Every year since I was about ten-years-old, I’ve made New Year’s resolutions. Goals have ranged from losing a specific amount of weight to attaining jobs in my field. But last year, I resolved differently.
For 2018, I resolved to remember five concepts. I typed them out and hung them on my mirror to recite daily.
#1: Anything is possible. Instead of being tied to a pre-determined outcome (e.g., I will appear on Jacksonville’s morning show to discuss The Unhappy Wife), I focused on believing that anything is possible. This turned out to be helpful. I had no idea that the editor of an anthology I’m apart of would ask me to represent the book via Tampa’s morning talk show. Nor did I conceive that I would be asked to participate in a book reading in Boston. With this reminder, I was open to any possibility, not just one that I thought was best for me. And it seemed to work.
#2: What you see is a manifestation of your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. I’d learned long ago that however you feel on the inside will show up in your daily life. If you feel sh*tty, then your home, job, and other activities will reflect sh*tty circumstances. However, two things you absolutely can control are your emotions and your thoughts. With this resolution, I vowed to pay more attention to when I was excited and fulfilled. For example, though presenting my work isn’t new to me, when I attended a national conference in April, I admitted to myself that no matter where I’m employed, I’m a scholar and I enjoy this part of working in the field. Several months later, I was asked to chair a special interest group for a different national conference.
#3: Take nothing personally (AKA Agreement #2). This was the hardest but most useful for me. Many times things will occur and I tend to personalize it as if someone was trying purposefully to hurt my feelings. This surfaced when Dwight and I visited his parents. On their wall, is a six-foot blanketed image of his brother and his family hanging on the living room wall. How could I have personalized this? Well, immediately I was a bit jealous. And with that feeling, I became mad as if his brother intentionally made and sent his own father this gift to not only poo-poo on us, but also to one up our family. I’m not proud of this feeling, but it happened. I talked myself out of these made-up emotions and realized that his brother did what he wanted to do for his father. This had nothing to do with me.
#4: Be positive. This is self-explanatory, I think. But I will add this: Don’t be a Negative Norman. Think positive thoughts prior to entering a situation. I promise this will affect the way you see the actual event. In essence, don’t just hope for the best; actually see the best outcome.
#5: Follow your instinct. My intuition about people and circumstances is very strong. But sometimes I still second-guess those feelings and engage with others whom I should’ve left alone long ago. This resolution reminded me to follow my gut when people showed me who they were, whether it was the umpteenth or the second time. I stopped asking friends and family if they thought the person’s actions were disrespectful or uncalled for. I stopped needing second opinions about how I felt when interacting with others. Instead, I made decisions healthy for me. This resulted in de-friending a former high-school boyfriend from social media, pulling back from a one-sided friendship, and creating clear boundaries with my newfound biological family.
These 2018 resolutions worked best for me and I’ll continue with them in 2019. Nowadays, people tend to denigrate resolutions, but not me. Tell me if you still create resolutions/goals at the beginning or any part of the year. Are they more concrete than what I’ve described? Is this process history for you?
I’ve been thinking about discipline a lot. People have asked me how I accomplish things, and I never have a clear answer. I think I do now. Discipline.
In 2009, I quit a school instructional coaching job so that I could focus on finishing my dissertation.
“Who do you know that can actually make themselves sit for hours during the day to write?” my very good friend had asked when I shared my decision.
“I can,” I replied.
And that’s what I did. While Dwight was at work and the girls were at school, I analyzed data and wrote eight hours a day for nine months. I know my friend’s comment wasn’t a judgment against what she perceived me to be able to do or not do. It was more about what many people cannot and will not do…discipline themselves to achieve a goal.
But I want to be clear. I didn’t magically wake up with a spirit of commitment towards projects. It was taught.
Years ago, when people typed things on typewriters, I had a fifth-grade report due on Haile Selassie and Ethiopia. I’d made several mistakes and had to use that awful liquid paper/correction fluid stuff to cover it up and re-type words. It was a bumpy sludge of a mess.
My English major mother peered through her glasses to see how it was going.
“Kathy,” she started, “you’re going to have to re-type this paper. You can’t turn in something that looks like this. Your work is a reflection of you.”
I didn’t say anything back to her. In 1983, children simply sat there and seethed with anger and did what they were told. Or at least that’s what I learned to do.
I sat at that brown dining room table for hours. I wasn’t allowed to watch television until I finished. I ended up re-typing that essay three times, well past The Love Boat and Fantasy Island…and well past my bedtime. But it was done properly. What’s more is because of my mother’s correction I’d learned self-discipline. I’d learned the importance of focusing on one task (typing) and ignoring others (television). I learned to sit quietly and perfect something until it was “right.”
Today, being disciplined has served me well. I function within a distraction-based society by turning my phone over when I’m working and turning it off altogether while I’m sleeping. I’ve learned to take social media breaks when I’m indulging too much, so that offscreen life and people can take precedence. More importantly, I still practice sitting quietly and focusing on the day’s project until it’s complete.
Thirty-something years ago, I typed and re-typed those words through ten-year-old, tear-filled eyes. Now, I’m grateful for that early lesson because I see it as having shaped a positive and useful trait: discipline.
What about you? Do you have a positive superpower that you attribute learning from your parents’ rules? Are you disciplined? Do you want to be more disciplined? Feel free to share below.
When you know better, you do better, and when you do better, you have some semblance of clarity. You know yourself, and you no longer walk the fine line of being one type of person in public and an entirely different one in private. You learn that it’s either okay that you speak from your heart, or it’s not. You learn that people will be comfortable with who you are, or they will not. Either scenario is fine.
When you know better, you do better, and when you open your eyes and begin to see other people for who they are, instead of who you want them to be, then you can truly choose. You can choose to highlight the excellent parts. You can continue to allow the bad parts into your space and energy. Or you can determine if the good outweighs the bad. You can decide with whom you want to engage and how.
When you know better, you do better, and when you do better, you accept better. What is better for you? Is it a better job that is aligned with your passion and skillset? Is it a better relationship that mirrors your values? Is it a better home that reflects who you are? Whatever “it” is, when you know better, you’ll feel what’s best and draw it into your life. There will be no choice; like attracts like.
And when you do these things altogether: be your true self, see others for who they are, and accept better circumstances, then you can live a more peaceful life.
But first you have to know better.
Happy New Year good people! Are you making any changes this year? Will you continue walking a similar path because it’s working for you? Feel free to share; you never know who you might meet right here in these comments. As for me, I’ll be publishing another book and focusing positive feelings towards the type of educational setting that’s right for me.
*inspired by Maya Angelou
I know. I know. You can begin renewing yourself at any point. But for those of you who begin with a new year, now’s the time! It’s a new year, so it’s time for renewal, revisioning and re-purposing ourselves! Cheers to you as you either get to work, or continue the work!