ICN Coaches Share More Strategies to Intentionally Design your Year

As we conclude the month of January, we have compiled another post (see the first post here) about living with intention–paying more attention to how what we do, plan, and direct our energy towards influences our lives and our overall happiness. This post features four more strategies our coaches are using to cultivate more of what they want to bring about in their personal and professional lives in the year ahead. 

Strategy 4: Establishing a Gratitude Practice by Jackie Miller 

Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston and author extraordinaire, shares the following: “The relationship between joy and gratitude was one of the important things I found in my research. I wasn’t expecting it. In my 12 years of research on 11,000 pieces of data, I did not interview one person who had described themselves as joyful, who also did not actively practice gratitude.” She goes on to explain: “For me it was very counterintuitive because I went into the research thinking that the relationship between joy and gratitude was: if you are joyful, you should be grateful. But it wasn’t that way at all. Instead, practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives.”

I’ve always heard about the importance of gratitude, and I’m surrounded by so many examples of people in my professional and personal lives who are masters of practicing gratitude. I, too, try to be grateful, but as 2020 went on, the pandemic continued to present great challenges to my personal and professional life, the election loomed ahead, and the holidays were coming so different than ever before, I was finding myself feeling grinchy at times. I attempt to be a fairly positive person, even if I have to fake it till I make it, but the challenges of the world and the year were bringing me exhaustion and stealing my joy. I wanted to feel more genuinely joyful.

I had recently listened to Gratitude Daily: 21 Days to More Joy and Less Stress on audio book, and I loved so many of the simple, yet tangible strategies Nataly Kogan shared. I even wrote them down, but I didn’t act on many of them. As the new year started, I decided I would try to establish a more intentional gratitude practice: you know, the kind where you actually write things down. This was my first step to success. My second step was to find a friend to join me in the endeavor. Back when the pandemic started, my friend and fellow coach, Brandon Bolyard, shared that he and two of his lifelong friends had started sharing gratitude daily. Each day, they Vox about 3 things they’re grateful for. I think Brandon even has a reminder that goes off on his phone at a certain time each day to remind him to share. This is intention! And it’s always helpful to have a running mate, so I asked a friend to join me in the practice and share gratitude with me as well. It’s actually really simple, now that I’m committed to doing it. Each day, I write down in a journal 3 things I’m grateful for. They can be big things, like a new endeavor I’m starting, or small things, like getting to sleep in (which I actually probably should categorize as a “small” thing). It’s been really awesome! Here’s what I’ve discovered in only a short time: I’m more joyful, even when days are hard or the world is hard. I’m more intentional about noticing all that I have to be grateful for: from family to friends to nature to my job to hobbies to simple life pleasures. AND I’m often reminded throughout the day of things I should celebrate and appreciate. For example, the other day as I left the store, I thought, “I’m so grateful I have the money to buy the food I need,” and yesterday, I said to myself, “I’m so grateful for indoor plumbing and hot water.” Those weren’t even the things I wrote down for the day, although they could have been; they were just things I noticed, acknowledged, and appreciated throughout the day. Finally, right now, I’m grateful to be writing this, as 1) a chance to reflect and 2) a chance to challenge myself. You see, I’ve never written a blog before, and when asked, I felt reticent. But now, I feel grateful: grateful to do it and also grateful to have built my efficacy to do hard things in the future!

Strategy 5: Making Affirmations Ever-present by Emily Morgan 

For the past several years, I’ve been trying to add affirmations to my daily routine, but in my first few attempts I was having minimal success. As with any new habit, I was constantly tweaking my use of affirmations. I knew that if I could just get the formula right for me, the words of affirmation I was writing each day could actually support me throughout the day, but it just wasn’t happening, yet. 

A big change happened for me last year during an Alumni Meeting with our Region 3 Idaho Coaching Network educators. As we were discussing affirmations, I told my group I had a hard time remembering my affirmations once I wrote them down for the day. One of the teachers in the group asked me how I could make my affirmations more present. Such a simple question. That day, I decided to set several reminders in my phone, telling me to recite my affirmation. Suddenly, the affirmation I wrote in the morning was front and center in my day. Which made it easier for me to use the affirmation when I really needed it.

Now, I also like to start my day with a little humor, so these Affirmators! cards, introduced to me by Region 2 coach Jill Diamond, have been a favorite way to write my daily affirmation. And, they’re pretty fun to display near my desk so they’re even more front and center for me. An affirmation is only useful if I have it when I need it, and these small tweaks helped me create a meaningful ritual I can use when I need a reminder about my potential.

Strategy 6: Pencil Joy into Your Calendar by Karrie Jayo

When I’m getting ready to flip the December calendar to January, it encourages me to start thinking about what I want to do in the coming year. I love filling in the blank calendar days (using colorful pens, of course) with activities and trips. Even though we are faced with another year of uncertain travel opportunities, there are so many things I can do right in my own yard and community. For example, spring is the time to start planning my garden and deciding what I want to plant and later harvest. Last year, I decided to designate one corner as my “asparagus patch,” and I’m looking forward to roasting and pickling all of them; right now, it looks like I will have an abundance of asparagus! As I thumb through the vegetable catalogs that start flooding my mailbox in the next few months, I get excited about digging in the dirt, plopping in the little seeds, and watching them grow into beautiful veggies that will grace my table. There is something satisfying about harvesting vegetables that I planted and tended and cooking them up; they even taste better! Another plan I have for this coming year is to pull our camper up into the mountains and enjoy the quiet, hike some trails, and take the kayak out on some lakes. This is my favorite way to fill my cup and get energized for work and other responsibilities. Maybe I’ll get a hammock so I can curl up in and read a good book while swaying in the breeze and listening to the birds sing their songs. I have chosen to think about what I CAN do; there are so many options! What are you writing on your calendar for this year? 

Strategy 7: Design your Reading Life by Jill Diamond

One my many identities is that of a book nerd. I find that reflecting on reading habits and book selections allows me to hold a mirror up to my life, so I try to do this periodically throughout the year. For some readers, pandemic life has given us more time and desire to read, to sink in between the covers of a book for a dose of escapist bibliotherapy. For others, we are having a hard time concentrating on the words on the page. I’ve bounced between both of these extremes since March, and I’ve been assured that both reactions are completely normal when your brain is managing stress. Too often last year, I found myself struggling to the final page because I was determined to make my 50 book yearly goal. Many other times, I abandoned a book I was sure I’d love after three pages because I just wasn’t into its character’s voice, mood or setting. This January, I find myself with a desire to curate my reading experience a little more carefully for the upcoming year to ensure that I find more of what I’m looking for, and less of that unnamable thing that I am not.

This January, I turned to my very favorite book blogger and podcaster, Anne Bogel, otherwise known as Modern Mrs. Darcy. While she always offers a yearly readers challenge, I often enjoy the hunt for books under each theme more than the actual books themselves. This year, however, she has structured the book challenge as a choose-your-own-adventure while allows readers to deeply consider what they want from their reading life. Here is the link to the blog that will help you get started. (You will need to download the free 6-page Reading Challenge Kit from her website.)

Doing this thinking, prompted by Anne Bogel, has already offered me lots of clarity about my reading life ‘why’ for the upcoming year. I have used her prompts to determine my top 4 reading intentions: escape, variety, connection, learning. Because connection is one of my goals, I am going to read a recommended book from each of my coaching friends. She also encourages us to choose a few satisfying mini-projects that help you “cultivate your reading life, not just your reading list”. Spurred on Region 4 coach, Rhonda Urquidi, (see the previous blog post in this series) I plan to create a little reading retreat in February as one of my mini-projects.

I hope you consider joining me in creating your own personal reading challenge using the tools from Anne Bogel. However, if that feels like a lot, you may consider just using this list of prompts to consider the state of your literary life at the moment. This involves less pressure and planning, but gives you an opportunity for reflection into your bookish life. 

10 Questions to ask yourself about your reading life: https://modernmrsdarcy.com/265-episode/  
  • 1. What books have made the most impact on your reading life in the last year, or five years, or twenty years? 
  • 2. Are you should-ing yourself to death?
  • 3. Are you a planner or not?
  • 4. When is the best time for you to read?
  • 5. What is the best way for you to read?
  • 6. What are your personal rules around reading?
  • 7. Who are your reading people? Who do you want to talk to and listen to about books?
  • 8. Is there a genre or an author or a topic that you just need to quit?
  • 9. What books have you been meaning to get to but never quite make it?
  • 10. What does reading bring to your life?

As you can see, our yearly reflection and planning rituals are just as unique as our coaching team, but we all pause intentionally during the winter. (If you missed the first post in this series, see 3 more strategies here.) We hope we gave you some inspiration or some insight into your own rhythm of reflection and intentional life planning. All of these strategies allow you to reflect on the past to consciously build events, actions, and ways of being into the next year that will allow you to live your values and spend your resources in ways that lead to more happiness and fulfillment. No matter which strategies you use, we strongly believe that the fresh start of January is a great time to cultivate more of what you want in your life in the upcoming year. 

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