Abundance. Purpose. Joy. Ease.

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Abundance. Purpose. Joy. Ease.

On January 1, 2018 I chose these four words as the ones I wanted to channel in the year ahead. Over the year these words showed up in many different forms: a mantra that I chanted in yoga classes. A quiet recitation when I was stuck in traffic. A post-it reminder on the bathroom mirror.

What I didn’t realize then, but I know now for sure, is that these words represent four intrinsic values that I hold dear:

Abundance: generosity of resources, spirit, energy; recognizing there’s enough for everyone. The opposite of scarcity.

Purpose: a clear sense of direction; tapping into what’s true for me and only me, and pursuing it wholeheartedly. The opposite of blowing like a reed in the wind.

Joy: an ability to recognize, in the moment and out of it, when my heart truly sings. Gratitude mixed with presence, flow and fun. The opposite of a long slog down a dark hallway.

Ease: a sense of calm and quiet serenity; the feeling of living an aligned and vital life. The opposite of stress, chaos and frenzy.

At different points throughout the year, I’ve pondered these words and my relationship to them. Sometimes I was able to easily connect with them and appreciate how they showed up in various interactions I had or decisions I made. Other times I felt angry about or disenchanted by these words, feeling like they were completely out of my reach – or worse, like I couldn’t remember why I even cared about them in the first place.

The post-it on the bathroom mirror is weathered by now, but it still sits there today: poking at me, reminding me of what mattered almost 365 days ago, and pushing me to reflect on how these values showed up in my life throughout the year.

I assumed that at some point I’d want to write about this year-long values experiment – I mean, this kind of stuff is perfect fodder for a blog post. And yet, I’ve noticed myself resisting this task for a very long time. Like, really, seriously putting. it. off. As a coach I’ve learned that the things we resist often hold clues to get curious about. So what does it say about me, about these values, or even about my priorities that I haven’t wanted to wrap a bow on this year-long values deep dive? What’s behind my resistance to share out “my results?”

The answer began to percolate this week as I listened to a podcast about “Slow-Motion Multitasking.” In it, author Tim Harford talks about how nearly every prolific, successful creator – whether in the arts or the sciences – has engaged in what he called Slow-Motion Multitasking. Turns out that even Charles Darwin employed this tactic of keeping lots of pots (or creative projects) bubbling on the proverbial stove at once. For Darwin, this looked like many different books, research and other projects all happening over the same multi-decade span as his famous work, Origins of the Species. Rather than working on only one project until it was finished, he multitasked over longer, sustained periods of times (think weeks, months, even years). The benefit here was that he was able to apply himself completely to something, while also recognizing that when his focus, attention and interests inevitably shifted, it was ok to pivot. Not only that, but working on one project actually helped “cross-pollinate” his other projects. Shifting gears, shifting attention, actually made his work better.

In other words, even Darwin had side-hustles.

When I started out the year, full of aspiration and hope, I thought my values post-it would serve as a visual reminder of how I wanted to be and what I wanted to do in the world. What I know now is that hidden inside this message was a secret judgment that I unknowingly baked right in: if I don’t live every day, every moment according to all four of these values, I will have failed.

The truth is that I wasn’t able to successfully channel these values all the time. On a good day, maybe I was able to connect with one of them – and honestly probably only for a second or two before I moved onto something else! Even now I’m resisting being honest about this because, let’s face it: I love getting A’s.

But what if I revisit all this with an eye toward Slow-Motion Multitasking, toward treating my values more like side projects that I work on in spurts of energy and attention? What might open up for me if, like Darwin, I also take the long view: holding more loosely onto a collection of values that I work on purposefully, one at a time, giving myself permission to float from one to another as I’m ready? And what might I learn through the practice of one value that can support me in applying the other ones more intentionally or creatively?

Abundance. Purpose. Joy. Ease. I started the year thinking that these words were my end-all, be-all, the Theme of how I wanted to be in 2018. Either I got them all right, all the time – or I didn’t.

Now, as I transition into 2019, I realize there’s more nuance to these words and how I live them. Like with most everything, it’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress. Slow and steady wins the race, and I’ve got a long time ahead of me to put one foot in front of the other.

What words described your 2018, and what words will you choose for 2019?


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