If I Must Pick a Word, I’ll Take Trust
Big questions, small actions, zero resolutions
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I have a love-hate relationship with this time of year. I’ve long lost any desire to go out on New Year’s Eve and I’m pretty meh on the whole forced celebratory countdown ritual. I know. I must be so much fun to hang out with, right? This year, I’m ringing in 2024 at home with my two favorite people, many hot, cheesy appetizers, and a pitcher of Sangria. We’ll watch a movie if we can agree on one to watch (suggestions in the comments, please). I’ll probably wear the same leggings I put on that morning.
I admit that I do like the whole clean-slate feel of a new year. There’s a natural pause—a chance to do a personal and professional reset of sorts. I decided that this year I’m not making resolutions. Instead, I’m asking questions.
What did I achieve in 2023 that deserves a moment of recognition? What steps have I taken toward my goals? How did my goals from last year hold up against the realities of the last 12 months? Where do I want to be, personally and professionally, in six months, 12 months, or two years?
Little actions add up
Last year for my birthday, I received Atomic Habits, the bestselling book by James Clear about how tiny changes can yield remarkable results. Because my stacks of TBR books are completely out of control, I’m just reading it now, but the timing is actually perfect. I believe readers are drawn to the right book at the right time and the lessons here are more meaningful to me at this moment.
The author explains the impact small actions can make over a period of time. He gives the example of a pilot shifting the flight path of an airplane by just a few degrees and how that’s enough to dramatically change the route. Instead of landing in New York, it ends up in D.C.
Using this week to reflect on what I want my life to look like six months or a year from now, I can start to identify the small steps that will steer my path in that direction. I’m making lists of all kinds in my journal, and I’m also digging deeper to excavate the why beneath the what. It’s an exercise that’s gratifying on many levels.
I admit that I do like the whole clean-slate feel of a new year. There’s a natural pause—a chance for a personal and professional reset.
Even the simple act of cracking open a new Moleskine and breaking out my colored gel pens fills me with optimism and a sense of possibility. It reminds me of how I used to feel as a kid on the first day of school: a little nervous, a little excited, and full of hope as I sorted my school supplies and got organized for a new semester.
As I write this, I’m not feeling organized. I actually mistyped it as overganized and that feels about right. Until I get my thoughts organized, I’m overwhelmed by too many mental tabs open at once. But that’s the beauty of putting pen to paper. It forces me to slow down and to think and feel my way through my questions.
One question I’m asking is: What do I need to learn this year to optimize my time and efforts?
Last year, my answers included:
How to write a book proposal
How to write a query letter
How to query agents
How to track my query process
How to update my website myself
How to export my website’s mailing list
How to start a Substack and
How to finally, once-and-for-all, cut myself free from cable TV
With a million smaller questions related to each.
This is why reflecting on last year’s achievements is such a valuable part of planning for the new year. The prospect of having to tackle each of those tasks was intimidating and overwhelming, but guess what? I learned how to do every single one of them and I felt smarter and more self-reliant afterwards. Plus I got to check those items off my list. Win-win-win, as Michael Scott says.
The power of trust
Yesterday, my sister called while I was making a list of colleagues I wanted to contact in the new year for my day job as a healthcare copywriter for hospital systems. She reminded me that I’ve always been able to manifest what I need and to stay in a mindset of allowing.
My sister and I talk to each other that way. We say woo-woo words like manifest and allow and attract and release. I poke fun, but here’s the thing: I’ve experienced the magic and synchronicity that occurs when I’m coming from a place of trust versus fear. That shit works.
Trust is a concept I explore in the memoir I’m writing. Speaking of woo-woo, back when I was only a few chapters into my book and trying to suss out the arc of my story, I grabbed a notebook and pen and sat on my deck to free-write without editing. It’s a really effective technique for bypassing your conscious thoughts to get to the good stuff underneath. I was deep in a state of flow, writing and letting my thoughts spiral where they wanted, to see what patterns emerged. Then it struck me: My arc is from hypervigilance to trust.
The instant I wrote that and circled it, my porch light went on and lit that spot on my page. I took it as a sign that I had landed on something powerful.
Hypervigilance is fear-based. It’s looking outward at the threats beyond your control. Trust is faith that emanates from inside. It’s doing the next right thing, even when all you can muster are baby steps. And it’s staying the course when the results of your actions are not yet visible. As I see it, anything worth trying requires trust.
Creativity is an act of trust.
Pursuing a new friendship is an act of trust.
Asking for what you need is an act of trust.
Dreaming big is an act of trust.
And so is making plans.
For the last few days of 2023, when I’m not at my computer, I’ll be in my chair with my journal, nerding out over lists and holding space for magic in the new year.
Three Things to Give You a Lift
1) I started 2023 with an acceptance from The Belladonna Comedy for a humor piece I wrote for their Daily Itinerary series. (Goal for 2024: write and submit more humor.) I had a blast writing this Daily Itinerary of a Person Determined to Achieve “New Year, New You” and may or may not have based the idea of choosing a word on real events. Here’s an excerpt:
7:10 AM: Pull out the Success Journal you started and abandoned in 2019 and list your goals for the new year. Manifestation shall be your mantra. Or is that your manifesto?
7:18 AM: Choose a word that perfectly captures your intention for the new year. Consider Abundance. Maybe Peace?
7:21 AM: Authenticity!
7:41 AM: Order a stone — no, a medallion — engraved with your word that you will keep on your desk and hold in your palm as you meditate on its meaning.
8:45 AM: Realize a meditation cushion is what was missing last year when you resolved to meditate every morning but only lasted nine days. Find a cushion on Etsy made from repurposed prayer shawls and pay an extra $35 to have “Authenticity” hand-stitched on the edge. Feel incredible. And empowered.
8:46 AM: Email the Etsy vendor to ask if it’s too late to switch your word to Empowered.
You can read the full piece here.
2) I started to describe another talented person I stumbled onto while scrolling through Instagram reels and had to laugh because it seems like all I do is stumble around on social media (Goal for 2024, which is definitely not a resolution because I’m not doing those: be more mindful of how much time I waste on IG).
Anyway, if you haven’t yet discovered the incredible voice of Teddy Swims (real name: Jaten Dimsdale), feast your ears on this clip from his appearance on Kelly Clarkson’s talk show when they sang a duet of his amazing song, Lose Control. His voice reminds me of Chris Stapleton’s—gritty, soulful, chill-inducing.
3) Delaney Rowe is an actor who creates hilarious content like this fake movie trailer for “an extremely confusing, ‘provacative’ [sic] award-winning indie film.” Then check out her spoof of the character in every action movie who still makes jokes, even in dire circumstances.
Happy New Year, however you celebrate!
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