I’m writing this as the new year kicks off and I’m happily gazing out the window at a beautiful view of the Brecon Beacons mountains in Wales. After many New Year’s Days of achy heads, too much night-before bubbly and too little sleep, I wanted to make a change this year. Yes, I’ve had fun and I certainly loved the time celebrating with friends – but I haven’t particularly enjoyed losing much of the first week of the year recovering from the celebration.
For quite a few years, my hairdresser, who is Japanese, has told me how he and his family start the year by travelling to a high hill or mountain and walking up as the sun rises. The Japanese tradition of watching the sunrise on the 1st Janauary is called hatsu-hinode and it’s something I’ve aspired to do for a while. However it hasn’t felt quite possible as I’ve kind of felt that I “should” be celebrating with friends.
This year my husband and I bit the bullet and decided to ditch the shoulds and climb up a mountain. And that’s why we are in Wales.
This morning at 5.45am our alarm went off and half an hour later we were booted and walking-attire suited to hit the mountain behind the lovely cottage we’ve hired for a couple of nights. It was dark, muddy and definitely on the damp side; but SO much fun. I’d deliberately chosen a route that was relatively straightforward, but would still feel like we were having an adventure. My husband was the perfect companion as he is an experienced (and slightly crazy) ultramarathon runner who has braved many long distance events involving hills, mud and trails over single and multiple nights in all sorts of weather. A little jaunt up a mountain was therefore no bother and definitely made me feel more confident!
A year of mini-adventures and micro-actions
It was a rather special way to start the year and kicked off my main intention for 2018; this year is one that I will fill with mini-adventures. This year I’m not planning on grand sweeping changes and unrealistic goals that won’t last the month.
When I stopped and reflected on the last couple of years I realised that I was missing some much-needed fun. Running a business can sometimes be totally consuming, even when it’s something you really enjoy doing (actually, especially when it’s something you enjoy doing). When I thought about this, and was totally honest with myself, I recognised a growing need to add a bit more more adventure and fun back into my life. Starting with my long awaited New Year mountain walk.
My personal definition of adventure is very broad, ranging from hill walks to experiencing deeper forms of meditation in interesting settings or even bringing my sourdough starter back to life so I can bake my own sourdough every week. I want these to be things I will enjoy, will stretch me a little (and sometimes a lot-tle) and add to my life in a positive way.
You may also notice I’ve said mini-adventures. It’s so easy to fall into a trap of an all or nothing mentality to change and goal setting. Instead of adding more vegetables to meals a couple of times a week and really learning to love this, we have to cut out all sugar, every supposedly “naughty” type of food we love and become completely vegan overnight. Or deciding to run a marathon having done pretty much no exercise for the last 5 years.
Now I’m not saying it’s necessarily wrong to have big aims. I have run a few marathons myself so certainly agree that this is a great challenge to aim for and achieve. And after upping your vegetables and getting more used to cooking without meat, you may decide that being vegetarian or even vegan is something that makes you feel good.
However taking first steps, making a start and even just being clear on one or two small areas of your life that you’d enhance, upgrade or make a little better is incredibly valuable. From these small starts big things can come. You’ve probably come across the much quoted phrase from Lao Tzu (one of the key figures within Taoism):
“the journey of thousand miles begins with one step”
It’s one to remember when change feels overwhelming and very much came to mind as I set out up the muddy hill in the dark this morning. Though fortunately my journey was only 4.5 rather than a thousand miles.
Over the next couple of days I’m writing my list of mini-adventures with dates against them. I’m also co-opting partners for some of my adventures to help keep me on track (and because company can add to the fun). While this list will guide me, it’s not intended to be too tight as part of adventure is also leaving space for exciting and unexpected opportunities to bubble up. And to be able to say yes to them when they do.
However you feel about New Year’s resolutions, even just a little time spent thinking about how you’d like to feel about the year ahead is never a waste. And writing down a few sentences on this and maybe a couple of exciting things you’d like to achieve or do in 2018 is even better. I’m going to go one step further as I want to have a lot more clarity in my life generally this year – while still leaving room for mystery!
What mini-adventures could you have in 2018?
Mini-action tips for setting some 2018 intentions
1. Give yourself some space to listen
Before you start mindlessly making long (wish)lists of things you know you’re really not likely to do (and really won’t enjoy), give yourself a little space to listen to and recognise your needs based on where you are right now. This may even mean not setting any intentions for a few weeks if you’re still feeling a bit exhausted from Christmas or rubbish after New Year’s Eve.
If you need a bit of inspiration, I find that walking helps to clear my head and many studies have also shown that it’s a powerful creative thinking booster. Another option is to meditate for a few minutes a day over the next week to help get reconnected with yourself after all the Christmas craziness. Create some space for reflection, connection and genuine listening.
One little health warning… Be careful of “shoulds”.
Sometimes our aims are based on what we feel we should be doing rather than what is truly important to us or makes us feel happy and nourished. This is something I still find challenging sometimes, but I’ve got much better at recognising when I’m straying into “should” territory. This is also why making the space to listen to yourself is really important. You start to get a bit better at calling bullsh*t on yourself (in a gentle and kind way of course) and really tapping into what you need.
And one more thing on shoulds… while the beginning of the year is a natural time for self-reflection to happen, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it or come back to it at any time in the year!
2. Start small
Of course long term aims and big visions are important, but they can also feel a bit overwhelming. What one or two things could you do in the next month that would help you get closer to your bigger goals? It could be walking with a friend for 30 minutes twice a week, downloading a meditation app and trying a few short meditations or signing up to a free life drawing class. Choose something you’ll enjoy and know you’ll stick to.
Charles Duhigg writes about keystone habits; that is, small habits that can lead to bigger changes. One of his examples is making your bed in the morning. This one habit is linked to higher productivity, job satisfaction and even a greater sense of wellbeing. Who would have thought!?!
Don’t undervalue the small or underestimate the importance of just starting something, even if it’s one small action that takes you a little closer to where you want to be or how you want to feel. Is there maybe even something you could do straight away? What is that one small thing that could launch your own journey of a thousand miles?
3. Write them down (and keep them visible)
Many personal development experts rave about the value of physically writing down goals. It makes sense as the process of writing and formulating the words around your first steps or mini-adventures helps you be a lot more clear on what you want.
You may even find even want to formulate these actions or steps in a SMART way (specific, measurable, achieveable, realistic and timely). An example of this is my mountain walk – my action was to complete a small mountain walk of 2-3 hours (measurable) in the Brecon Beacons in Wales (specific) on New Year’s Day (timely). I’m an experienced long distance runner and walker so knew it was achieveable and I’d found a route I wanted to walk that would be fairly safe which made it realistic.
You don’t necessarily need to make things so formal, but it’s one way to be a bit less wishy washy with what you want. You may even want to share one or two aims with other people to help keep you accountable.
Whichever approach you take, definitely pin your actions or adventures up somewhere you’ll see them as a regular reminder. Actions stuffed in the back of the drawer are much more easily forgotten, so don’t let this year be another year of best intentions that end up hidden underneath your tea towels or socks.
I can’t wait to hear what you get up to!