In the past I have written about new year resolutions, goal setting and tools that I use. From choosing a journal to picking a word for the year, there are different ways to get through each day, with the intention that it will all add up to a well-lived year.
Now that we’re into the second half of February 2023, I looked at the ways in which I have done things differently this year.
In January, I filled in my Goodbye 2022, Hello 2023 journal and laid out three things I would like to focus on for the first quarter. But I also signed up for a three-week wayfinder challenge which involved a pact – an action that I commited to repeat for a duration of three weeks.
The joy of learning
For my pact, I chose to practice crochet for fifteen minutes each day. The goal was not to create a useful product but to simply apply myself to a task that was unfamiliar to me. I made mistakes, stabbed myself with the crochet hook and unraveled large portions of my early creations when I noticed my errors.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had been fascinated by something so simple and absorbing. Most days I spent more than fifteen minutes. In fact, one Sunday morning I woke up feeling an unusual sense of excitement. As my morning cup of tea cooled beside me, I reached for my crochet kit and devoted myself to the yarn and the crochet hook as I paused and replayed a Youtube tutorial several times.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi observed that “flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake”, something I discovered while spending a small part of each day learning and improving at crochet. It was my way of squeezing in some me-time, a pleasant way to destress but still being actively immersed in something.
The pleasure of connection
Now that we have shed all restrictions related to Covid-19 (including the requirement to wear masks on public transport in Singapore), there are so many opportunities to connect in person. While I still speak to my overseas friends on the phone and on zoom calls, I now make it a point to meet people for lunch or coffee or even a stroll around my neighborhood.
I had forgotten the intimacy that sitting face to face (without masks) or walking side by side creates, allowing us to speak more freely and communicate in ways that are more than just verbal. A special sense of wellbeing surrounds us when we engage in deep, meaningful conversations with people who matter. It doesn’t always have to take long – a simple catch up with friends or family or getting to learn more about an acquaintance in a group session can be rejuvenating.
The past few weeks have been filled with many planned but also impromptu meetups at home, in the park or at a coffee shop. The range and variety of conversations have been so stimulating that I am planning to do this on an ongoing basis.
The solace of enjoyment
Among the many learnings of 2022 was the need to make space for ‘self-care’. The term may have narcissistic and negative connotations but after my brush with burnout as a result of my self-driven need to be productive and maximise each minute, I had to make a tremendous mindset change to allow myself time to just chill.
Self-care can take several forms, besides taking a nap (although I have made it a point to do that as well). In my case, making time to read is a way of building ease into my day but lately I have been going through a reading slump. Although I have several books on my bedside table and many audiobooks downloaded on my phone, I have been reluctant to commit to large tomes, preferring smaller books and short stories instead.
The biggest source of enjoyment however has been my obsession with Korean dramas. Although I got hooked on these sometime in mid-2022, I expected my infatuation to fade over time. I’m thrilled to report that I continue to be addicted to contemporary romantic K-dramas.
Yes, it takes up large chunks of my time because I find the narratives nuanced and interesting but it has also helped me think deeply and clarify my thoughts about women’s lives, gender roles and patriarchal expectations.
When I return home after a day at the office, I look forward to sitting on my couch and catching up on the next episode of the series I am currently watching. This simple way of decompressing has done wonders to keep burnout at bay.
What does all this add up to?
In a zoom call with a friend based in the UK, she told me about the ACE approach to life. Instead of focusing on grand goals and major resolutions and feeling bad when you don’t meet those, she introduced me to the “ACE” method to master each day and let the goals take care of themselves.
The acronym stands for
The recommendation is to try and accomplish something each day, no matter how small. For me, on some days, it has meant something as trivial as paying my credit card bill. However, you can count your 5K run or the brownies you baked too. It can be big or small and change from day to day. Each day is different so make sure you list whatever felt like an achievement for that day, even if it was just showing up at work.
The connection bit is self-evident – phone calls, text messages, emails to family and friends, showing up for a group activity, everything you do that connects you with real live humans counts. Connection helps us reach out instead of withdrawing into a shell (specially on days when your achievement goals don’t feel lofty) and can often be the highlight of your day.
The enjoyment part is most fun – do what you like. Between my Korean dramas and crochet (or sometimes both simultaneously), I have learned to enjoy my downtime. Going to the gym may be your preferred way of enjoyment, so do that.
It doesn’t matter how you tackle your weeks and months and year, the intention to ACE your days is a good way to keep up your enthusiasm for life. And if there are days when you are not able to tick all the three boxes, it doesn’t matter because you can start over the next morning.
Do you agree?
How do you approach each day?