Over time I’ve come to realise that it always takes me a little while to get going at the beginning of a new year. I’m not one of those people who launches into January all fired up and ready to achieve – I prefer a slower, more gentle start. I tend to spend January reflecting on the twelve months that have passed, considering the year as a whole as well as taking a more detailed look at specific areas of my life. I like seeing what new experiences we’ve had and what some of our favourite memories have been. (The photos throughout this post illustrate just a few of the special moments we shared together last year). We’re now almost at the end of the first chapter of 2019 (already!) and I think with this post I’m now just about done with reviewing last year and am ready to step into now.
At the start of each year I choose an intention. It’s not a resolution to give something up, or a set of targets or measurable goals to work towards achieving – it’s much deeper than that. It’s more a way of being. A choice for how I want to deliberately and purposefully live my life over the coming twelve months. That’s the best way I can think of to describe it. One of the main things I use January’s reflection time for is to figure out if I lived by and honoured my intention for the previous year.
2018 was my year of taking action. It was a year of both highs and lows, as most years are I suppose. I’d love to be able to say that I absolutely lived by my intention the whole year through. But, truthfully, I didn’t. I procrastinated a lot. Let fear get in the way of me doing things. Put stuff off with a long list of reasons* (*excuses) as to why I ‘couldn’t’ do them. I felt frustrated by that at first, thinking I hadn’t tried hard enough. And then I looked at all the things I did accomplish, everything that I did take action on, all the things I did achieve as a result of choosing to live according to my intention. And so whilst 2018 may not have been a perfect example of living my intention, I did my best with it and that’s ok. Through having that intention I got a lot more done and took action on stuff that ordinarily I wouldn’t have done for sure.
My intention for the year often becomes a bit of a mantra. “Take action, get stuff done” became my mantra for 2018. Every time I could feel myself wavering, wanting to put something off, being incapable of making a decision, I’d say “take action, get stuff done” to myself. I even said it at the start of every yoga class I attended. It helped. More often than not I took action and I got something done. It might only have be a little something, like making a phonecall or cleaning the bathrooms, but it got done and I definitely believe it helped me be more productive on a daily basis.
It worked on the bigger stuff too. Here are some of the things I took action on in 2018…
~ Home: We had the loft boarded out to solve our storage issues and oh my goodness it has made such a difference. We still have a lot of sorting out to do but there is SO much more space than we had before. We’ve also had new carpets fitted throughout the house – we’ve lived here for a decade now and after ten years of babies and pets making mess the old ones definitely needed replacing. Next on the list is a new sofa and then I think it’s mostly all the little jobs that need finishing off.
~ Photography: I offered a maternity shoot, a newborn shoot and some headshots. I enquired about website design costs and the process involved for developing a photography website, though I haven’t followed up on it (yet) – my confidence wavered a bit and I let fear get the better of me with taking that one through to completion. Something to work on this year instead I guess. I also attended a Wedding Photography workshop which was way out of my comfort zone and I’m really glad I took action and went because I learned a lot.
~ Kids: I sorted out Ella’s high school placement after a bit of a mix-up during application process. I’ve also initiated the process of attempting to get Mimi assessed after we reached a bit of a breaking point over the summer. I’ve had to fill in a questionnaire and so far we are still waiting on an appointment four months on, but at least we’ve started the ball rolling.
~ Blog: I switched to a business Instagram account to allow me access to vital insights regarding my followers and engagement statistics. I installed Google Analytics on the blog itself for the same reason. And I reorganised the ‘Travel and Adventures’ section of the site to make it a/ easier to navigate and b/ document our adventures more comprehensively.
~ Health & Wellbeing: I took action and asked for more treatment for my shoulder, which I’ve been having issues with since it got injured in a car crash eighteen months ago. A steroid injection and more physio is helping though there’s still a way to go.
I’ve been thinking about my intention for 2019 since November: mulling over many different possible options in my mind; testing out how they felt when I said them out loud. But nothing seemed quite right. Then, on the last day of term in December, upon arriving home with the girls after collecting them from school ready to start the Christmas holidays, I felt my shoulders shift down away from my ears a tiny bit. The giant knot in my tummy that I hadn’t even realised was there because it had become so normal to feel like that relaxed a little bit. I let out the breath I’d been holding for months and inhaled deeply, resting my forehead on the front door as I closed it with a relieved sigh. And in that moment I realised that something needed to change. The overwhelm I’d been feeling, the pressure I’d put myself under to do ALL the things, to be everything to everyone and to keep everyone afloat… I didn’t want to feel that any more. I wanted to feel less stressed, to have less of a racing mind, to feel less exhausted. And I wanted more of the things that actually matter, like family time and feeling calm and looking after myself a bit more. Less and more. More and less.
And so my intention was born and I have decided that 2019 is my year of more and less.
More of what I do want and less of what I don’t. Somehow I’d got myself muddled and ended up with the opposite, resulting in having less of what I truly wanted and more of what I definitely didn’t, creating a whirlpool for myself that I couldn’t seem to get out of. And the more I tried to get out of it, the more sucked into it I got. The paradox in action.
The words ‘minimalism’ and ‘abundance’ are both hot topics and have been for a while now – and yet they seem to be at complete opposite ends of the spectrum. The minimalist end suggests that having less of everything is good, simple is best and that the key to happiness is to be grateful for all that we do already have because not wanting for anything means that what you have is always going to be enough. And at the other end, the end of abundance, the thought is that there is more than enough of everything to go around for everyone, that consistently striving to be better versions of ourselves and to continue to seek more joy and love in our lives is a positive way to live a happy life. Marketing and social media encourages us on both sides of the equation and it can be hard to know what’s best.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I can see both sides of the story. Both ends of the spectrum have valid points so I don’t think one can be right over another, or a ‘better’ way to choose to live your life. In trying to figure out how to go about living my intention of ‘more and less’ throughout 2019 I’ve come to the conclusion that the two – minimalism and abundance – don’t need to be mutually exclusive. They can exist in a peaceful harmony with one another if we choose for it to be so, meaning that we can have both more and less at the same time.
I think the word ‘choose’ is the key part of that. We can choose to change our story. For so long the story I’ve been telling myself is that “life is hard”. Having three children aged three and under was hard. It’s still hard now that they’re older. Running my own business whilst trying to start/grow two more (blogging and photography) is hard. Keeping the household running smoothly is hard. Finding time to look after myself is hard. Marriage is hard. Making ends meet financially is hard. Making time to see my family is hard. Maintaining friendships is hard. Losing my Dad was hard (still is).
What if it didn’t need to be so hard? That’s just my perception of it all. What if everything stayed the same but I chose to change my outlook on it, chose to start seeing it as less hard and more easy/simple? It immediately feels better. The challenges remain but my beliefs about them are different and this is something I’ve been working on for a long time and will continue to do so. Hard stuff happens in life for sure, but it’s how we choose to respond to those events that ultimately determines our experience of them. What if life could still be easy even in the middle of hardship? Truthfully I think the only way to actually put that into practice is by coming back to what really matters – love and family and acceptance of what is. The rest is just logistics.
So, what does a year of more and less look like? For me, I want 2019 to have/be:
More photography (documenting both other families and my own); more personal creative projects; more family time together; more reading; more time spent in the fresh air surrounded by nature; more date nights; more time proactively creating and building things related to all of my different work roles; more writing; more acceptance of the season we’re in as a family right now with the girls at the ages and stages they are at the moment; more yoga; more financial savings; more sex; more self belief; more time looking after myself; more honesty and communication; more trips and adventures and travel; more simplicity; more time doing stuff I love to do just because I want to; more commitment to turning my passion for photography into a viable business; more space; more cuddles; more confidence; more dedication to my learning and growth; more joy; more moving forwards; more things ticked off my ‘40 Things Before I’m 40‘ list; more grace for myself when I make mistakes; more new experiences; more calmness and kindness; more sleep; more time spent connecting with friends; more time working on stuff that matters to me; more energy; more growth; more positivity; more laughing.
Less stress; less anxiety; less worry; less therapy clients; less comparison to others; less wishing that things would change; less spending on unnecessary things; less fear; less seeing the negatives and ‘what ifs’ and all the things that could go wrong; less time doing stuff I don’t like to do but feel like I have to do; less time spent staring at a computer/phone screen; less procrastinating; less worrying about what other people will think; less time spent mindlessly scrolling to numb my feelings/quieten my brain; less clutter in the house; less waiting; less time spent dwelling on the past; less feeling hard done by; less self doubt; less lurking on the sidelines/hiding; less putting myself last all the time; less of making everything more complicated than it needs to be; less excuses; less control; less beating myself up when things don’t go as I expected/wanted; less staying stuck.
To be able to follow through with my intention I need to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ both more and less. I need to trust my instincts in knowing what’s right for me/us and really believe that by saying yes or no to one thing it opens a door to something else. That choosing to have less of something will ultimately lead to more of something else (and vice versa). And I need to incorporate all of my previous years of intentions.
2015 was about bravery and balance.
2016 was about following my heart.
2017 was about letting go and leaping
2018 was about taking action.
And 2019 is going to be about more and less.
I can’t wait to see what happens.