BEHIND THE LENS / MY NEW YEARS RESOLUTION ALTERNATIVE
Transparency - terrifying. I see all of these brilliant, strong women on social media sharing themselves in complete transparency - and commend them for doing so, feeling their stories and gaining emotional connections. But when it comes time for me to do the same, my heart beats faster and I am paralysed with fear.
So let’s start there. Fear.
At the start of 2017 when everyone was talking New Years resolutions and annual goal setting, my sister told me about a method that really resonated with me. I liked that it didn’t set unrealistic expectations. I liked that it didn’t add pressure to life, but rather help guide through the year and enable you to make decisions with direction and ease. She told me to choose three words that I would live by this year, and to refer to those three words whenever I struggled to make a decision.
One of my three words for 2017 was DARING - to not let fear hold me back (and that right there is the reason I am pushing ahead with this post.) For me, fear was an emotion I felt, but without real meaning. I felt fearful but I wasn’t really thinking about what I was fearful of. I was just consumed by the feeling of fear and not the outcomes of what I was afraid of. When I forced myself to break beyond the emotion and think about what was the worst that could happen, how would I deal with it and if I would bounce back, I realised, I had answers to all of those questions and therefore, there really wasn’t much to fear. No one would be physically hurt, I learnt to politely care less about people’s expectations (thank you Sarah Knight author of ‘The Life Changing Magic of Not giving a F**k’) and thinking about the times in my life I have been beaten down, I am confident in my ability to be resilient.
So, what was I so scared of? Anytime I found myself halted by fear, I would ask myself those three questions - what’s the worst that can happen? If that thing did happen, how would I handle it? And if the shit hits the fan, could I bounce back? Turns out, I can and I continue to.
My second guiding word was BALANCE - time, energy and commitment between my 9-5 job, my photography business, my relationships and myself. This year was unique for so many reasons. Ample stress and burning the midnight oil have always been commonplace for me when it comes to what I thought success was in my career, I thrived on delivery, achievements and pleasing others. Hard work was not something I was ever scared of but where it really clicked, was the realisation that hard work, delivery and achievements can, and need to, go hand in hand with balance. However, I found this incredibly difficult to sustain without being clear and committing to my why (thank you Lisa Messenger author of ‘Purpose’)
For me the light bulb really turned on one pretty standard week night, I left the office after a 14hr day, grabbed some rubbish takeaway on the way home, watched a little TV then tried to sleep, ready for another “exciting" day in the office. After hours of tossing and turning, I finally got a couple of hours sleep before the repetitive work dreaming hit me. Anxious dreams about work deadlines, jobs I hadn’t done yet and a to do list as long as a Lord of the Rings movie. I startled awake at 3am, opened my laptop and was bizarrely productive until 6am, before heading back into the office by 7am. I was astounded that at the time, I was giving myself props for being so productive, but didn’t recognise how absolutely senseless it was and the damage I was doing to myself. Aside from the physical implications, limited sleep, lack of nourishment and the countless negative impacts of stress and anxiety, the mental side was far more damaging. The extraordinary expectations I had put on myself, the shift in perception on the importance of work related items, overlooking milestones in my life, taking my relationships for granted, all leading to a fairly unsatisfying existence - full, but empty at the same time.
I questioned what benefit I would get from sending those 20 emails at such a ridiculous hour as opposed to gaining valuable hours to recharge, refresh and reignite myself. Similar to questioning my fear, I questioned my motives - what was I hoping to achieve? In the scheme of things, how important was it? Could my time and effort be better spent to achieve a more meaningful outcome?
The final word to guide me through the year was GRATITUDE - being more present in every day and thankful for what my life is and the people in it. Someone traditionally caught up in stress, anxiety, planning and productiveness, I was overlooking the wonderful things right in front of me because I was too busy looking at what was to come next. In the world we live in now where terrorism is mainstream, almost every single person has some connection to cancer and politics is reaching new heights of bizarre, now more than ever the need for gratitude is imperative.
This year I exercised gratitude regularly, more than ever in my life. One relationship in particular being the catalyst for two different perspectives. Loss and love. On one hand I felt the devastating affects of loss and on the other, the enlightening affects of love - such an extraordinary but powerful juxtaposition that has encouraged me to feel and show gratitude as often and as genuinely as possible internally and externally.
Again, taking the time to stop and ask yourself questions - What am I thankful for in my life? How can I express my gratitude?
I have my guiding words framed in my work space to be a constant reminder. I’m certainly not saying this method of guiding words is foolproof. Far from it. This method takes commitment and hustle! I certainly lost sight of my words at times, there were missed opportunities driven by fear, there were times when I allowed myself to be consumed with stress over insignificant details and there were days that would float on by and I would take things and people for granted. But being more aware and present in my decision making, forcing myself to answer questions, giving genuine thought and being accountable has made it so much easier to navigate the tough days and find direction.
So when it comes to thinking about 2018 and what you want to achieve, there is an alternative to the cliche New Years Resolution that seems to dissipate by March. Don’t set expectations and limitations, trust yourself, give yourself the freedom of choice and create your own rules.
Give it a go now!
I actually found it a surprisingly fun exercise (made even more enjoyable with a glass of wine in hand)