I don’t know about you, but the new year has only just arrived and I’m already exhausted. It feels as though every article that’s been shared on Twitter recently is telling me how to be bigger, better, faster and stronger in 2017. Grow your business, build your brand and read this specific list of books. Get more work done in fewer hours, make more money and invest it in things that will help you grow further. Finally, because you’re not busy with all of that, make sure you also eat better, exercise daily, and lose the weight once and for all. I’m tired just from writing that out, let alone doing it.
In paying attention to how I feel every time I look at Twitter and Feedly, I’ve realized that the best thing I can do for myself (and for you) is to steer clear of those articles. You know, the ones that make you feel like you’re already failing at life, but here are five ways to become a better version of yourself this year. I’m done. Over it. And it’s not really surprising that I’m done and over it.
For years, I bought into the idea that something – anything – could help me become the person I thought I should be. That person was well-read, had a huge and growing business, travelled far and wide, and was certainly more creative and talented. She was also thinner, had fewer curves and was more athletic. And if you can’t already tell, she was also the person who talked down to herself.
All of this is part of the reason I used to compulsively consume things. I saw something that promised to fix a problem or make me smarter or make my home more beautiful, and I bought it. I had a bad day and told myself a medium pizza and bag of peanut butter M&Ms was the perfect combination to turn things around, and I ate it all in one sitting. And I drank to fix everything else. Then I did the opposite for a while, where I tried cash diets, food diets, workout schedules and periods of abstinence. Not surprisingly, these were short-term solutions and none of them helped.
Eventually, I hit my breaking points with all of those things. The stuff (things, food and drinks) didn’t fix anything. Instead, it left me with a lot of debt, clutter, extra weight and bad habits. Over the past few years, I’ve taken on challenges like my debt repayment and the shopping ban to help me turn things around, and figure out why I was consuming too much of those things in the first place. I can tell you that I am now a mindful consumer, and truly feel like I’m living my values. However, after reading about everyone’s resolutions for 2017, I noticed I have some anxiety about what the new year holds…
It’s about the work. Well, not THE work – but work, in general. When I started to think about what 2016 meant to me, I remembered that I started the year feeling completely burnt out. For that reason, my motto was “work less, live more”, and it made for an incredible year. I changed my definition of success, so it was no longer measured by how much I achieved but by how I spent my time. In the end, I didn’t strike a perfect work/life balance. In fact, I lived a lot more than I worked. I didn’t grow my business, but instead scaled back. But I was happier, healthier and more fulfilled.
Looking ahead to 2017, I know my work/life balance will have to shift. There’s a lot more work to be done this year – work I’m excited about, but that is still work nonetheless. I already have a spreadsheet dedicated to keeping track of all my projects, so I can tell you what I’ll be doing each and every month for the entire year. I’m organized, which feels good. But my concern is that I’m going to lose myself in it. I used to pride myself on being able to manage my “busy” job and “busy” life. I’ve since learned there is nothing sexy about working 70 hours/week. The “living” part of this life we get is so much better.
Since I can already feel the anxiety from my workload bubbling up inside of me, I’ve decided 2017 will be the year I embrace slow living, and experiment with it in all areas of my life. I should first point out that I’m not talking about the traditional definition of “slow” living (sustainable, local, organic and whole). I’m strictly focusing on the pace at which I live and breathe. Here’s what I’m thinking…
Each month, I’m going to experiment with slowing down in one area of my life. For example, at some point I’ll experiment with slow food, where I will make more time to cook, eat slower and try to enjoy every last bite. Maybe I’ll even cross off that goal of finally trying some new recipes. I’ll share my intentions for the month here first, in case anyone wants to do it with me. I’ll also use the hashtag #yearofslow on Instagram, when it’s appropriate, and I’d love to see you over there if that’s your thing. Finally, I’ll share an update on each experiment before starting the next one.
Some of the different things I plan to experiment with are: slow mornings, slow evenings, slow movement, slow technology and slow money. The only thing I won’t do is make a list of what I’m going to work on each month. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s to trust your gut. So the same way I’ve let my gut tell me it’s time to slow down, I’m also going to let it tell me what to work on and when. The one exception for this is slow travel, which will be a huge part of this whole year for me. I’m spending the first few months of 2017 in Squamish, then who knows where the year will take me.
My hope is that I will not only get to the end of this year and say I’ve completed all my work and fulfilled all my travel goals, but that I will have enjoyed all the moments in between and created some healthier habits in the process. As Carl Richards wrote in The New York Times: “January 2017 will be the official start of the Work Hard, Rest Hard decade. We are going to hustle, sure. But we’re also going to rest. In fact, we’re going to be as good at resting as we are at crushing things. We’re going to become pros at turning off social media, getting great sleep, working less and living more.”
Do you want to join us? I’ll be back next week to tell you what I’m working on first. :)
PS – A Simple Year 2017 is open for registration! Join Courtney Carver, Tammy Strobel, Brooke McAlary, The Minimalists, Marc and Angel, Anthony Ongaro, Colin Wright, Jules Clancy, Erin Somerville and myself, as we guide you to make 2017 a thoughtful and simple year. Register by January 22nd!
PPS – If you’re planning on doing a shopping ban for any length of time this year, here is a simple guide (PDF) to help you get started.