Each year I choose a word that will help me maintain my focus and direction for the entire year. Last year my word was Charge. This worked really well for that season. In December 2015 I sold the business I had previously shared with my late husband. This meant that hitting the ground running in 2016 was vital if I was to build momentum for my new thing. Under the motivating banner of the word Charge, I have worked relentlessly throughout 2016. I have completed my year of professional speaker training, published my first book, had this website built and continued to populate it with loads of content, launched my iTunes podcast called The Happy Widow, taken on my first handful of coaching clients, and presented at even more speaking engagements. I have also started the endless journey of building my social media profiles, and I am amazed at how many new friends I have made throughout the year in those spaces. The internet is the city that never sleeps.
All of this has been wonderful, and I am thoroughly proud of myself. But if you look back through that introductory paragraph, you will see that I worked relentlessly, but not tirelessly. To be completely honest, by December last year, I felt like that last leg was only possible if I was willing to crawl over the line. Launching myself into my new work in 2016 was important for me for a lot of personal, professional, and financial reasons. Even now as I reflect on how I approached last year I can’t see how I could or even would have done things differently. But boy oh boy, I really couldn’t repeat that massive effort.
I see very little point in regret, even if I have made a terrible blunder. Regret steals our confidence, undermines our ability to learn, and prevents us from loving ourselves as we really are. I don’t need to feel the self-loathing emotion of regret to be genuinely sorry if I have made an error. I can choose to change my pathway without getting too hung up over the steps I have previously taken. At best, regret is a waste of energy and headspace, but at worst it is destructive and turns our opportunities for growth as humans into a disastrous trap.
I certainly feel no regret about how I invested my time and energy last year. I am a big believer in the positive effects of a burst of energy and surge of investment. But I know without a doubt that this effort was unsustainable. By the end of the year I worked hard to finish what I started with all sorts of projects. I nearly got there. There are still jobs hanging around that didn’t get done, but I know that I need to change tack if I am going to continue to catch the winds of freedom in my sails.
This year, my word is Balance. If I have learned anything from last year it is to prioritise a wholistic approach. Things can’t remain strong if they are built in a lopsided way. If you’ve ever played Jenga or even pick up sticks you’ll know that when the pieces aren’t supported, they will tumble down. To be unstoppably free from the risk of this collapse, we simply must take a broader approach. We must harmonise all of the needs in our lives, and focus on tending to all of them with diligent consistency, calm confidence, and gentle nurturing. For us to maintain growth in all of the areas of our lives, we must attend to that growth. Make it our focus. Invest in it.
I had a thought about balance last year that has stuck with me. I have a mild scoliosis in my back which throws the mechanics of my body out. When I walk, run, sit, lay down, stand up, my body does things in an ever so slightly twisted way. It was barely noticeable when I was younger, but at 41, my body speaks more freely to me now and lets me know what it needs. Years of operating this crooked body and compensating for the curve in my spine have seen some muscles become super strong while others have been left quite weak. I didn’t notice this until my physio had my doing single leg squats, hops, arm raises and hamstring curls. I was stunned.
I teetered and trembled my way through half of the physio’s tasks. I struggled to stay upright and a few times I toppled and stumbled my way back to standing straight and tall. My right leg wasn’t pulling its weight, and neither was my right shoulder. They made my body crumple like an aluminium can. It seems that my left side has been doing all of the heavy lifting over the years, with the right side taking a free ride. The work of keeping me up and running has largely been done by only one side of my body. To ignore this problem would be to invite injury and pain which will only worsen over the years to come. This is not desirable for anyone, but as an active, highly motivated person, this simply will not do.
My body had no regard for my intentions or my efforts. It could only perform to its capability at that moment. Years of avoiding the use of the weaker side, and unthinkingly finding ways around the scoliosis had created a type of atrophy. It had left me weak in the areas I hadn’t used or attended to. It thrown me out of balance, and left me vulnerable to falling down. Are you getting the picture here? Can you see areas of your life that may have been left unattended just a little to long?
As I say goodbye to 2016 and throw my arms open wide to the year ahead, I will apply what I have learned. This experience paints the perfect picture of what we need to understand to be free:
Balance comes from strength.
This is not just strength in a few select areas. Power doesn’t come from surging forward in growth in our favourite areas, or the ones that come easily to us. We are only truly free from the risk of collapse if we have a well rounded strength across all of the pillars in our life. My physio explained that managing the health of my back and my joints means developing strength in my core. She gave me exercises that work the muscles further inside and around the joint. These movements aren’t like the glamorous Hollywood ones. They don’t only work the superficial muscles that every one else can see. These exercises work the deepest inner muscles that support my frame. The workout is more intense, and more lasting, and has a greater effect than anything I have done before.
This year, let’s make Balance a priority in our lives. Let’s ensure that with every outward stride towards performance, power and achievement, there is a corresponding inner stride towards peace, wholeness and self care. Let’s give some of our precious time as a gift to ourselves, to ensure that we preserve and defend our ability to continue our generosity. This year can be the year that we become stronger at balancing giving with taking, chaos with peace, noise with quiet, fast with slow, spending with saving, talking with listening, searching with finding, inside with outside, outward with inward, work with rest, exhale with inhale.