It’s that time of year again, where we feel the pressure to enter the new year as better versions of ourselves, to do more, be more, make our dreams a reality, create and live out new improved bucket lists.
The obsession in our culture with busyness, doing, accumulating doesn't take a break for January – if anything, it’s intensified. In 2022, you can have a better life – change your mindset, your fitness level, upgrade your home, your career. Don't be fooled - so much of the January resolution thing is just another way to sell you stuff you don’t need.
The prospect of a fresh start, a clean sheet to begin is appealing. But why be quick to believe that there’s something about you that needs changing or fixing?... and especially be cautious about the messages that you can buy your way to a better you - if you buy the right book, clothes, gadget, membership.
Maybe you’re just fine as you are.
Maybe everything you need is already here.
Maybe allow yourself to believe that for a minute and see how it feels.
I don’t mean you should stagnate or never try anything new – but how about being wary of the intent, the driver, behind a new resolution or declaration. Make sure it's coming from a place of love (yes LOVE- for you, from you!)
January is a terrible time for making changes
The depths of January are a terrible time for goalsetting. As I write this, it’s raining right now . The kind of rain that isn’t heavy, but hitting at a diagonal and accompanied by sudden gusts making an umbrella useless and ensuring that you definitely get soaked when you venture out. Sitting inside in my cosy house ,the lights still twinkling on the rapidly drooping Christmas tree, listening to the wind, while my boys play in the playroom (a rare enough occurrence, that the play actually happens in that room and not underfoot in the kitchen). Work has not yet recommenced, it's that post-Christmas stillness that can feel so delicious.
It’s the kind of day that screams “STOP- stay where you are. Do nothing dramatic. Maybe make a soup and watch a movie. But do not try to change the world today”
So screw the new year’s resolutions. Screw the need to improve yourself.
You’ve survived two years of a pandemic. How about celebrating that instead of putting extra pressure on yourself right now?
Are you in love with beginnings?
This year, instead of trying to take on a million new things, I’m going to try to return to some of the projects I’ve already begun. To not start any new courses, take up any new hobbies - less beginnings, more diving (back) into the middle of things.
Beginnings are great. Fresh and exciting. I get so enthused and energised about new things and ideas, but after the initial beginners luck of the thing, there’s often a slog to move forward in whatever the thing is - a new relationship that encounters its first bump, the first major hurdle in learning a new skill, a piece of critique for a project that may improve it, but isn't quite what you want to hear.
Beginnings feel clear, unsullied- a white sheet. Middles are slogs, the point in the project where you’re deep in the valley and can’t see over the sides anymore. What happens then?
You might quit (I often have). Decide this is a project for someone else. Make a fresh start, wipe the slate clean. Go again.. until you once again reach the messy middle...
Go deeper, not wider
Something I came across a while back is the concept of a depth year (from David Cain, a Canadian blogger and writer at raptitude.com.)
Basically it’s a year where instead of staring new projects and hobbies, reading new books etc., you go deeper with them than you ever have:
"You take a whole year in which you don’t start anything new or acquire any new possessions you don’t need.
No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.
You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.
You read your unread books, or even reread your favorites. You pick up the guitar again and get better at it, instead of taking up the harmonica. You finish the Gordon Ramsey Masterclass you started in April, despite your fascination with the new Annie Leibovitz one, even though it’s on sale.
The guiding philosophy is “Go deeper, not wider.” Drill down for value and enrichment instead of fanning out. You turn to the wealth of options already in your house, literally and figuratively."
Instead of starting to learn the ukulele, you go back to basics with the guitar gathering dust in the attic.
Instead of buying a new book that promises to fulfill some forgotten/ longed for dream – you go back to your bookshelves, you kindle library and re-read that book that made an impression on you last year.
You notice what you already have of value in your life – before making decisions to fill your life and space with new things.
You go deeper with relationships (I was going to say spending more time with a smaller number of people- but maybe most of us have been doing this already?). But maybe there is something here- cultivating more, deeper one on one or small group connections and less shallow social media scrolling?
Go deeper with a course you’ve already taken (this is definitely for me because I signed for way too much stuff last year and really wasn't able to take it all in). Take out the reading materials and go through them again – get in touch with someone who took the course with you and see how they’re putting the tools into practice.
Rewrite the poem. Redraft that old story. Revisit a piece of art or craft you gave up on.
Gather, and reap instead of sowing, scattering.
Settle instead of flitting.
Look to what you already have for the answers.
Resist novelty, distraction, tick things off an old list instead of making a new one.
What happens when you go deeper?
You may get better at something. You follow through on a hobby and master a new aspect of it that previously felt too heavy to push through. It can feel so much easier to move to the exciting beginning of a new project than to plough through towards mastery.
Maybe you start to notice what you already have. Your mindset becomes to first look inwards- to ask – what resources, things and thoughts of value do I already have at my fingertips?
It’s not primarily about spending less, but may have that effect, and it’s in line with living life a little more sustainably – if that’s something you’re leaning towards ( as ,many of us are these days)
It may simplify life.
The answer is here, not there
But bigger than that, depth is a mindset that says that maybe the answers lie within us – That fulfilment can be found “here” instead of there.
It’s an interesting concept to play with- the idea of turning inward to find answers. Whether that’s a turning in toward your bookshelves, turning towards your old clothes at the back of the wardrobe instead of automatically reaching to fill the gap with something new.
Much of the functioning of our consumer society and capitalist economies lies in convincing us to look outwards for happiness and fulfillment. What might happen if we looked inside instead, if we sought to notice and want all that we already had?
It's a question a depth year might help with. I'm going to try to answer it by making the default position be to look to what I already have, the courses I've already done, the knowledge I already have, the half started projects - before signing up for something new, buying a new book, starting a new project.
What do you think? Does the idea of a depth year or some variation on it resonate with you? Let me know!