Last week I wrote about 2019 in review, as well as well my hopes for 2020 and this year’s theme word. I neglected to mention one of 2019’s biggest wins:
Te ritual of creating monthly theme words, which I began in autumn. While I love the idea of the annual theme word as a general guide for the calendar year ahead, let’s be real: some years unfold in ways that you just can’t anticipate, and the reality of your September looks nothing like your carefully crafted vision back in January.
Such was 2019 for me, and after aimless summer “what’s it all mean?” kind of summer, I decided to make the word reset my focus for September. It was a whim, and my expectations were not high.
So I a little shocked by how thoroughly that one word, that simple ritual, helped me get back on track and reclaim my joy and sense of purpose. In October my word was revel where I leaned all the way into the joys of the moment whether it was a Harry Potter marathon with homemade butter beer or spontaneous fall foliage trips.
In November I opted to savor, in December, to delight.
This whole “word of the month” thing sounds fluffy, and to be honest, it felt fluffy at the time. And yet, looking back, I can’t help but notice that these months where I took the time to figure out my word were some of the best months of my year. Some of my best months in several years, come to think of it.
Regularly taking time to contemplate what I wanted out of the next four weeks (as opposed to just doing it once at the beginning of the year), really helped me to live presently. To ensure the days weren’t just slipping by in blurry mob of sleeps until the calendar turned to to the next month.
Which is why you likely won’t be surprised to hear me say that I’m keeping with this monthly theme word for as long as it suits me.
Not so much in the sense of being physically still (the tight fit of my jeans tells me I did too much of that last year), but mentally still. Emotionally still. And spiritually still.
I’m borrowing the word from Ryan Holiday, whose Stillness is the Key I read in January, and really enjoyed.
From the book’s description on Amazon:
In his new book, Stillness Is the Key, Holiday draws on timeless Stoic and Buddhist philosophy to show why slowing down is the secret weapon for those charging ahead.
I was on a “slow living” kick earlier in 2019, so it’s no surprise that I loved Stillness, which provides no lecturing, no lame productivity hacks, just a way of looking at the world in a way that feels both timeless (the book relies heavily on ancient principles) as well as vitally relevant to modern day.
So what does stillness mean for my life, for my January? It’s pretty simple:
Inaction on most things, focused action on a very number of few things.
When the rest of the world around me feels frantic, when someone lobs a litany of complaints about their boss or political rants my way, I’ve been taking a deep breath and reminding myself I don’t have to get drawn into their storm.
Social media’s turned down, the news is largely turned off. And finally, I can hear myself think, and as a result, enable myself to do.