15.01.2024: I recently sent this over to a friend - and realised that this might be something since to post here as well!
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” (Rainer Maria Rilke).
Last year was very tumultuous, but it drew me to read and think about many things that have since shaped me in countless ways: like navigating burnout, my relationship to work, management, burnout, attention, degrowth, ecosystems, creativity, maintenance, care, quiet. These concepts have probed and challenged my values on a deep level - and are helping me to discern between what I thought I wanted (which takes great unlearning!) from what I actually do want (especially as I think about how I identify as a researcher-practitioner - or are these labels already outdated?). Books like “Quiet” (by Susan Cain) and “The Artist’s Way” (by Julia Cameron) have really helped with this process. (I’m actually in my last week of TAW, and it’s been truly life-changing on many levels!)
I chose this quote for my overall guiding theme for the year, because of how much uncertainty I feel there is to navigate. But guided by my internal map (everyone knows just how much I do love maps!), maybe the answers will be clearer soon. This year, I want to lean more into my intuition rather than intellect alone in 2024, and be patient in the amount of time/space it might take to get to where I would like to be (whatever that might look like).
Perhaps one of the underlying foundations beneath these habits is the realization that as a provider of a “third space” for many people, and with a job that focuses primarily on operational maintenance, I have found the need to cultivate a third space within myself, that allows for more creativity. That’s not to say that creativity and maintenance are opposites: in fact, there is much of the former in the latter. Simply put, I’ve learned that my own sense of abundance has always been about exploring the edges of the possible, the fringes, the weird, the one-offs, the not-so-reproducible. Realising and cultivating this (at least in & for myself), feels like a big switch — especially for someone that wanted it all from a “vocation”, not just a job!
So instead of “goals”, I’m choosing habits, and ways of being. I do have some SMART goals and professional objectives, but that’s not for the blog.
1. Move more: get out of the head and into the body.
I want this year to be a year of movement - not the kind that took me around the world and back this past year - but rather the kind that allows me to find space in myself (wherever I am). Some of my best thinking has happened on long runs, swims, gardening, boxing, hikes, climbing, yoga. And sometimes I didn’t have a conscious thought at all (bliss!). I want to cultivate this habit from a place of self-compassion instead of punitive self-discipline, and make sure to move (if only a little!) at least once a day. Milestones like marathons and personal records mean less than a consistent practice of movement, however small.
2. Be mindful of my attention - and train the muscle that allows me to sustain it.
After many years of attempts, I’m finally cultivating a regular, small meditation practice. It is blooming into a much broader sense of self awareness and self-observation (without judgement) that has felt humorous, tragic, distracted, scattered, hyper-focused all at different times. Jenny Odell’s “How to do nothing” has made me think a lot more critically about where I focus my attention, as well as adrienne maree brown’s notion of ‘what you pay attention to, grows’. After much trial and error, I’ve realised that cultivating my own sense of attention takes more quiet than conversation. I don’t want to be afraid of the kind of solitude this may require, without letting that become self-isolation.
3. Embrace a beginner’s mindset, and create more: frequently and earnestly without too much self-criticism.
I’ve often held myself back from having a truly creative practice (whether it’s writing or art or some mixture of the two) by many bad habits: boundless self-critique, perfectionism, endless planning, self esteem, jealousy, intellectualism, a scarcity mindset. I know that this has had ripple efforts in other areas of life. What can combat that by simply moving forward and experimenting?
This feels perhaps the scariest - and riskiest - of the three, because it involves me putting myself out there in ways I haven’t before (or perhaps have, but never sustained). But it also may be the one that pushes me forward in ways I can’t predict!
These are my three principles for the year. I hope they might be useful for another, put out into the world.