It’s time to do a check in, tenderhearts.

Did you pick a word or theme for 2019 in January? If you remember, way back in the very first post of the 2019, I identified my theme word for this year: garden. In that post, I wrote why this theme was the best one for my 2019:

When I visualize the garden of my responsibilities, my goals, my practices, and my passions, I see rows of living things, all requiring tending and intention. However, I do not currently tend them equally or with the type of intention they individually deserve. Some parts of my life get tons of attention, and some are just kind of growing wild out there somewhere in the shade.

The plants in my life garden require different methods of care.

Some will need daily attention, some require me to make important decisions, some will only thrive with patience. And I want to learn this year how to tend the garden of my life well.

Now that we’re four months into 2019, I want to check in on what’s working, what could be improved, and what I’ve learned so far from theming my year. In what follows, I ask and answer some key questions so I can guide you through reflecting and refining how you want your theme to carry you through the rest of your year.

Reflection: Past, Present, Future

I’d like to guide you through my reflection process around my own theme, garden, so you can see how the check in process works. The aim of these reflection questions is to help you identify your strengths, stumbles, goals, and hopes, as well as making a list of achievable and practical next steps per your individual theme.

1) Why did I choose my theme?

I hoped that theming my year’s path garden would help me to practice reprioritizing my energy output. Specifically, I wanted the garden metaphor to help me (1) work smarter, not harder; (2) incorporate more creativity into my life; and (3) feel more intentional and mindful in how I made choices.

2) What did my theme mean to me when I first chose it?

Garden meant hope for organization and for doing the things that really mattered. I chose this word because I was aware my resources were being pulled in disparate directions and I wanted to make conscious choices about how I expended them. It meant I would practice setting boundaries, healing, and reevaluating my priorities, especially around work.

3) What does my theme mean to me now?

Garden still shows me that I have disparate pulls for my tending, but I have grown to think about it more of a path that leads to nourishment when I approach it with mindfulness and awareness that my actions have consequences.

4) What has my approach to my theme been?

I’ve brought in more inspiration and daily reminders to follow the approach I want to take. Because I might struggle to remember “garden garden garden” when I am in a situation where I have to make a decision, I’ve been relying on memorable mantras, such as “it’s okay,” “do your best,” and “do a good enough job.” Similarly, I’ve been creating vision spaces that remind me to stay mindful and make the kind of intentional choices that will lay out a favorable path in front of me. Here’s an example of both in action, the vision wall I constructed in my bedroom:

a banner that says

I have also been shifting my habits to help me drink more water, take more breaks, and create art. I themed April “The Month of No” so that I would intentionally rest more and practice protecting my time and energy.

5) What lessons has my theme taught me?

My practice has been working okay, but I think it could improve with more focus on intention. I know that seeking some mythic conception of “balance” won’t tie a pretty bow on the issues that caused me to seek the theme of garden, and instead I think actively engaging with intention will enable me to make better decisions. I also learned that my perspective truly affects my experiences. Finally, I have been doing intense healing work, and I am humbly seeing the fruits of that labor.

6) What do I want my theme to look like in my life moving forward?

Again: more intention. I want garden to mean watching how I expend and tend to my personal resources. I want to manifest more growth and beauty in my life.

7) What are practical actions I can take, shifts I can make, or intentions I can set to manifest more with my theme?

I can garden with more intention by…taking an art class, experiencing more creativity, leaving blank space in my days (don’t fully schedule them in the first place and don’t fill them up when something is cancelled), actively being closer with my best friends and Sweetie, saving money for my future, stretching and healing my body, protecting the time I spend writing my dissertation.

8) How do I feel when I think of my theme now that I’ve checked in?

I feel energized and hopeful. I want to approach my growth through a hope and love versus fear mindset, with enough personal resources in reserve at all times so that I can cope with the lows and be present for the wins. I feel more grounded and have a clear focus: intention.


If you haven’t chosen a theme or word for your year yet, you are always welcome to do so now! My 2.1: Why You Should Theme Your Year post guides you through the process of narrowing and selecting a theme that lines up with your values and goals.

Similarly, if you’re finding that your theme just isn’t working for you, or you feel a yearning for a different one, it is okay to scrap your original and choose another. There is no rule that says you need to only use one theme for a whole year; perhaps you want to use a different theme for each quarter of your year? Or a different aspect of your theme each month? (Gretchen Rubin does this in The Happiness Project.)  

List of Reflection Questions

You can download a printable PDF of the reflection questions hereAnswer them in order and in as much or little detail as you like. Be honest and take your timethis is decidedly not a competition! Once you finish, I suggest that you transfer your answers to question 7 on a list to hang on your wall or keep on a sticky on your compter background. Your goal will be to manifest your theme word through action.


  1. Why did I choose my theme?
  2. What did my theme mean to me when I first chose it?
  3. What does my theme mean to me now?
  4. What has my approach to my theme been?
  5. What lessons has my theme taught me?
  6. What do I want my theme to look like in my life moving forward?
  7. What are practical actions I can take, shifts I can make, or intentions I can set to manifest more with my theme?
  8. How do I feel when I think of my theme now that I’ve checked in?

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