Decades ago I was asked to house-sit for a family who was traveling to France for the summer. They lived in a beautiful old home and wanted someone to feed their animals, clean out the kitty litter and walk the dog daily.
Living at my parents’ house at the time and a recent college graduate who was in-between jobs, I jumped at the opportunity hoping that I would be compensated well.
And so over those six weeks, I showed up. I did what was asked and then some. It felt good to have responsibility.
I told myself that I was making a difference.
When the family returned, they gave me a few bars of fancy-smelling soap wrapped in tissue as a thank you.
My stomach dropped.
I felt taken advantage of.
I didn’t need soap.
I needed money.
At least, that’s the thought that filled my head at the moment.
Feeling shame at my lack of gratitude for their gift, I forced a big appreciative smile while I handed them their house keys.
And I left without speaking my truth.
I learned that day that when I don’t clarify things ahead of time, I usually end up disappointed.
Disappointment comes from the thought that life should be different.
And so in thinking of the new year just around the corner, I’m getting really clear about what I want and don’t want.
I’m doing this by taking an honest look at my life and deciding which habits will help me fully show up for myself.
Here are 3 habits I’m focusing on:
Habit 1. I’m only taking responsibility for my feelings.
Even though rationally I know that our feelings come from our thoughts and that I can’t control what others think, in 2021 I still found myself walking on eggshells around certain people regarding certain topics. I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to do this in the new year. As long as I’m acting in integrity, and something is important to me, it’s not only okay to voice it, but that I’ll feel lighter once I do regardless of the other person’s reaction. And along with that, I’m done allowing my very-observant 11-year-old to believe that he’s responsible for my happiness. With a big hug, I recently told him it’s my job, not his, and that he gets to focus on his own happiness.
Habit 2. Speaking about feelings, I won’t be eating mine in 2022.
For decades I filled up my body past the point of full. I self-soothed with food when I was bored, lonely, tired, frustrated, and angry telling myself that a little extra here and there would be fine. But getting on the scale the next day it never was. I also blamed what I ate on others as if I had no say in the matter. Here’s a fact that I know now: no one is going to care more about what I eat and when I eat than I do, ever. It’s my choice what I decide to put in my mouth and how often I trigger an insulin response. Because I have agency, I’m making my meals count and I’m eating consciously. I don’t experience FOMO because my protocol is delicious and includes splurges.
Habit 3. I’m going to practice saying no thank you more often.
To make it easier, I’m going to remind myself that a yes always comes with responsibility. When the fit isn’t 100% right, this almost always leads to resentment. If I feel any hesitation, I’m going to interpret it as my body signaling a loud and clear no. This will open up space for self-care, which I’ll need because in 2022, I’m no longer going to tell myself that I’ll take care of myself later. In 2022, I’ve decided that I’ll be pausing more often and putting my health first, that my well-being is no longer negotiable.
These are habits that matter to me.
They are the means to a very intentional end.
Embracing them will create freedom from physical, mental and emotional elements that don’t add purpose, peace and joy to my life.
We either live by design or default.
Whether you live big or small, or quiet or loud, the time is now to get clear on what you’d like for next year.
We get to create our stories. Know what you value most in your life and get rid of anything that gets in the way. Embrace habits that’ll help you create a life where you can focus on the things that matter most to you.
With intention, I know that 2022 will be our best year yet.
About the Author: Heather Aardema is an optimistic build-er-upper, momma of two boys, mountain biker, and fan of homemade and not-perfect. She’s the founder of School of Living Lighter—where she helps women tackle their clutter, un-complicate their lives, and lose weight for good—read more of her essays at SchoolofLivingLighter.com.