A Year of gifts
SOMETIMES THE ROADBLOCKS, SETBACKS, AND HEARTBREAKS OF LIFE TURN OUT TO BE THE GREATEST GIFTS OF ALL . . .
When we find ourselves at the beginning of a brand-new calendar year, it can feel like we have a massive block of time stretching out before us and plenty of days, weeks, and months to accomplish everything we’d like to do. But when that same calendar flips over to December, we often wonder how the year could have come and gone so quickly.
Our days fill up with the minutia of life. Depending on your hopes and goals, that may be just fine. If you are precisely where you want to be in the many different facets of your life, you probably don’t feel the need to do any planning for the upcoming year. But if there are areas in your life where you’d like to make some changes, now may be the perfect time to put a game-plan in place to be sure you accomplish all you hope to in 2019.
I love to spend time during the last week of the year, brainstorming about all the things I'd like to bring into fruition in the year ahead. The calendar provides a framework. I start with my big, broad goals. Then I begin to figure out a timeline and break it down to what I need to do by month to pull it all off. I buy a new planner, and I start to fill it up.
There is one thing I know for sure about my goals. This may or may not apply to you, too, depending on your style. I will let life interfere if I don’t put a plan in place and commit to following it as closely as possible.
The past two months illustrate exactly what happens for me every time. I went into November with a big, audacious goal and a plan as to how I was going to achieve it. My mind was made up. I would compete in NANOWRIMO, and this year I wouldn't fail. NANOWRIMO is National Novel Writing Month and participants "win" if they write at least 50,000 words on a novel. I knew the only way I'd be able to accomplish this was if I wrote at least 2,000 words a day, without fail. This would provide some cushion "just in case." I work full-time, had a work travel trip planned, and also had the Thanksgiving holiday to pull off. It would be tough. It would require early mornings, late nights, and minimal downtime. But we can all do anything for thirty days, right?
I was part of an accountability group throughout November where we posted our number of words written every day. Because I’m a tad bit competitive (wink, wink), this helped keep me on track. I didn’t feel like I was competing against anyone other than myself, but there is something about public accountability that can help.
And I did it. There was a rhythm to the month. It was tiring and exhilarating at the same time. By November 30th, I was exhausted and looking forward to a slightly less structured month of December. Put in other terms, after a crazy November, I coasted into December without much in the way of a weekly and daily plan. It’s been a fun month, although not very productive as far as my writing goes. But I don’t beat myself up over it. We need to have periods of rest and fun. It’s what makes all the hard work worth it. In fact, as I head into 2019, I’ll structure my time so I can try to do the same thing next December. But that means more focus and planning for January through November if I still want to accomplish my goals. And I do. Because they are my goals. Not something someone else is telling me I need to do. That is true freedom to me.
Of course, much of my time will be dictated by others. We'll have goals at my day job and I'll contribute. But that's only for eight hours or so of my day. That leaves at least another eight hours each day when I'm not sleeping. Some of those hours will be enjoyed with family and friends. The rest will be mine to do with as I like.
I’m not a fan of the term Resolution. The formal definition of the word “resolution” is a firm decision to do or not to do something and the action of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter. To me, if I have to resolve to do something, it feels like there is a negative connotation to it. Like I have to give something up. While that usually is part of achieving any goal, for example, giving up free time or even dessert depending on what your goals are, it doesn’t feel inspiring.
Instead of resolving to do things in the year ahead, I’m choosing a growth mindset. Growth always requires effort and change. It will be uncomfortable. But depending on the frame of mind you keep when you travel through times of growth and change, it can also be incredibly inspiring and rewarding.
There are always going to be things in our lives that we can't control. If you want to find an excuse, it's easy. If instead, you want to adopt a healthy, no-matter-what attitude, it's rewarding. The key is to focus on the things we can control. We can either float along, wherever life takes us, and complain when we don’t like it, or we can decide to make the most of the things we do have control over.
One of the most natural things to do in life is to make an excuse. I don’t have time, I don’t have the money, I have little kids, etc. etc. etc. And any or all of those things may be true. But you also have blessings and possibilities surrounding you every day. It all boils down to what you want and what you’re willing to work for.
I have to bite my tongue when I hear people say things like "I'd like to but I don't have time" or "I'm too busy." I have to make a conscious effort not to say the same thing. It is all about priorities. I don’t mean to sound cold or naive. There will always be people facing enormous, life-altering challenges and my heart goes out to them. They honestly can't do all the things they'd like to do because of their individual circumstances. Life can be hard.
Life is short. Too short. The cold hard truth is you will never accomplish all the things you dream of doing if you coast through life and make excuses. Instead, decide what you want to experience in the year ahead and figure out how to make it happen. Maybe you want to get healthier, find work that is more rewarding, or spend more quality time with family.
When you get out of bed in the morning, decide to throw all of your excuses out the window and instead focus on a growth mindset.
I hope this post doesn't all sound too preachy. I just want each and every one of you to find more joy and satisfaction out of your lives. It takes effort and a can-do attitude. It's up to you to structure your days to write the story of your own life. If you leave it up to chance or to someone else, I doubt you’ll get the results you desire.
For me, my goals for the coming year include reaching more people through my writing, learning more, spending quality time with loved ones, and my health. There are so many ways to accomplish all these things that it can feel overwhelming. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed with choices, we have a tendency to shut down. I’ll need to put structure behind these goals. What might this look like?
For example, how do I "learn more" and what will make me feel like I've succeeded a year from now? Personally, I've brainstormed on areas where I'd like to become better informed and will focus on one of those things each month. By next December, I'll know more about twelve different areas I feel are important to me. The next step is to figure out what I might do to improve my knowledge in each area. It will probably be a combination of some type of training and then applying what I learned. The training may be a book, an online course, or attending something in person. Then I need to do something with my new-found knowledge to help make it "stick" before I move on to the next thing.
Keep it fun and inspiring. Focus on why you are doing something. Growth and change are hard work. Keep your eye on the prize. Don’t give yourself a pass because you might be too old, too poor, too _____ (fill in the blank). Those are just excuses.
A year is a nice block of time to accomplish many things. What do you want to do with this gift of time? Ignore the naysayers that joke about how making resolutions is a waste of time. Instead, figure out your goals and then how you will accomplish them. Write it down! Enjoy the process of planning out the coming year and then get busy.
Thanks for letting me share my passion for the importance of goal setting. Give yourself a taste of success and watch as the whole world opens up before you. No more excuses. When you stumble, pick yourself up and brush yourself off, but keep going. You will never regret trying. Even if you don't immediately succeed, you'll learn.
Let’s do this! Kim
I admit I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to Christmas. I love the decorations, the music, the corny holiday shows… The list goes on and on.
But despite how much I love the season, I head into December with a tiny knot of dread in the pit of my stomach and usually breathe a sigh of relief when it’s over. I suspect I’m not alone. Because let’s admit it—celebrating the season can be a lot of work! We often try to accomplish more than we have time for and end up scrambling at the last minute.
Everyone’s idea of “celebrating” looks different. I suspect much of how we celebrate has its foundation in how we each experienced the holidays while growing up. Not always, but often.
For us, Christmas meant tons of decorations, lots of family time, attending Mass at our beautiful hometown church, and gift exchanges. We were lucky to grow up in the same town as our grandparents. Even as they grew old and frail, we’d be sure to bring them to Mom and Dad’s to celebrate with everyone. When our children were young, we were blessed to have four generations around the dinner table, enjoying the same menu that had been served for years.
Many people struggle over the holidays. Joy can be hard to find when you are missing someone or going through difficult times. I suspect all of us will have years where the lights don’t seem to shine quite as brightly. Our heart isn’t in it.
Maybe those are the times when we need the magic of the holidays the most.
What if we lower our expectations and find joy in the little things? Forget about trying to make everything perfect. I bet no one will notice if you don’t bake that fourth kind of cookie. Or if they do, they’ll appreciate the treats even more if you bake them next year. If you want to get cards out but it’s looking like they won’t get delivered until after New Year’s, send them anyhow. It's never too late to say ‘hello' and let people know you're thinking of them. Slap some wrapping paper on those last few presents you haven’t yet gotten around to and don’t worry if the edges don’t quite meet or there isn’t a ribbon in sight.
Instead of fretting about those pesky details you haven’t gotten to yet, brew your favorite cup of tea or coffee and put on some soft Christmas music. Munch on one of the cookies you did get around to baking or have an Oreo. Pull out an old photo album and enjoy a trip down memory lane. Better yet, any chance you have some old videos from Christmas past? How fun would it be to watch those?
If Christmas arrives before you get to the end of your ‘to-do’ list, let it go. Think back to some of your favorite things about the holidays and do those instead.
Now it’s time for true confessions: that last batch of cookies, a few unwrapped gifts, and a pile of cards are all waiting for me on the kitchen island and Christmas Eve is only a day and a half away. I’m trying to remember to have fun.
Last night was a great start. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner with old friends. All of our kids were with us, and we even recreated an old photo of them all, initially taken years ago. Suffice it to say sitting on each other's laps wasn't as awkward when they were eight!
Those are the experiences we should strive for over the holidays. Time with family and friends, making more memories. Because there will be times when those memories will keep us warm.
And in the tiny open spaces over the next few days, I vow to make time for the following:
Even thinking about doing these little things makes me smile and I can feel my anxiety over what isn’t yet done slip away.
And during that space of time between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ll take some time to reflect on this past year and look ahead to the next. For me, it’s been a year of milestones, growth, struggling to acclimate to life without my own mom, and hope for the future. As each new year starts, I love to think about the possibilities and then plan how I want to turn some of those possibilities into realities.
But for now, the time has come to relax and enjoy the magic of the season. I invite you to make the most of this brief window of time to feel the love of family and friends, both near and far, and even if you can now only visit them in your memories. Find some quiet time, a favorite chair, and give yourself permission to feel the magic of the holidays.
Wishing you the very best, Kim
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a self-published fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!