When I think back on the month of October, I am a bit baffled by how much actually occurred in just one month. I personally experienced a lot in just a mere 31 days! Several destination weddings, budding work assignments, my son's accident, a nasty bout of sickness - all in the midst of a month where I was attempting significant lifestyle change. There were so many times during the past month where I felt the temptation to let go of my Intentional October goals because I was just exhausted by all the life going on around me. There were so many "good" reasons why I could have/should have - but I felt an urgency to keep going. To do my best, even if I slipped up a little here or there.
I learned some mini lessons along the way, like putting my phone away at 8:30pm, because it makes for a more peaceful, focused evening for family time. Like putting lemon in my gigantic Nalgene of water, because that makes it more palatable first thing in the morning. Oh, and one of my favorites - if a task takes me under one minute to complete, like cleaning up a few dishes after lunch or putting my shoes and purse away when I get home, go ahead and do it. It makes for less compounded amounts of work later on in the day. I learned these little things by really focusing on my day, seeing where I was losing time and being pulled away from my intentions. But these were just little things - I want to share a few of my big takeaways from this experimental month.
1. I am a Powerful Person.
I am capable of a great deal.
It's taken me a loooong time to adjust to life with a baby, and it's taken me even longer to figure out how to do my own life after taking care of all his needs first. It's an exhausting, emotional, never ending merry-go-round of making sure that my son Everett has all his needs met, and then, Stevie's too, and oh yeah, maybe a few of mine here or there. But in October, I took the time to focus on what I really want (which were these very basic, tactical goals) and prioritizing them helped me actually do what needed to be done. I was able to be more productive, more active and more energized because I was actually getting my goals accomplished, little by little. And it made me realize that I'm not only a powerful person, but I've always been a powerful person. I'm just now figuring out how to exert my strength in a way that first and foremost covers my family, but still leaves lots of energy for my goals to be followed through. And discovering my power, especially in this demanding season of life - that is a treasure. I'm proud of me.
2. ... but I am only a Person.
It's impossible to discover strength without uncovering portholes of personal weakness.
In the midst of all the exhilarating strides forward, there were times this month where I was just tired. There were times where I was overwhelmed by the life occurring in my household, times where I was crazy scared (like when I stayed up all night in the ER with my baby son), and times where I was faced with hard choices. Those times made it difficult to see the point of Intentional October. I knew that it was important to me, but in those extenuating circumstances, it certainly didn't seem to matter as much. I was just trying to keep my head above water.
I think that's okay. That's real life. Midway through the month I shared about having grace on myself, because truly, that grace helped me stop punishing myself for stumbling a bit and actually keep me going towards my goals. I could have just gotten bummed for staying up late a few nights in a row and just quit Intentional October all together. But instead, I just forgave myself for not being absolutely perfect, and kept going. And you know what? I'm more proud of that than for actually hitting all my targets head-on. Learning how to handle life's ups and downs is easier said than done. But I am doing it.
3. In order to DO MORE, I must DO LESS.
It's a simple exchange.
Honestly, when I started Intentional October, I had no idea how I was going to make my goals happen. I had a plan, but I was nervous about trying to do SO MANY new things all at once. I didn't want to set myself up for failure, but I also knew that I needed a shock to my system. And over the course of the month, I learned that trying a lot of new things at once isn't impossible, not at all, but it meant that I had to take away some things. In order to add new habits to my life, I had to remove old habits. In order to read more books, I had to watch less TV. In order to wake up earlier, I had to go to bed earlier. In order to drink more water, I had to drink less coffee. Oh let's be honest, I think I figured out a way to drink the same amount of coffee. Maybe even more, with all those early mornings! But this was an interesting discovery, the whole "to do more, you must do less" revelation. Which kind of leads to the next takeaway:
4. Say No.
Go ahead. Do it. It's gooooooood for you.
I'm a bible banger. Matthew 5:37 says, "Let your yes be YES. Let your no be NO." For me, this verse is so relevant. When I tried to say YES to everything that sounded good this past month, I was overwhelmed with chaos and to-do's. I realized that I can't say too many yes-es. But what worked really well was saying NO. When I said no to things, even good things that I wanted to say yes to - I felt a sense of peace and ownership over my life and my time. A firm NO meant that I could say a triumphant YES to something else. And saying NO just relieved me in so many ways. I had to cancel plans, I had to tell people that I love "no" to things that sounded great - but by doing that, I maintained a peace that was better for me AND for my people. Actively letting my yes be YES and my no be NO made me stronger, more peaceful and much more intentional.
5. Remember the "Why".
It's the driver behind every menial and magnetic action you take.
Why did I attempt change in October in the first place? I've had to remind myself. It's an important driver in the whole goal-making and goal-keeping process. I attempted change in October because in September, I was in a funk. And I am responsible for me. So anytime I got frustrated or overwhelmed this past month (or when I said too many yes-es and not enough no's), I had to take a deep breath and remind myself WHY I was doing all of this. For my own emotional health. For my own personal goals to be fulfilled. To be happy and healthy and to have an abundance of energy and love for myself and my family.
The Stuff of an Intentional Life.
Learning that I'm a powerful human, but still human, is an illuminating truth that is best lived out loud. Here I am, in all my messy vulnerable glory, sharing with you that I am not perfect. And I am perfectly fine with it. My flaws make me real, my yearning makes me real, my humanism might be weak but my spirit is strong strong strong. My penchant for tardiness makes me immature. But my attempt at being early, not just on time; well, eventually I am going to own that life skill. And I will be the girl that is known for respecting everyone so much because I was ON TIME for their thing. That's what this Intentional October month has taught me. It's not about being perfect, it's not about being the most militant, religiously disciplined person on the planet, but it is about creating a healthy structure that I can springboard from. If I'm in the habit of going to bed super early and waking up super early, all to attack that to-do list before my son arises - well, then from time to time, I will be able to deviate from that structure. When life just happens. And I will be able to bounce back into it more quickly.
I am excited to keep moving forward! I have seen so much positive personal change and growth this past month, that I feel like it's been a year! I am adopting these habits from here on out, because I love them. When I hit all of them in one day, I feel like a total rock star. And if I don't hit all of them everyday, I am still a rock star. I am pretty thrilled, because all this effort seems to be paying off. I've scored a handful of freelance writing gigs that I wouldn't have had the time/energy/capacity for in the previous months. But as many of you know, I love writing (obviously, hello, blogger), and I am thrilled for the opportunity to challenge and grow myself in this area. So thank YOU for your support, camaraderie and encouragement during this past month. It's been an enormous source of sustenance.
I want to hear about your experiences! So many of you shared with me as you were going along, and I want to know how your Intentional October goals finished up for you. Did you feel good about the changes you made? Did you feel like you fumbled them? Either way, you are a ROCK STAR. Talk to me, friends! XOX
P.S. - Interested in what Intentional October is all about? Check out why I decided to get intentional in October, the tactics and goals I challenged myself with, and my first week, second week, and third week progress reports :)