Did you come up with your word (or mantra) yet for 2023? I have to confess, as I approached the halfway mark of January in this brand new year, I still hadn’t yet found my word.
Ironic eh? Afterall, I’m the one who has been publishing (for 11 years) an annual list of year-end/year-ahead questions — of which Question #12 always asks you to come up with a word or mantra for the year ahead.
It’s not that I hadn’t been reflecting. I had indeed and have been getting very clear about a number of important intentions for myself for the year ahead. This included setting some meaningful personal and professional goals.
But still, where was that word to anchor it all…..?
Others were sharing their words with so many great themes such as: Lightness; Boundaries; Grace; Less is More — and so on. All themes that I related to as well. In fact, many of which have been my chosen themes for past years. Just last week, someone tagged me into a Linkedin conversation about someone’s chosen word being ‘Ease’. You know I literally wrote the book on Ease and have lots to say about that.
I was starting to get word envy!! I wanted a fresh new word or mantra that did not necessarily erase or replace the intentions of past year’s themes because those are still true for me.
Finally it came to me. I didn’t share it right away because I wanted to live with it for a bit and see what it really meant. But this past week, it really came alive for me.
It may not sound like much off the bat, but for me, there’s a whole bunch of meaning in this phrase. And I think the essence of it has been percolating for some time.
Firstly, I attribute my theme in part to a fabulous book I read this summer by Oliver Burkeman, called Four Thousand Weeks — Time Management for Mortals. The author lays out a myriad of hard truths about our perceptions and relationship with time. This is not your average time management book. Amongst the many ideas in this book that spoke to me, one that really stood out relates to our inability (“our” as in most humans) to truly get (beyond intellectual understanding) how precious and limited our time really is on earth. According to this author it is on average about 4,000 weeks for a lifetime (hence the title of his book).
Within this limited time, the author digs into the common experience of struggling with our ‘time’ (too much to do? Not enough time?) — and the impact of our time struggles on our wellbeing. We give away much of our time in traps like misdirected ‘should goals’; or in our society’s obsessive pursuit of productivity (beyond what is possible); and we increasingly overweight value on the rewards that will come at some point in the future, foregoing attention on the ‘now’.
Can you relate? I can and I know from my many conversations (clients, friends, etc.) that others do too.
In essence, Burkeman writes about our tendency to invest our time, rather than ‘be in our time’. We invest in our futures but starve our present day selves. We value our time expenditures on the basis of its utility or productive pay-off. But far too often, these pay-offs occur sometime down the road and too little in the ‘now’.
e.g. Despite already being overloaded, this extra course (or project, or ___) will be good for my career; I will work extra hard these weeks/months and rest up when I take my vacation (or weekend or…when-never). I’ll do more, more, more….because it will pay itself back at some point in the future…
Isn’t investing in ourselves a good thing? Of course it is! We do need to invest in our future and do stuff to live our lives. I don’t think this is about giving up on goals, effort, investing in our selves and futures. I certainly am not advocating that. Nor do I think Burkeman is either. And indeed, let’s be real: there are lots of demands on our time that we really must heed.
But upon scrutiny, as we look at our mindset, our choices, how we spend our time — we can start to see where we might be starving our present-day selves for some future pay-off of reward. I found it quite provocative (and helpful) to reflect on this. In our time-crunched lives, how much this can cost in terms of our wellbeing and joy of life.
The reality is that in these times that we live in, we will never be able to do ALL that we think, want, and need to do. As the pace of work and life continues to accelerate, we try harder and harder and invest and invest, but still, we are not getting all our stuff done! Far too often our own present-day needs get pushed off to a when-ever. And far too often this turns into ‘when-NEVER’.
No wonder we (as a society and individually) are experiencing so much burnout.
We can’t get our time back. But looking ahead, maybe we (at least I) can be more diligent in how and where we give it away.
So this is (part of) the backdrop that inspires this year’s word and mantra for me personally. Right Now really matters and needs more of my attention.
I am using this mantra to help me pay more attention to my needs and what I choose for my resilience, vibrancy, and more — in the ‘right now‘ moments. Not the when-ever/NEVER!
Helpful Questions: So I’m going to try to ask myself these kinds of questions more frequently: What do I need right now? What do I truly want right now? Where does my attention need to be right now? What do I need to say no to right now? What will fuel me right now? Give me more authentic joy right now. Of course, all of this within the what is within what is in my control to choose?
I may not always be able to give myself what I want and feel I need (i.e., that 6 week sabbatical to a warm weather climate in the winter may not happen this year) but I know that even the smallest shifts can have huge pay off in my energy, wellbeing — and then further enhance my ability to then be generous with others.
For instance, a small example: instead of doing the tasks I thought I ‘should’ do this Saturday, I chose something else. A luxurious spacious day to read, go for a long walk without time constraints, and putter around. It was delicious. And fueling.
Ditto for clients. Recently I was coaching a client who came to the realization that she has been putting everyone in her life (family, work, etc.) ahead of her needs. She was last in the line up and was feeling drained to the core. So she is exploring ways to put herself first. Tiny shifts, tiny bits of time that she can carve out (in any given moment — right now) instead of saving it up for some day in the future.
In this post, I’ve shared just a tiny (and simplified) bit around what ‘right now’ means to me but I do hope that in sharing my mantra and theme for the year ahead (starting right now🙂 ) something may spark for you. It may be related to this word and theme — or you may have an entirely different one that works for you.
Whatever that may be for you. I am wishing you an abundant state of mind for the new year and that you get more of what you need and want for the year ahead — and for right now.
Eileen Chadnick, PCC, ACPC of Big Cheese Coaching, is an ICF credentialed executive coach, team coach, workshop facilitator, and writer specializing in career navigation, executive and leadership development, culture-building, and communications. Principal of Big Cheese Coaching and Chadnick Communications in Toronto, Eileen draws from the disciplines of positivity, emotional intelligence – and Conversational Intelligence®(C‐IQ®) in her work. She is author of the book, Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy. See more at www.bigcheesecoaching.com