When I started writing New Years blog posts in 2014, I had no idea how instrumental they would become in my lifetime development. I had just read my friend Chris Lema’s Three Word Mantra post (I highly recommend you check it out) and something about the simplicity and impactfulness of the practice spoke to me, so I began to write.
That first year, my life was in chaos. Everything I thought I knew had just been ripped out from under me and called into question. So I put forth this little mantra: Keep Moving Forward, held my head high, and bravely faced the coming days. And amazingly, it worked. So I did again it the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and now here I am on my fifth year of this little routine that has made such a huge difference.
- 2014: Keep Moving Forward
- 2015: Do With Purpose
- 2016: Live Life Thoughtfully
- 2017: Practice Positive Presence
This tradition has survived a lot more chaos: inconsistent blogging routines, home changes, city changes, state changes, relationship changes, career changes. Each mantra stayed in my head all year, enabling me to weigh all life decisions (large and small) against whether the result is in line with my values. Each year has built upon lessons from the one before. And as I have evolved, so too have my mantras.
It started as just giving myself a reason not to quit when things were challenging. Then, I made sure my actions were deliberate and focused. Next, I wanted to make sure these actions were not only purposeful, but reflective, reasoned, and kind. And finally, I focused on making sure my actions brought joy, optimism, improvement, and received the wholeness of my attention.
When I look back at who I was when I began, and to the person I am now, I see a lot of personal and professional growth. Thanks to these yearly mantras, I’ve been able to do a lot of work on myself and shape who I have become for the better. But one thing I noticed is that all of these mantras were very introspective, inwardly focused. When thinking about where I was going in 2018, I knew that this year needed to be different.
As I was thinking, I remembered a quote that’s made the rounds (unsure of the exact attribution) which really resonated with me:
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
In doing all of this work on myself, I was able to go pretty fast. My life, my knowledge, my health, my career, and my attitude have all vastly improved in the last four years. But this year, I am ready to go far.
Grow Better Together
This year, my mantra for the year is to Grow Better Together, because we can only become our best selves when we are surrounded by the people that can help us get there. While my life will still be shaped by the things I value personally – health, sleep, fitness, work, community, laughter, etc – I will prioritize opportunities that strengthen relationships and push my boundaries. This new guiding phrase is the perfect evolution from the previous year, and I’m already seeing success with my “soft launch” of the principles in early December.
While “Practice” is about improving the skills that you know, “Growth” is about branching out to the things that you don’t. It’s about getting comfortable being uncomfortable, not stagnating, and moving beyond your current boundaries. In my life, I can see this manifesting in a rediscovered love for discovery, learning, and improvement. I can seek out opportunities to try new experiences, enjoy new foods, and visit new places (whether it’s a new neighborhood coffee shop, or a new city in a new state). In my career, I already have some goals in place to embrace learning new development frameworks, diving deeper into other programming languages, and even taking on some challenges in different platforms, while deepening my knowledge of the tools I already use.
Building on the concept of “positivity,” this continues the tone of optimism and gratitude combined with improvement. This concept is easy to apply to my professional life, as I can advance my skills in the areas I’m currently working in. However, I also seek “betterness” not only as a process of refinement and smoothing rough edges, but in the definition of pursing physical and mental wellness. Perhaps this means I will lift heavier things, bike farther, or increase my stamina, but I also see myself with less fear, less anxiety, and cultivating a kinder, more grateful inner monologue.
“Presence” was committing to being more fully in the moment, especially in the company of others. “Togetherness” extends that idea to deliberately seeking out and crafting those experiences. This is seen in strategic business partnerships for sure, which I am already pursuing, but also genuine connection in romantic, familial, and friendly relationships. I’m creating space in my life for those people, actively reaching out to talk, and finding ways to see them in person. I am also choosing to have more deliberately unscheduled time when I am home. This seems contradictory to the concept of “togetherness,” but as an introvert this off time is necessary to inwardly reflect, strengthen good personal habits, and replenish my energy so I don’t burn out. Keeping the foundation of who I am strong enables me to be fully present in the moments I am with others.
It is said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Whether that’s true or not, the people in your life will either add to your overall energy, or detract from it. When I’m choosing to purposefully cultivate relationships, I am doing it with business partners, friends, romantic partners, and family whose energy is a net positive to my own, who will support me as I am while pushing me to be the best version of myself. This is about strategically prioritizing relationships – not just being around others for the sake of company, but seeking out those people that improve the quality of your life.
In order to grow better, I need to be strategic. I’m finally realizing that, though I’m a competitive perfectionist at heart, I not only cannot become better at everything, I shouldn’t even try. Part of being about to grow better is to learn when to say no to opportunities that don’t fit. Not every new or different situation is worth pursuing for its own sake, and I need to make sure the challenges and efforts I pursue are taking me down my intended path. For this year, I’ve chosen a few tangible goals to work towards in this regard.
Some are more specific, like a year long “to-do” list that involves meeting a few financial benchmarks. But others are daily, weekly, and monthly activities that serve as continual reminders of the things I value. By keeping these in front of me at all times, I won’t let them fall by the wayside, and regular practice of these activities will add up to a whole lot after a year.
- workout or other physical activity totaling one hour
- take vitamins and other supplements
- post Three Daily Gratitudes to Facebook (great for myself as well as others, and a lovely thing to see in my social memories)
- stretching for at least five minutes
- reading a book (or listening to an audiobook) in both fiction and non fiction categories
- writing for a blog post, upcoming talk/class, or business content
- playing my flute for at least half an hour
- wellness management like seeing the chiropractor, getting a massage, or using the hot tub
- reconcile my business and personal finances
- go on regular friend dates and/or couple dates with the people who are important to me
- catch up on business and personal follow-ups with new and old connections
Onward to 2018
I’ve needed the last several years to work on myself, and I’ll definitely continue to do that for the rest of my life. But I’m very excited to branch out beyond myself and Grow Better Together with all of you. Who is ready to go far with me?