Despite my love for planning all the things, I've never been one to begin a new year with a bunch of resolutions. When I rather suddenly quit my old job (that I was still working in addition to my own business) at the end of 2016, quite honestly, I felt a bit lost though. I worried about how we'd adjust to everything that would come with this big change and what everyday life would come to be like, so choosing some sort of focus to centre 2017 around now felt like a really good idea. Spoiler alert: I loved it, so much so that I'm doing it again this year!
Why even pick a specific focus, you might ask? Isn't that too forced? Now I get that the idea can sound a bit woo woo, and I wasn't so sure it'd be for me it in the beginning either. I didn't like the idea of focussing on something one year and then forgetting about it 12 months later too much, so I set out to rather use this whole focus concept as a way to approach a certain topic, yes, but to mainly entrench routines around it that I'd be able to uphold in the years to come. But dedicating an entire year to only one focus, isn't that a bit restricting? Well, I've been trying to do all the things at the same time for as long as I can remember and have come to learn that it doesn't necessarily grant faster, more sustainable or healthier changes, especially when working on myself, so I figured I'd just try. After all, taking one step at a time has proven to work well countless times before, so why not here, too?
Feeling overwhelmed with all the options at first, I wondered if I'd ever find something that would work for me. But all of a sudden, reflecting on why this focus idea appealed to me in the first place, my choice was very obvious: having just let go of a job that I didn't enjoy any more, I'd centre the next 12 months around cutting out what didn't make me happy. When I discussed the idea with Malte we realised that, in a more holistic sense, it would also help with the transition into this new self-emplyed life in a more mundane way. Now before talking about money, I want to say that I'm very much aware of our priviledges, and I know that what's saving to us means spending for many others. Even with this new situation - one of us now full-time self-employed with an uncertain future, the other working part-time and doing a master's degree - we knew that we were in an incredibly comfortable position; still we also knew that a lot was going to change and that we needed to review our spending habits, and after all, this was about letting go of the old and establishig new routines. And so the year of the cleanse took shape.
In order to cut out what didn't make me happy in the big picture sense, I knew that I needed to say no more often - not my strong suit, unfortunately. My friend Elisa suggested that I try giving mysef some time to really think about the decision at hand, wherever possible, instead of my usual approach (= making a decision immediately to get things out of my head, which makes feeling compelled to say yes that much more likely), and it worked wonders for me. That isn't to say actively changing that pattern was a piece of cake, but reminding myself to change my default inner reaction to "I'll have to think about that" really helped a lot. As for our everyday life, the changes we made to let go of what we didn't need did feel smaller and easier, yet in a way many of them were about learning to say no, too. Wherever applicable we used up everything we already had before buying new things - like tea or beauty - which also resulted in us reducing unnecessary expenses; we started finding new homes for all the clothes, appliances and other things we didn't use, and we learned to answer the question "Do we really need this?" more mindfully and truthfully.
And the verdict? I'm very happy to report that in many ways, 2017 changed my perspective. I've gotten much better at saying no to what won't make me happy, and as a result I felt more in control of my own life. Even though I've always enjoyed decluttering and did it on a regular basis, we realised how many of our belongings weren't being used and our life and home now feels much lighter (not at this very second with a gazillion of packaging material boxes piling up on top of each other in our bedroom, but you get what I'm trying to say, right?). At the end of the year, both Malte and I found that our decisions and purchases felt more conscious, we're more comitted to making do with what we have than before, we're overall happier with what we add to our life, and all of that helped with the transition into our new financial situation. Though after 12 months it's still of course a work in progress, I feel like we've been able to install new routines, and I'm confident to be able to maintain them, which I think is a pretty happy ending to my first experiment with this whole focus thing!
While I do feel much more in control of my decisions and learned to better cope with what I assume others expect of me during this year of the cleanse, I still have a lot to learn when it comes to my own expectations of myself (read: balancing life and work in a healthy manner), which is why 2018 is all about self care around here. I can't wait to share more about my self care learnings with you, and I'd love to hear - did you try picking a focus yet? How did it go?