I learned so much this year, it has been especially difficult to reduce everything that has transpired in my life down into 5 lessons. This year, has unfolded in a way that I never anticipated but am exceptionally grateful for. That is not to say, what I have experienced, hasn’t been heartbreaking, challenging, and just down right depressing at times. The last 3 years have been a journey into my own personal perception, and ideals. Recognizing which ones were my own and which ones were a product of my conditioning from both my family and society. I reclaimed old lessons that I had long ago abandoned, and discarded old ways of learning that no longer served me. I have learned more about myself in 2017 than any other year since I’ve became an adult and mother. So, let’s dig into it.
Focus/Define Your Goals
The word “goal” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, as the end of which effort is directed. Goals should have little to do with aesthetic or short-term gain. Once we reach the end of which effort is directed, we usually shift and define a new end and apply effort in that direction. Goals keep us on track, they keep us accountable, and they give us a good way to track the progression of our efforts or lack thereof. Defining goals should be based around changes you truly want to make from the inside out. Look at the motivation behind a set goal, and will it truly improve your life. Goals should also complement each other. For example, if you have a goal of losing weight and saving money, look for ways that you can save money that will also contribute to your weight loss goal like no longer eating out. With this method, you are rewarding yourself twice for one action. Skip the pizza slice and make a salad at home. You’ve just killed two birds with one stone.
Be Gentle With Yourself
When you are attempting to make great lifestyle or mindset changes you are going to fail. Count on making mistakes. Count on backsliding. Don’t beat yourself up for not being a different person overnight. Any change that is meant to be real and substantial will happen gradually. We afford a great deal of patience with others but rarely give ourselves the same consideration. Don’t be defeated by your thoughts of not being able to stick with something. My friends applaud me for my self-control, but I still see myself as undisciplined and unrefined. I see myself this way because it has taken me years to conquer issues in my life that others feel I should’ve overcame in months, or weeks. The reality is, we’re all refined in some areas and not in others. Keeping in mind, issues that took years to become issues will also take a great deal of time to undo. While I can be disciplined enough to write and publish this piece before the New Year, I’m undisciplined in the way of saying no to an extra pepperoni, extra cheese pizza. Don’t be so lazy and unconcerned that you make a lifestyle out of backsliding, but also don’t be so hard on yourself that you kill your motivation to keep striving. Be gentle with yourself. Talk kindly to yourself. Have the compassion for yourself that you tend to have for others.
Give Your Best Effort
For some people, your best effort will never be good enough, but that should not discourage you from always trying your best. Giving your best, putting your best foot forward is not about being THE best. It’s about doing the best you can do from your present space. Giving our best effort transcends monetary success. Give your best effort in your relationships. Be a better listener, be more willing to learn, be a better communicator. We all evolve on our own timelines. What is best to you, may not be what is best to me, or may not see that it’s best until later. When we constantly give our best effort, we will always get the results we seek from ourselves.
Always Be Prepared
In the hood, we say “Stay ready so you never have to get ready.” It’s a Black proverb about preparedness. When you keep your focus on improving, your day to day starts to change. You become more thoughtful and aware of your actions. How something small like not laying your clothes out the night before, can make you late to work. That heightened sense of awareness is what being “present” is all about. Being present in the present moment affords you the luxury of accurately preparing for the next moment. Think about the things you do big and small to hold yourself up. Stop living life randomly and start living life on purpose. Stay ready, and you’ll never have to get ready.
This was the hardest lesson I learned this year. I’ve always had enough praise, enough favor in my life that I rarely had to consider what was really causing me pain. From the outside looking in, I’m someone who is resilient, determined, and capable of getting what I want in any case. Unfortunately, that does not and has not translated into me being the best person from the inside out. I’ve been habitually disorganized most of my life. I’ve hurt people by being deceptive. Let people down by being careless. And this year I lost someone I love dearly because of this pattern of self-destructive behavior. I didn’t lose him all at once, like most changes it happened gradually. It happened after I repeated the same mistakes after telling him I’d change, I’d be better, but as soon as we made up I’d get comfortable and fall back into my bullshit. No matter how I twisted the situation, or highlighted the ways he also failed me, the beginning of our demise always found its origins in my behavior. I didn’t appreciate his reactions, and used them as an excuse to stay in my own toxicity. The truth of the matter is, I can’t be angry or resentful at his reactions without first analyzing how my actions brought us to this point.
When we split it was a major wake up call. He intended it to be. He wanted me to see why we were failing as a unit. Why we constantly fought and argued about the same things over and over. It truly opened my eyes, and I haven’t moved the same since. It took me a couple months to really wrap my head around what I was doing to prevent me from reaching my own goals of family and marriage. But once I gained some understanding it was easier to make changes. The path from that point to this point has been so painful, but pain transforms. When I stopped blaming him and started taking responsibility for myself, the ideals we were both striving for started popping up naturally. Things began making sense, and I started seeking out information he was attempting to give to me a few years ago. I had to discard some practices I had internalized from my childhood and from the negative experiences I had before him. I started to look within and pull out the parts of myself I truly wanted to see shine through, with or without him.
I’ve arrived. I’m at peace, I’m content with the direction my life is moving in. I have removed people from my life with ease because it became clear they didn’t care about my long-term growth, only reveling in the person I’ve always been. These were the same people at the source of many arguments for us. Writing out this lesson was even difficult for me, because I’ve relied so heavily on my outward image that letting that guard down and allowing people to see I make mistakes too has been a huge fear. Your outward intentions must match the work you’re doing internally. For a long time, it hasn’t been that way for me. I was trying to find the easiest route to change while still staying the same and only chaos can come from that. I’ve learned a lot since 2015 (the first time I wrote one of these), but nothing has been more paramount, more life changing than learning to be accountable to myself, first and foremost.
2018 will either be another terrible year or a year for substantial growth. You will either soar, or be knocked out the sky. Regardless of the circumstances, your mindset should be one toward growth. Don’t let another year pass where you are still trying to break bad habits you told yourself you would quit 5 years ago. Don’t let 2018 close without looking yourself in the mirror and figuring out how you tick, why you tick, and how you could tick better. For all those who are anticipating the New Year with excitement and humility, like myself, be grateful for where you’ve been, so you can graciously accept where you’re going. Keep your head up, your grass short, and your heart full!
Peace + Blessings
Love + Light