So many people do New Years resolutions and end up ditching them before the month of January is over!
This year (like last one) I did a more thorough review of the last 12 months and an exercise of intention setting and vision mapping for 2018. [You can download my free 13-page New Awareness 2018 workbook here - full of juicy questions, friendly nudges and plenty of space for your reflections.]
How does looking back help us to look ahead? By becoming aware of whatever changed, shifted or transformed in us and/or in our lives. We are constantly in change, we never stand still - despite our ego-mind's desire for a solid and constant identity. Reflecting back opens us up to self-knowledge and to tuning in to what we need right now.
Here are my top 5 awareness gains from 2017:
1. Self-care routine.
This features prominently in people’s New Year resolutions (going to the gym?? Never set a foot in a gym in my lifetime, don’t intend to do it now!). I’m talking about something different here. During 2017 my greatest awareness gain was realising I can’t walk the talk on mindfulness and living consciously if I don’t practice self-care. Every. Freaking. Day.
Pretty obvious thing, maybe? Not for someone who has lived most of her life as an A type achiever, perfectionist, uber-self-demanding freak trying to constantly derive value from other people’s assessments. My needs have always been relegated. My body’s needs hardly ever registered.
So what changed this year? I pushed myself to meditate daily. Did I achieve this goal? Not quite. But in the process I realised I needed and wanted to create, practice and uphold a fairly regular self-care routine in the form of a mixture of meditation, yoga, embodiment practices (more on that later) and creative/expressive pursuits such as journaling.
The keys to making it happen is moving into action. Simples. Just do it. And then repeat. Again. And again. But to make it easier for yourself to show up, it helps to find the best anchor for it (time, place, activity, a combination of these). In my case, it was deciding that every morning I shall do at least 30 minutes of some form of self-care before anything else happens. The benefits are cumulative. The more you show up, the easier it gets. It starts becoming routine and, most importantly, you actually feel better for doing it. Motivation sorted! Plus, my body kinda of forced me - I had some very severe flare-up of facial rosacea throughout the year at times when I was having problems with boundary-setting (the skin is our ultimate boundary), saying no, and over-giving. I wrote about this a while back A slap in the face.
I had been drawn to this for a while, but 2017 was the year I finally plunged right into simplifying, shedding and generally assessing whether I have what I need and need what I have. Most people can handle the first bit; the second one gets trickier as we often hold on to things, relationships, activities in the mistaken hope they will fulfil us or in the fear something bad will happen to us if we let them go.
We don’t actually need anything, except food, water and air… and love. So in 2017 I’ve started (all of this is work in progress of course!) shedding, shedding, and shedding. Because although my home is fairly tidy, my head and my life were in need of a pretty major “spring clean”. Minimalism and mindfulness are actually two approaches in the same path: living in awareness.
I’m practising creating space (literally and figuratively) in every aspect of my life - my home, my social life, my work, my family relations, my head, my body - in order to let the magic in. What magic is that? Well, presence of course. ;-)
From a place of presence and connection with that inner stillness we can prioritise effortlessly. And tap into our creative power too. So ask yourself “why?” Why am I doing this? Why is this thing taking up space in my home? Why do I need to see this person? There is a lot more room for choice than we think.
3. Conscious productivity
Ok, I’m so excited about this, it’s really nerdy!! I’ve basically listed the tasks associated with my objectives or areas of life, calculated the time I need per area, and then divided them up within an overall weekly time limit (current target for work is 25 hours per week). Then I’ve created blocks of time for each. This is a well known productivity technique.
My initial fear was that I would become too rigid (because I’m aware that I have that tendency) but it’s proven unfounded. Because the point is to leave plenty of empty space too. (Remember we want to let the magic in, right?). It’s basically doing more (and with more awareness about our choices) in less time, so that I have more freedom to do other stuff, or do nothing at all, or meditate, or doodle, or play with my son, or cross-stitch.
This applies to emails and social media. I now have blocks when I check in with the rest of the world. Otherwise I’m off-line. (Incidentally, finding out about why the brain gets so hooked on distractions has been a life-changer. Read Adam Alter’s Irresistible).
Finally, eating a bit of humble pie is quite helpful to tame the inner critic. We often overestimate what we can do in one day, and underestimate what we can do in a month (and a year). Too much on your plate? I now go back to the question “What can I let go of?” And become intimately aware of my subtle body reactions. I’m trying to not let fear call the shots here. To focus on achieving a single, important (not urgent!) task a day. A task that take me outside my comfort zone a bit, a task that makes me shine.
And that’s a sure way to not feel like you’ve been busy all day yet achieved very little.
Our bodies do not usually lie (except when in the grip of addiction). The problem is we don’t listen to them, except in extremis (facial flare-ups anyone?). Integrating some embodiment practices in my day has been a game changer not just for my self-care but also for my effectiveness in all realms of life. And for my presence.
Embodiment is about tapping into our bodies’ innate wisdom. It’s about integrating another decision-making (a pretty infallible one) centre into our awareness. I have written about this before, check this post on Awareness Embodied.
5. Why I use technology
Because I have to. Yeah, ok, but how much?? That’s probably the best question. So I started off by doing an audit of my mobile phone use (there are free apps to do this, I use Moment). We all think we don’t use our phone that much. Do an audit. You’ll be in for a shock.
I currently use my phone for 1 hour 57 minutes per day on average and the average Moment customer uses theirs for a whopping 3 hours and 57 minutes. And that’s people who have a certain awareness of phone usage since they have the app installed.
So, no judgement here. Let’s all accept it’s addictive. ‘Cause it is. Our brains get hooked. It’s a bottomless pit (specially social media and games). My bottom line is: if I’m needy or in a bit of a shady emotional state I try to stay away from my phone. If I need to look up something/check in I do it within one of my time blocks for it. If I start feeling anxious or needy whilst using the phone, I put it away.
All of this requires awareness, compassion and self-care. Use your body to guide you.
So, that’s it! I hope some of this has resonated with you. Or, at the very least, inspired you to do a similar reflection exercise. Over to you: what were your greatest awareness gains in 2017? And how do you intend to turn them into mindful intentions going further into 2018?