I’ve finished out the last few end-of-the-year’s looking forward, putting my full focus on what’s to come over the upcoming 365 days. I’ve loved it, to be completely honest. I tend to struggle with “enjoying the journey” so fixing my attention to these things feels free and easy. The excitement and anticipation of looking ahead motivates and inspires me, and facing the start of a new year has always left me full of lofty goals and aspirations.
This year was different. As 2017 came to a close, I didn’t find myself obsessed with the same forward-thinking mentality that I’m used to. I took time to consider how this practice really hasn’t served me over the last few years — as my long list of goals tend to feel paralyzing and overwhelming, even before the first week or two of January has passed — and made the conscious decision not to keep repeating the same behaviors over and over again. Besides, I could set new goals at any time, I promised myself, whether it was January 1st or not.
So, rather than putting all of my energy into what I wanted 2018 to look like, I chose to reflect on 2017 and everything it entailed. I thought back on what I did, what I didn’t do, my experiences, high points, low points, and everything in between. It was actually a really peaceful and calming way to finish out the year and, coincidentally, gave me a new perspective on how to approach goal-setting in the new year… when I decide I’m ready to take that on, that is.
I had a fantastic idea to write 17 takeaways (17 in 2017… so clever, right?), but ultimately decided to share just 7 once my words started flowing. It felt better to only share the takeaways that really made an impact on my life, rather than filling up space out of cleverness.
7 Takeaways from 2017: »
Less is more.
2017 was a year of getting my feet wet in minimalism. (I’m excited to dive deeper in 2018.) Clearing out the “stuff” and getting rid of things that aren’t a necessity has freed up so much space in my life — in my physical environment yes, but also mentally, financially, emotionally, etc. I cleaned out closets, decluttered the basement, took advantage of bulk garbage days, and didn’t buy things without careful consideration. In preparation of becoming a single-income household when my husband went back to school, we canceled cable and created a budget that simply didn’t allow for the “extras” or non-necessities. While tough at first, every one of these actions made life feel more spacious and open, and much less restricted and confined.
Exercise and moving your body doesn’t have to be all about achieving fitness goals.
Rather than being rigid with my workout plan and making exercise all about looking better or getting stronger (or any other specific fitness goal), I spent a good portion of 2017 choosing to move and exercise simply because it’s good for me, and has a lot of benefits. (Benefits like stress relief, better sleep, good-feeling endorphins, improved health, etc.) For me this looked like many long walks in nature, playing around with my old gymnastics skills, and lifting a couple of times a week. Sometimes it meant doing yoga or going for a jog. I moved for the sake of moving, and chose whatever felt like fun at that time, rather than adhering to a prescribed workout program at all times. Giving myself permission to approach exercise in this relaxed kind-of-way totally rejuvenated my passion for fitness and living a healthy lifestyle, and showed me an aspect of self-love and self-care that I was missing.
Approach challenges with the expectation that they will be, well, challenging.
I know, pretty obvious right? Challenges will be challenging, and there’s usually nothing easy about them. But this was a takeaway for me because I had to be reminded of it over and over and over again. I often found myself crumbling under pressure or feeling sorry for myself when things weren’t easy, rather than preparing myself with the right attitude, a commitment to hard work, and mental fortitude. I’m not convinced that I successfully passed this test in 2017, so I’m anticipating another shot in 2018.
Serving others is a game-changer.
Seriously, this is huge. Serving others, in any capacity, gets yourself off your mind and shows you how to put others first. It’s a catalyst in changing your perspective, which allows you to make an impact on the people and the world around you. I know that this might feel difficult; truthfully, it was for me at first. The initial thought of serving others may feel like a sacrifice, because in order to serve others you will have to “sacrifice” your time, your talents, and/or your money or possessions. You offer up a part of your life. However, take advantage of a few opportunities to participate in serving others, and you’ll soon realize that your life is changed through service as much as those you are serving. It’s truly a gift for everyone involved.
Don’t get too attached to your life’s plans. God’s plans are most likely (a lot) different.
At the start of 2017 my husband and I came up with this really, really great plan for the next few years of our lives. I mean it was essentially perfect, spelling out the exciting adventures we had planned before starting a family, when we would start said family, how we would invest into our future, and everything in between. I loved it, and it felt just right. (And I loved telling people about it… as if they cared about our 5-year plan?) To my surprise, about halfway through 2017, my husband felt called to quit his job, enroll in college full-time, and pursue a career in criminal justice. At that moment our perfect plan fell apart, and I was reminded that God’s plans for our lives are not our own. (Thankfully, because His are always greater and more exciting than what we had in mind anyway!)
There were other moments throughout the year in which my plans didn’t go the way I had planned, and it became pretty clear to me that I needed to become more flexible and let God have the final say in my life’s plans.
Marriage is the best. (And sometimes the hardest, lol.)
One the absolute best things about 2017 was that it was a full year of being married, something that has truly changed my life for the better. We hit our one year anniversary in August (how that came and went already, I still don’t understand) and our year was full of learning, growth, commitment, forgiveness, more forgiveness, compromise, compassion, and every emotion imaginable. It was hard, it was fun, it was challenging, and it was rewarding.
Seeking God for clarity and direction requires my participation.
Looking back, I realize that I spent a lot of 2015 and 2016 asking God for help in discovering a sense of clarity and direction for my life and for many life decisions. And while asking Him for guidance is awesome and exactly what He wants us to do, until 2017 I did not get serious about positioning myself to hear the answers from Him. Seeking Him, His will, and His direction requires work on our part. It requires prayer, giving Him our time, pursuing a relationship with Him, listening for His voice, obeying His voice, and reading the Bible. When I started to take part in my end of the deal, I started to gain the help, clarity, and direction I desired.
I am feeling more excited about creating my goals for 2018 now that I’ve taken the time to ponder the year that just passed. It’s almost a sense of closure, or finishing a project to completeness.
My challenge to you is to dig deeper, on a personal level, into any of my 2017 takeaways that grabbed your attention or spiked your curiosity. They probably caught your eye for a reason.
I would also suggest that you take some time, even if it’s a just a few minutes, to think back on 2017 and identify a couple of your own key takeaways. Positive or negative, these can help you shape the year ahead and may give you a new view, as it did for me.
I’d love to hear what you come up with! If you feel inclined to share, you can post in the comments or you can email me here.