2023: Consistency over Intensity

Last year, I declared 2022 The Year of Less, and earlier this month, I broke down how that went for me. (Spoiler alert: 10/10, would recommend)

I’ve been thinking about my intention for this new(-ish, at this point) year since November. I wrote a longhand first draft defining it earlier this month, but I’ve struggled to get fingers to touchscreen to prune ideas and organize thoughts in such a way that fits succinctly in little boxes with corresponding headers for my website-skimming pals. Why?

It’s because I’m not good at it. Not. At. All.

I realized that I’ve been waiting for a chunk time to bang out this blog post, and it’s not coming. I realized that the conditions I’ve been waiting for to complete this task are exactly why I’ve chosen Consistency over Intensity to be my focus in 2023.

Quote from James Clear’s late November Newsletter (the only email I’m ever happy to receive)

Where I’m at Now

I’m an all-or-nothing gal. Go big or go home. In your face. My stature is small but I make up for it by being just shy of obnoxious (and sometimes I reach that, too) in all that I do.

I learned through my illness that I can’t rely on completion, that focusing on progress is the only way I’ll stay confident in the future. A marble sculpture starts as a solid piece of rock that must be chipped at consistently, every day. No matter the skill level of the artist, one couldn’t expedite that process. The artist must, chip by chip, day by day, reveal the art that the rock holds within. A life of intention unfolds in just the same way.

I learned through magical mornings how impactful the act of consistency can be. I’ve kept up with the routines mentioned in that post and added more since. What I’ve seen is a beautiful, effortless expansion in not only those practices, like meditation and headstands, but an ease that carries me through the rest of my day where I’m able to manage more tasks, more efficiently, without the pressure of feeling like I’ll be more satisfied when a task is done.

I’ve seen the benefits of routine repeated on my evening habits and after reading The Power of Ritual, I began to sanctify my routines into soulful practices that bring a warmth to my chest like a freshly brewed tea. I’ve turned myself into one of Pavlov’s dogs through intentional playlists for specific activities. I use the power of environment to reduce friction for activities I want to influence myself to do more and to slow me down from old habits that don’t serve me.

I Want More

I love less. Less is on my mind frequently, like yesterday when, all morning long, a group text thread was going on about registration for various activities for the spring opening, then going into waitlists for our four year olds. I remembered Less is More for everyone and that my preschooler doesn’t need an overpacked schedule, either.

But while I keep Less in mind, while I’ve pruned out what doesn’t serve me, Less has highlighted what I do find important: family, friends, community, health, nature, art, acquiring wisdom through creating connections between the knowledge I receive from one book to another and my personal experiences, time spent in deep conversations, nourishing my soul through ritual, parenting my inner child. Painting. Writing. Altering clothes (this is a hobby that I had completely forgotten for twenty years). Continuing to remove the rocks of acquired material goods in my life through gifting them via a local gift economy. These are what my values will continue to be as I trim the excess fat in my life—fat force-fed through targeted advertising that we as a society consume as if the end goal is foie gras.

I know, without a doubt, I want more painting, more writing, and more time with specific people in my life. When I had a poverty mindset, I would think “I don’t have time” or “How can I fit that in when I can’t seem to get what I have under control?” Now that I see the abundance around me, I know that it’s only a matter of seizing small pockets of time on a regular basis. Brick by brick, if you keep going day by day, you’ll have built a house. I’ve seen it with other aspects of my life and I want that with painting and writing. For it to be a part of my day like setting my clothes out for the following day or like brushing my teeth. Fully integrated.

Intensity Causes Procrastination

Often at the gym, we say “the hardest part is showing up.” The same goes for other endeavors—he hardest part IS stopping whatever else you’re doing so you can do the thing. Often insistence on intensity or my ugly old friend, perfectionism, makes it so I don’t show up at all.

I called my sister in the morning and told her I was going to call her back in the evening so we could book our trip. That was eleven days ago. I wanted to know what I needed to know about a specific site I wanted to visit before booking my flight and hotel. Why? Intensity is the culprit: feeling like I need to have all the information all at once.

I’ve been wanting to begin writing letters with a friend—my soul sister. She’s written me on several occasions now and I thought I’d get a 2 for 1 if I added a letter to her Christmas card, so I set it aside. She didn’t get a Christmas card (yet?). Intensity, again.

Intensity Causes Burnout

My cortisol was so high all the time back when I was focused on finishing. I was always amped up and restless for when I’d complete a task, just to find another one quickly afterward (honestly, while I hadn’t yet completed the first). There was no rest, just grind. I was so exhausted.

Now that I’ve begun working as a personal trainer in a group setting, I’ve started to find my footing in the role. I LOVE it. The old me would have been figuring out how I could get more shifts, because I love it. I keep reminding myself how gentle and kind it is to be consistent, find my footing, then increase intensity as I see fit. I have to work my way up to the heavy weights, or I’ll cause an injury. I have to meet my body/my plate where it is right here, right now.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Last year, I related the progress of my yearly declarations to that of a plant.

I’d like to improve upon the analogy.

2019 was the Year of Community

I found my gym, founded Fairfield Shares, and met tons of new moms in my town through activities with my youngest.

Gaining community after I had none was like laying down fertile soil, biodiverse in microorganisms and rich in nutrients, where there was once was only dust.

2020 was the Year of Mental Health

I was drowning, like many. It was necessary.

If a seedling was overwatered, it would need better drainage, to be moved where there was more light. It would need tending so it could sprout.

2021 was a Glow Up

I used the tools acquired during the previous year: therapy, communication, self love, self kindness, meditation. I lost 30 pounds, started getting dressed again, pampered my skin and my soul.

Turns out that I needed to stop giving myself a beating over not becoming more like whoever I had been reading. When the growing conditions were better, the light was able shine down, the excess water was able to move outward from my roots and I was finally able to see the growth I desired.

2022 was the Year of Less

Before I had a real grasp of Less (and was blogging drunk about it nonetheless), I related Less to pruning branches. I got that one wrong.

The thing is, I’m the soil that nurtured the seed. I’m the seed that grew. Pruning the branches insinuates a violent external force that removed the excess, when what ended up happening was a natural and season-appropriate shedding of leaves. A necessary loss to conserve energy within the branches and roots.

2023 is the Year of Consistency

If less was an autumnal shedding of leaves, it makes even more sense that the year prior was of rapid growth, like summer, and before that, I was sprouting, like spring, and prior was a late spring planting and a winter where matted down autumn leaves were able to create that rich soil.

In the longhand draft I wrote of this post, I predicted that consistency would be an early spring: small buds slowly revealing themselves, rather than the firework show of flowers I expected my first spring. Now that the headers are here and the thoughts are more organized, I’m thinking perhaps a winter is in order: that consistency will be that conservation of energy required. I do still have leaves to shed. Maybe it will be a combination of both.

Only time will tell.

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