For the past few years, I’ve set annual mantras for myself — a kind of reminder that helps guide me through a year’s worth of events and activities.
My mantras aren’t resolutions. They also aren’t intentions. They are more like slogans or reminders to help me get from one place to the next by the end of the year.
Here are my past four years’ worth of mantras:
2015: Say no to mediocrity
2016: Turn it up a notch
2017: Shingles-free 2017
2018: Don’t overthink it
Each mantra can encompass a wide variety of mental or physical changes. For instance, in 2015 (Say no to mediocrity), I was looking for new work projects, new jobs, and new extra activities outside of work. That year, I started saying no to things that didn’t fit into new newer, tighter philosophy. I also hit a point in my life where I decided to step up the overall quality of other elements in my life — whether it be relationships, where I live, or how I spend my time. 2015 ended up being the year I started working out regularly (and even got a gym membership), got engaged, got a promotion at work, and launched an educational initiative I still run to this day, called Beyond Coding.
I set my intention for 2016 (Turn it up a notch) in December, like always, with a hope and a wish that I’d end up getting the job I have now, working at Union Square Ventures. I knew in this case I’d need to increase my productivity and output in many ways and prepare for an onslaught of new company onboarding (which always takes longer than you want). This year was also the year I married my husband, took our first trip to Asia, served as a bridesmaid in one of my best friend’s weddings, and participated in several mega-moments with the Hamilton cast and crew, including the Tony Awards party. In the fall of 2016, after triple-tasking on ten things at once, I came down with shingles, a stress-induced illness, which is absolutely what led me into 2017…
Shingles-free 2017 was a mantra that started more as a joke between me and my husband but truly did define how I approached my days and weeks. The previous fall was the first time I knew what it was like to hit my limit, and I decided that, while I was better off knowing, I needed to hedge against that happening again. Thankfully at work, my team expanded, giving me more space to breathe, and I didn’t have nearly as many “life events” as the year before. While I did a ton of traveling (we had 10 friends who got married that year), I was more intentional about saving time for myself at the ends of long weekends, my husband and I initiative planning-free nights on a weekly basis where I would spend time alone to recharge and nothing else was allowed, and I started seeing a therapist to talk me through some of the triggers that set me off into overdrive mode.
My mantra for 2018, Don’t overthink it, was something I set based around feedback I’d been getting both at work and at home. As a high internal mental processor, I have a tendency to let ideas rattle around in my brain like a rock tumbler on steroids for long stretches of time, which…doesn’t end up being good for anyone. This mantra also gave me permission to be more compassionate toward myself and to encourage me to accept certain characteristics or behaviors that I tend to give myself a hard time about. A couple of big things happened this year that let me really make improvements on this (though I still have a long way to go): We moved apartments into a place with more space (both indoors and out), which has been a huge mood lift for me. I’ve also picked up therapy again, this time with a bit more of an executive coaching bent, which has helped me talk through a lot of the disparate work experiences I have from week to week. And this fall, I took what ended up being the scariest adventure of my life, a solo trip backpacking through the mountains of a tribal region of the Philippines, a journey that gave me the confidence to start blogging nearly every day without second-guessing every piece of writing before publication.
Which brings us to 2019, where I’ve set my mantra as: Settle into your rhythm.
All in all, I think I’ve made pretty good progress over the past year, but I expect 2019 to be a year where I tie a lot of things together. I’m feeling for the first time that my work life, my side project life, and my home life are all intersecting in what feels to be a good chunk of a middle piece of a Venn diagram, and now it’s up to me to keep making space for all of this in a way that feels natural. I think this means finding and holding myself to healthy habits and limiting elements that either bring me stress or detract from my mental or physical health.
Of course it’s impossible to predict what will come from the next year, but this is an activity and exercise that I find really helpful to conduct on an annual basis. If you set your own mantras for a year, too, I’d love to hear about it. Until then, I’ll report back on this next year.