Over the next year I’ll use this space to record my practice of improving my life via the concept of tending. I knew I wanted to choose a word of the year for 2018, and after mumbling words to myself on long drives and jotting down lists in my notebooks, I finally chose tending. I’m a writer by training, and tending seduced me because of its dual meaning:
to tend to: taking responsibility or care of something
to tend to do: developing habitual actions or beliefs
I hope that my focus on tending in my life will help me to accomplish four key goals this year:
- complete my dissertation prospectus
- begin drafting my dissertation
- improve my health and wellness
- pay off debt and save money
(plus mini-goals I will establish along the way!)
In order to accomplish my goals, I will regularly practice and review self development (or self improvement–I’ll use these words interchangeably) practices, as well as create my own! I will use this blog to share my ups, downs, and reflections. Most exciting… I will share takeaway prompts, exercises, and questions that readers can apply to their own goals and lives.
The Myth of Perfection
If you’re a self development podcast/book/blog lover like me, you’re probably swimming in suggestions for how to improve your life. They might be huge changes: slow living, going vegan, recovering from codependency, or getting out of debt. They could be smaller tasks: making your bed in the morning, doing tasks that you can complete in one minute or less, or drinking lemon water in the morning. While I do believe small life changes like this have affected my daily life for the better, and while I intend to commit to big changes this year, there’s no way in hell that I can suddenly force myself to adopt every single huge or tiny tip I encounter to achieve an enlightened, perfect life. If I did that, I would be overwhelmed and consistently let myself down instead of feeling proud of my achievements–which is one of my key goals for self development!
A big motivation for starting The Tending Year is my belief that self development is not a one-size-fits-all thing. As you will read in next week’s post, I had to reevaluate my plans for “How to Manifest the Perfect Day, Every Day.” I mean, it sounds great, huh? Except, that little word perfect throws a wrench in our good motivation machine…
Perfect is subjective, and I think it can be dangerous. When we strive to be perfect, we create unrealistic expectations for ourselves, and we end up moving our goal posts for what counts as achieving perfection further and further away from our starting points.  This provides us with reasons to self shame for not reaching the unreachable. If you’re wondering if this affects you, see how you answer this question: Do I hold myself to the same–or higher–standards that I hold my loved ones? (This is a question I regularly answer with an “uh oh…”)
I am not a blank slate that I can simply turn into perfection. Just like you, I have personal challenges and preferences and needs that prevent me from giving 110% percent on the daily. Not to mention the capitalist drive to push ourselves to achieve MORE without stopping to recharge (I’m also guilty of this). For this reason, I have to regularly remind myself to reject the idea that I should be perfect. Case in point: just yesterday I was giving myself quite a hard time because I preemptively worried that this blog wouldn’t be interesting, helpful, aesthetically pleasing, or–in another word–perfect. I had to remind myself that I have a whole, exciting year ahead of me to practice improving and developing my tending, and I shouldn’t hold myself back from that because I’m nervous I won’t obtain an unknowable measure of perfection. I’ve been working on this post for weeks, and instead of holding myself back from sharing it, I should be proud of having written it!
If you take one thing away from this post for the next week, it should be this: Whenever you begin to feel like you’re just not good enough, ask yourself:
- Would I hold my loved ones to the expectations I hold myself to?
- Would my loved ones hold me to the expectations I hold myself to?
I’m guessing, if you’re like me, that your answers might be two big NO WAYs. Think (or write) about how impressed and excited you are by the successes of your loved ones. Think (or write) about how just by being themselves, your loved ones are good enough–in fact, they’re better than good enough. Now, try to project that same light back on yourself. It might feel weird, but that’s okay–you may not tend to usually look at yourself with such a tender lens. Keep trying, and feel free to let me know how the experience goes!
What is in Store for The Tending Year?
I’ll be blending my updates about my four goals with reviews of podcasts, books, and blogs–especially when I find an idea that is super helpful! I’m currently reading Gabrielle Bernstein’s Spirit Junkie and Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, so you can look forward to reflections on those. Also, I am THRILLED to be taking part in Kate Snowise’s Reconnect and Reboot Workshop Series in January! I’ll definitely be posting on The Tending Year about that experience! If you don’t know Kate, I strongly encourage you to check out her podcast, Here to Thrive.
I’ll be covering topics this year such as: time management, financial literacy, bootstrapping, saying yes/saying no, the stories we tell ourselves, values, setting and achieving goals, budgeting and paying off credit cards, self care, failure, dealing with discomfort, journaling, setting habits, and much more.
Next week’s post will break down an exercise I’ve been practicing for a month that has helped me to positively streamline my decision making by connecting it to my values.
One last thing! If you’d like to, please follow my Instagram for The Tending Year: @thetendingyear and check back each Monday for a new post about tending!
 idea borrowed from Brooke McAlary
*Please note that the original version of this post was published here.
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