Smart kids get good grades. Good grades get you into good colleges. Going to a good college gets you a good job when you graduate. Getting a good job gets you a good career. Getting a good career gets you a good life.
Sound familiar? We’re pretty much all taught to think this way in the US. And if you’re a bright kid, you’ve probably internalized this mentality and formed your life plan around it. You set goals constantly, have a straight and narrow path that is both comforting and stress-inducing to follow. You know exactly how to get what you want from life.
Lately, I’ve been seeing people online choose a word that they want to represent their experience in 2019. It’s like a new spin on resolutions—what do you want your future year to boil down to in one word? I’ve seen lots of great words like “create,” “inspire,” and “grow” that make the chooser’s goals fairly easy to imagine. They make sense; they’re positive, and goals centered around that idea would naturally lead to good things.
On the other hand, the word I chose for 2019 is “no.” That’s right, I chose the word from which most negativity in our language comes. And I chose it because I think it will bring a great deal of positivity to my life in 2019. I chose it because there are some things I need to learn to say “no” to if I’m ever going to move forward.
For my Work in Progress Wednesday goal this month, I wanted to use December as an opportunity for reflection. I’ll be honest and say that most of my reflecting happened in the past week and a half or so because this Christmas was just so busy. So while this wasn’t something I necessarily had on my mind all month, I do believe that thinking back has made an impact on my mindset in the last 10 days.
For me, one of my favorite things to do—or something I’m rather naturally inclined to do—is to reflect on the past in order to decide my path for the future. As I got thinking, I decided to share what my most important lessons were month by month. Here’s a look back on my 2018 and all the lessons I learned.
Sometimes I’m kind of shocked when I reflect back to high school and remember how many friends I had. While I always had just a couple of really close friends, I had a good 10 or so friends who I spent time with regularly. What? Who was I?
It was great for that time in my life, but that’s not really what would work for me now. Truthfully, I prefer to have very few very close friends than a lot of friends who I’m not quite as close to. And now that we’ve all gone to college, graduated, and settled, my friend group has become just that. Here’s the thing–even though I have a few absolutely fantastic close friends, none of them live in the same state as me. Bummer. We keep in contact regularly, but I don’t think any of them would argue if I were to say that it’s important for all of us to have friends where we are as well.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone knows what it’s like to have a gut feeling about something. But have you ever thought about where it comes from? How do we just know something? Is it instinctual? Is it something we’ve previously learned that we have just mostly blocked from memory? Or is it something else?
I consider myself an intuitive person. And if you want to know me at all, you should know that my intuition is an essential part of who I am and how I live my life.
My goal for November was to practice gratitude.
Once again, I feel that I’m standing in front of a learning experience I didn’t expect to have. What I learned this November is that you don’t need to make a measurable change in order for you to see the change. I’m someone who is constantly striving for self-improvement, always looking for goals to set myself, and often belittling my own accomplishments.
This November, I’d say that I achieved my goal. I made gratitude a part of my everyday life. But I still feel like I didn’t make an “improvement.” Why? Because I didn’t learn some new skill or some other demonstrable factor. I’m having one of those moments where I wish I could step outside of myself and say, “Christine–you realize that because of your goal, your entire mood changed last month, right?” Yes. I realize that. And I’m, well, grateful for that. But I feel as though I didn’t accomplish much.
The holidays are wonderful in so many ways, but for every wonderful thing, the holidays also present an opportunity for stress. There’s the pressure of giving time and presents to loved ones, additional activities in your busy schedule, and perhaps some financial strain.
For me, the Christmas season has always brought on a double-edged sword of holiday cheer—I want to make the most of the season and do as many fun things as possible, but that can sometimes end up becoming a bit overwhelming. Then, if I slow down too much, I feel regret on December 26th. It’s hard to not give too much of yourself to others and the season without also missing some opportunities for joy. But you also don’t want to run yourself down and ignore your own needs.
In order to find balance, I’ve written this guide for ways you can prioritize self-care during the holidays.
Growing up, Thanksgiving wasn’t really on my list of favorite holidays. I honestly don’t have too many memories of Thanksgivings, and it could be because Christmas has always been very important to my family. I’ve jokingly referred to Thanksgiving as “Christmas 0.5,” because my family didn’t have too many traditions that made Thanksgiving stand out—it was basically like Christmas a month before Christmas, without the great music and cookies and gifts. But the holiday changed for me when I began seeing Jake.
Earlier this year, I realized that the media I was consuming was having a greater effect on my self-perception that I’d like it to. Every platform was full of clutter that I just didn’t want floating around my life anymore. In particular, I noticed that this media impacted my body image.
Most little girls grow up seeing images of perfect girls and women on TV, in magazines, and now online. We’ve all probably heard an Oprah-esque talk show segment about how harmful these images can be to young people (let’s be real, it impacts all children, not just girls). We learn what we’re supposed to strive for from media. We have family and friends to mold that too, but media teaches us what people think beyond our circles. And that’s a lot to take in when you’re young.
I failed my goal for October.
For years, failure has been my greatest fear, so to admit to you that I did not succeed in reading two books last month is not easy for me. A few years ago, I probably would’ve just lied and written this post about how satisfying it was to improve myself by reaching my goal. Instead, I’m writing a post about why failure is ok and how I learned more about improving myself from not succeeding this past month.