Thursday, January 5, 2012

Conscious Endeavors

To build upon the mememe reflections inspired by the New Year (and given that I am currently laid up on my couch for a few days with ice cream and mashed potatoes, recovering from wisdom teeth removal this morning...), here's some elaboration on the aforementioned notion of projects - specifically, my top three for this year.

The Gratitude Project

I can't think of any situation in my recent experiences that hasn't been instantly and vastly improved by shifting some of my focus to gratitude. Stuck in traffic? It happens a fair amount in this city. Choosing gratitude over frustration goes a long way. With a bit of conscious effort, I can choose to spend that time feeling grateful that I have a car in the first place, that I am on my way to something great - dinner with a friend for whom I'm also grateful, work that I'm grateful to be able to do, a home that I'm grateful to have and share with someone wonderful. Fortunately, too, many of the times I'm stuck in traffic, it's on I-5 with a view of the Seattle skyline, the Olympic mountains, the Cascade mountains, Lake Union, Mt. Rainier...does a day go by that I'm not counting my blessings for this wonderful city that's come to be my home? If you read my blog, you know the answer.

In 2012, I want to spend more of my energy on gratitude, and less on irritation, on frustration, on impatience. Gratitude gives back immediately. It fills me with a sense of owing the world something in return for what I've been given, of making the most of my day, my resources, my talents, my energy, my love. I want to do a better job appreciating the people in my life who make it great, appreciating my health and ability, appreciating the small things as well as the big.

I credit my parents for instilling in me from early on the value of gratitude - and with that, I want to officially introduce my new micro-blog venture for 2012: Thanks, Parents! The plan is to regularly update it with small thank-you notes to my parents for all the time, effort and love they poured into setting me up for an awesome life. Please check it out!

The Gazelle Project

It should also come as no surprise that running will continue to be an area of focus for me...except, more so! Based on lessons in 2011, my priorities will include: being a big part of the running community rather than making it a solo sport, prioritizing injury prevention, running higher overall mileage, learning to embrace elevation and become a stronger uphill runner, and being far more conscientious with my nutrition and fueling.

In a recent article in Trail Runner magazine about 24-year-old ultrarunner Kilian Jornet, he was quoted as saying "Don't think of training is training. Training is going and running because you enjoy it." Indeed, I've begun to think of running not as the thing I have to find time to pack in to my schedule, but as the thing that IS my schedule, which other things need to be packed in around. It feels good.

In celebration of my commitment to train at new levels, I registered for the White River 50-Mile Endurance Run this July...woohoo! This is on top of a couple spring 50K's I've also registered for. Other specific running goals include: a sub-20:00 5K, a sub-6:00 mile, and qualifying for Boston. Above all, though, I'd like to continue running without injury and loving every moment I get to spend out there.

The Energy Project

This is an ongoing one for me, for which I usually have tremendous zest for around New Year's, but often fizzles as I get deeper into the year. However, it's far too important to let slide off my center burner.

Everything we do takes both time and energy. I consistently feel like I don't get to do enough of the things I want/need to, which leads me to feel panicky, stressed, guilty and generally bummed. Since we can't generate more time in our lives - we are all, after all, subject to the same 24-hour days - this project is geared at generating more energy within myself.

It's a broad one, I know, but within it are the seeds of several subsequent goals: establish and maintain a better way of organizing my thoughts and to-do lists, procrastinate less, prioritize sleep, incorporate more fresh juices and green smoothies in my diet, be more conscientious in general of how I nourish my body. I've decided to forgo alcohol altogether in 2012, partly as a personal challenge, partly as a way to do something nice for my body and support my running ambitions, and partly as a way to simply be gentler on my wallet.


I could go on and on with the project list, many of which include subsequent SMART goals...
- The Reading Project (Read at least two nonfiction books and two novels every month in 2012, and track them on my Goodreads page.)
- The Writing Project> (Build an online portfolio of my writing. Network in the freelance world. Be getting paid to write full-time by the end of the year.)
- The String Band Project (Actually take banjo lessons and practice regularly, instead of thinking that owning one will magically grant me the ability to play it.)
- The Strength Project (Do more yoga. Strength train 3x/week. Be able to do 50 pushups. Be able to do a single darn pullup.)
- The Financial Peace Project (Be diligent again in budgeting and tracking spending through Read more books on personal finance and investing. Learn more from my dad.)
- The Minimalism Project (Get rid of a lot of my unnecessary stuff. Simplify.)
...but as important as these subsequent ones all are, and as much as I will still try to contribute as much of my energy to them as I can this year, the truth is that the first three - Gratitude, Running and Energy - are what I've decided to make my biggest priorities. I'm learning that, hard as I may try, I just can't do it all.

There is a quote that's been attributed at times to Bill Gates and at times to Tony Robbins, and I'm not sure who it's really from, but it goes something like this: "We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in 10." With that in mind, I'm trying to accept that there's no way I can possibly expect to accomplish in one year every single goal I've mentioned above. Nevertheless, I believe in vision, I believe in action, and to drop another of my favorite quotes, "I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor." (Henry David Thoreau)