By Annie Gebel
I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. A few years ago a friend suggested picking a theme to live by instead, one word to saturate my thoughts and influence who I was for a year. This idea completely appealed to me. I chose the word “be,” which has helped me bring my life into focus for the last four years and become a way to define myself – to myself, you know when I’m having great conversations about life in the mirror.
Anyway… be. At that time in my life I was a bit overwhelmed with everything, multitasking much too often and feeling like all the plates I was juggling were going to crash in a loud mess any day. I thought about the word simplify, but I was so entwined in all that I was doing that the idea of stepping out of anything seemed like it might also unravel me. I couldn’t even put into words why everything was so important to me, but in my heart and my gut, I felt like I was where I needed to be, doing what I needed to do. I just needed to find a way to do it all.
I thought about what I wanted in my life, how I could create changes. If I wasn’t willing to simplify, how could I improve my mental health in the midst of the chaos? I found myself thinking about how I wanted to be more loving, be more thankful, be more joyful, be more intentional, and be more present. The common thread was “be more.” In my friend’s challenge I was only allowed one word so I shortened it to “be.” Such a little word with so much potential. I found that this tiny word could impact my life in great ways (which is why I’ve kept it as my theme all the years since) and that by being I didn’t need to be more, what I was being was enough.
I know that resolutions work well for some people, but they never did for me. They created undue pressure (yes, I know it was all in my head, applied by me) and I always felt like I was focusing on the negative in my life and trying to fix it. That didn’t sit well with me. So a decade or so ago I stopped making resolutions and started creating goals. I did this (and still do) year round, though. My goals are always in the positive. I focus on enriching my life, reaching some new height, rather than doing less, weighing less, eating less. I try to see my life as one that can always use improvement, tweaking, and encouragement instead of wasting my energy feeling like I’ve failed all year long and NOW is my only chance to fix it – that’s how resolutions left me feeling. I know that’s not the case for everyone, though. And if you find success in resolving to improve some aspect of your life – yay! Don’t let me stop you!
If you’re like me, though, why not stop beating yourself up? I still make goals when I see that I need to. But I now center myself around the word, my theme, be. I find that if I’m not enjoying life it’s because I’m not following through with being present in the activity at hand. For example, when I’m contentedly clicking away on the computer and the kids ask me to play a game. Sometimes I say, “Not right now, I’m in the middle of an article,” but I set up a time to put the computer down and pay them attention. Other times I ask them to get it out and set up while I finish up a sentence or paragraph and then I put the computer down and give my presence to my kids.
Every now and then I’ll say, “Fine, just a minute,” and shut my laptop and huff into the kitchen to play. And everything they do and say annoys me. My daughter’s laugh, my son’s sarcasm. If I notice this behavior and mindset, I realize now that it’s because I’m not being present. I’m still wanting to be writing and thinking about that task rather than enjoying time with the kids. So, if I catch myself I take a deep breath or three and work on being joyful in my play.
Now, I’m not perfect and I still get overwhelmed or frustrated, but I think I notice it more often and can better balance my moods. I enjoy being a work in progress. I enjoy being.
Maybe this theme strategy can work for you too. I’d love to hear what word you choose as your theme for your year on Not All About Beauty, the Facebook discussion forum associated with HaveHeart Magazine. Maybe you’ll choose love, simplify, family, or happy. Whatever you go with, maybe you’ll find freedom in a theme, like me, and simply be.