A new year inevitably serves a time of reflection, a chance to review the challenges, accomplishments and experiences of the previous year through the lens of hindsight, while also serving as an opportunity to dream up new adventures and hopes for the year to come. As a lover of lists and a sometimes optimist, this usually results in me dreaming up an impossibly long list of outcomes I’d like to see for the new year, followed by a hearty attempt to tackle too many (often all of them) at the same time within the first month of the new year.
As you might imagine, the results of this strategy are lackluster at best. By stretching myself too thin, I find myself falling short of my laundry list of sometimes truly impossible tasks and ultimately fizzling out by February or March. It has been a crash and burn approach that I would never recommend (or follow) in my professional life, and yet year after year, I find myself repeating the same mistake in my personal life and feeling utterly defeated and disappointed in myself (never mind the fact that it was never a reasonable burden to put on myself in the first place).
This year, I’ve decided to tackle my hopes for 2017 a little differently, taking some inspiration from others who instead of creating a list of resolutions to strive for, are choosing instead a word or concept to inspire and empower them throughout the year. While I do still have a list of things I’d ultimately like to accomplish (I am still me after all), instead of making that list my end-all, be-all focus, I’ve taken some time to reflect on what all of those projects have in common to determine what trait or quality one might need to embody in order to make those tasks a reality.
The hope being that by focusing on making that trait or quality an everyday presence in my life, I can better navigate through and start making progress against those individuals ideas. But more than that, in choosing a word to live by for the year, there’s also the comfort of knowing that there is success to be found just by working to include and embrace it in my everyday life as well. It’s a kinder way of encouraging myself to scale to new heights in the coming year.
Because I have a variety of interests and a number of areas I am goal-setting for, I knew I needed to find a word that was flexible enough to encompass the breadth of those adjacently-related interests but also one that evoked a desire for action. After musing on it for a couple of days (and writing several lengthy lists of words in the process), the word I finally landed on was “explore.”
EXPLORE: (verb) travel in or through (an unfamiliar country or area) in order to learn about or familiarize oneself with it.
This word really resonated with me, not only because of its immediate association with the idea of adventure (who doesn’t love a good adventure?), but also because it encapsulates a number of traits that relate to the goals and ventures I’d like to experience this year.
I mean, when you think about it – what makes an explorer successful?
- They have an innate curiosity toward the world around them and are comfortable in taking risks and the road(s) less traveled, even if it sometimes leads them into uncharted territory.
- They’re diligent, thorough investigators that have an eye for detail and a love of discovery.
- They’re dauntless in their desire to move forward, to continue the journey, to push their limits, even in the face of obstacles.
- They’re ok with being uncomfortable, and understand that sometimes to be successful, you have to be flexible and improvise.
- They know that when you’re blazing a new trail, sometimes you may take a wrong turn or two, and that’s ok.
Who knew a simple word like “explore” could be so fraught with meaning? Also, just how the heck am I planning to incorporate it (and all it represents) into my everyday life this year? The short answer is incrementally. It takes time, effort and practice to perfect any skill – something I understand and allow for in my professional life, but lack patience for everywhere else. (Hooray for the duality of human nature!)
Because a lot of my personal goals (for 2017 and beyond) tie into work I want to create, be it writing or art, my choice of the word “explore” as a framework ultimately serves as a permission slip of sorts to allow myself to be messy. To try new things, retry things I thought I wasn’t good at, allow myself do-overs or to change direction and to “mess-up” without pre-judging those attempts at exploration as failures if they’re not “perfect” on the first try.
However, some of my plans for the year require a less metaphorical and rather literal application of “explore,” as I’ve committed to taking more opportunities to travel. I’ve planned some fun trips for the first half of the year and can’t wait to see what else 2017 has on the horizon. I’ll be kicking off these treks with a solo adventure to Palm Springs for Alt Summit, Chris and I are planning a trip to NYC in March, Memorial Day Weekend brings the return of MomoCon in Atlanta, and that’s just the beginning!
Making and taking time to explore myself and my surroundings each day will no doubt be a challenge, but it will also serve as both encouragement and reminder that much of the fun of any trip can be found in the unexpected discoveries one finds along the way.