Happy New Year!

Like many, I’m not a fan of resolutions. I don’t like putting too much pressure on milestone dates because I think life is a process and real change happens so slowly over time that it’s almost imperceptible. That said, I do think there are some benefits in setting an intention for the year. “Intention” may just be a dressed up version of “resolution” without all the cliche the latter carries. Still, I think having a guiding principle for the year can be a good thing.

I view resolutions as specific, non-negotiable goals for the year which are difficult for me because I think it’s too hard to predict what life will throw at you in a year, and I don’t like the inflexibility. Intentions are broad enough to be malleable. They can stretch to fit the situation and help keep me on track with my main focus for the year.

My intention for 2014 (though I don’t know if I realized it until about halfway through) was to take care of myself first. I’ve heard it called, the “oxygen mask theory.” You know how on a plane, the safety walkthrough (always pay attention to the safety walkthrough!) explains that in the event oxygen masks are needed, they will drop down from the ceiling; always put on your own mask before helping others. The metaphor is not subtle. You cannot be there for others in their time of need if you are struggling to breathe.

2014 was not the year of people pleasing. I made a lot of decisions that didn’t sit well with others. The most major event of my 2014 was, of course, planning a wedding. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my experience, you can’t make most any wedding decision without bothering someone. Our families were thrilled we decided to get married, and that was about all we could all agree on. But that’s really all that matters. Keeping that in mind made it easier to make a million small decisions that bothered someone. Easier, but not easy.

In the past, I would have totally buckled under the pressure of trying to please everybody. Once I realized that was impossible, I decided that if the only person I could please was myself (and my husband of course), then I should at least strive to do that. If I wasn’t happy and neither was anyone else, what was the point? I made the decisions I wanted, and our wedding was amazing. I loved it, and everyone else had a great time too. Six months later, our families still rave about it.

It wasn’t just the wedding though. Looking back I made a lot of decisions in 2014 that I wouldn’t have made in the past based on how others felt about them. I got a dog that really only I knew our family was ready for. She’s the perfect addition to our family, and everyone loves her now, but it wasn’t an easy adjustment. Her integration didn’t always go smoothly, and I wondered nearly every day if it was the right call. Almost a year later, I can’t imagine not having her, and neither can anyone else.

I lost a friend who just wasn’t a good fit for my life anymore. Ending that relationship wasn’t easy, but it was absolutely the right choice for me. I feel happy with my decision, and I’m glad I trusted my own moral compass above anything else. Once again, taking care of myself had a ripple effect on the rest of my life. I didn’t realize how much time and energy I was spending on an area of my life that was bearing no fruit. Walking away, opened up a reserve of energy I didn’t even know I had.

And then I ran a marathon. I spent 18 weeks on an inherently selfish pursuit. In the past, I would, and often did, shy aways from personal goals because they took up too much time that I could have been devoting to others. The marathon was the biggest eye opener in this year of taking care of myself first. Spending 18 weeks pursuing a goal that really only should have benefitted me, enhanced almost all my relationships. Accomplishing smaller goals every weekend in the form of longer and longer runs made me feel so fulfilled that each week was just happier. I found myself becoming more joyful and patient in my interactions with my friends and family. I wasn’t distracted by all the things I wanted to do but wasn’t doing. I was doing something great for me, and that made me more present for others.

Also, I found time I didn’t know existed. Being so busy forced me to focus on the things that mattered. It’s amazing how much time I have when I’m not wasting any of it. I actually spent more time with my husband, and the time we spent together felt more valuable.

Taken piece by piece, it seems silly. Getting married, getting a dog, ending a friendship, running a marathon. Those would have been an odd and disjointed list of resolutions. And honestly only the wedding was expected for the year on January 1, 2014. The rest just happened, but having an intention for the year guided my actions every time I had a difficult decision to make. I wanted to be able to look back on this year and feel like I really took care of myself first, and now I can honestly say I did.

I’m not yet sure exactly what 2015’s intention will be, but I think it’s time to fulfill the second half of the “oxygen mask theory.” I’ve helped myself, and now it’s time to help others. Making decisions that made me happy had the unexpected effect of making me better in my relationships, but I can do more. Sometimes, I find myself judging others based on my own insecurities, and that judgment can get in the way of a good relationship. I too often fall into the trap of thinking that another’s accomplishments are a reflection on my own failings, but it’s not a zero sum game. There is enough success in the world for everyone.

In 2014, I learned that it’s ok to be a little selfish when pursuing the things that make me happy. I want to keep doing that. I want to prioritize my own happiness, but this year, I want to rejoice in the happiness of others as well. I think the insecurity that leads to the judgement (and truthfully, toxic resentment) comes from thinking things like, “Wow I could never do that.” Or worse, “I guess I could do that, but I never would because how selfish!” It’s embarrassing to write these thoughts down, but it’s the truth.

2015 will be the year of letting go of my insecurities by continuing to do the things I’m scared to do. In letting go of those insecurities, I want to let go of the resentment that tags along. I will support my friends and family in their endeavors. I will rejoice in their successes and lift them up when they falter. I will be a better wife, sister, granddaughter, daughter and friend. I want to be a stronger member of the community, a better citizen. Lofty enough? Yeah I think so too.