier? Yes. Do I need to exercise consistently? Yes. Could I afford to lose a few pounds or meditate more regularly or run races? All yes. But this year I don’t want to do something just because I said I would. The value of harmony – that agreement between what I think, say and do, is one that is important to me. If I say I’m going to do something, and then don’t do it, I lose the integrity that comes from living with the harmony by which I strive to live. And I am very familiar with setting really inspiring and drastic goals that mostly end before they have become routine or had the time for me to really determine whether they are purposeful and worth the addition to my life.
In order to avoid adding one more task to my schedule, I’m simply not going to make a resolution. Instead, I’m going to set this word, CREATIVE, around my intentions. I want to thoughtfully shift the way I measure my successes to reflect the way I approach life, and to reflect the effort I put forth to align my values. As Gilbert wrote in Big Magic, “You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes and failures.” So if I remove assigning success and failures to tasks accomplished and instead look to successes of effort; then the most important thing I can do is be very intentional and specific when it comes to how I best show up. Therefore if I add something, it needs to connect back to those three blocks I’ve determined are the most important.
Thanks to the regular writing I am able to recognize this default trait of saying yes to things without thinking them through. I do this when I’m stressed or overwhelmed and then overwhelem and stress myself even more. It quickly becomes a cycle that only I can stop. Writing has helped me see this trait quicker and the Since school has begun I’ve added a daily quote around a monthly theme on my blog. It is a great way for me to use the countless photographs I love to take when outdoors with my family. It provides a creative outlet for me. Each month has a different focus but always beginning with Spark. This is something I enjoy doing to start my day. The month of January is Spark Creativity.
As second semester starts and I reflect on my mindset and goals from the beginning of the year, I can already see how regular writing has provided more than just a creative outlet for me. It has created a space to reflect. It has made me think differently and this serves as a me to pause in my day-to-day activities. It reminds me to connect to my values and mission. It has forced me to slow down and check myself against, well, myself. It has invited me to dive into the parts of my belief system that need revisiting and maybe a tune-up.
This regular writing has helped me recognize that by identifying that which is most important provides clarity to eliminate that which distracts. As I continue this practice, I can see how the act of simply sitting down to write, of honoring the routine that I’ve determined is important to me, is where the struggle lies. The actual writing is the easy part! Just like showing up at the gym is more of a struggle than the actual workout. Getting my yoga mat out every day, no matter what, is harder than actually doing the yoga once there.
As Ryan Holiday wrote, “Routine, done long enough and done sincerely enough, becomes more than routine. It becomes ritual – it becomes sanctified and holy.” I want to get there with these routines I’ve only added regularly in the past six months. Sticking with it long enough and consistent enough to truly be able to gauge the value is my goal for the year. There is power in saying no to those things that while good or interesting to me do not support those foundational blocks. As we journey into another decade, and another trip around the sun, I invite you to embrace your creative life as I embrace mine through routine, effort and reflection.