Next year, take it week by week
A special gift, from me to you 🎁
One of the slightly annoying things about writing a real-time newsletter like this one is that I sometimes have to eat my words. I’ll publish something like last week’s essay, putting it out into the universe that I’m content with my life, despite it feeling smaller and having fewer opportunities to do fun things. And the universe will respond with, “Hold my beer.”
I had plans to travel to North Carolina last Friday for a weekend getaway with some dear friends from high school, a group fondly known as “the Sunshines.” But on Thursday—just two days after I published that post about how good life feels right now—my daughter woke up with a fever and a stomach bug. I followed not long after.
In an eerily and unfairly similar situation to the weekend trip that was canceled when I got COVID, I had to scrap plans to reunite with my friends. For those of you keeping score at home, this means I still haven’t gotten to enjoy a weekend away from parenting duties since becoming a mom. Womp womp.
But this is not a “poor me” post. Am I bummed? Yes. Am I desperate for some time away? Hell yes! Am I frustrated? You bet. But I also recognize how much privilege and how many blessings I have. Even with this cruel twist from the universe, I still feel pretty content in life right now. I don’t take that for granted.
I did want to share this story, though, because it’s a great example of what I planned to write today’s newsletter about: You can’t control most things in life. And because we don’t have a say over things like stomach bugs, setting long-term goals can sometimes be difficult to do.
At the start of 2022, Sweet Dumb Brain editor Becca and I decided to take a different approach to New Year’s resolutions. Instead of naming big, ambitious, long-term goals for a year that would undoubtedly be full of twists and turns out of our control, we decided to set smaller, more manageable weekly intentions. Every Monday, we each named a new goal for the week ahead and reflected on how the previous week went. We created a Google Doc to keep track of all of our intentions and reflections, which also served as a place to cheer each other on along the way.
“If all goes well, our 2022 intentions document will be proof of a year well-lived,” I wrote back in January.
It will be a place where we set goals, rooted in kindness and love, and aimed for those things, simply because we want to be kind to and love ourselves. It will be an opportunity to practice forgiveness, flexibility, and optimism during a time when we might feel tempted to give in to negativity.
We have no idea what this year will throw at us. But we can always take things week by week.
A big theme for me this year has been reframing the way I think about time. Oliver Burkeman’s book, Four Thousand Weeks, truly opened my mind to the misguided ways that we tend to measure our limited time on earth. I can’t stop thinking about Kurt Vonnegut’s idea that there are six seasons, not four. And I felt very validated and seen when I stumbled across this thought-provoking blog post from Ross Zurowski, about exploring different ways of measuring time and setting time-based goals.
“It seems like there’s merit to finding more personal ways of chunking out time,” Zurowski wrote. “Especially in an era with such powerful means to represent time, finding novel and more meaningful timescales seems like fertile ground for exploration.”
As of today, Becca and I have reached our 49th intention (and week) of the year. While I’m not entirely sure whether our intentions document is proof of a year well-lived, it is proof of how much we care—about ourselves, about others, and about trying to improve as people.
In 2022, we vowed to do things like lift weights, do yoga, read more regularly, relax, organize our closets, reach out to family members, go on creative dates, and be gentle with ourselves during tough times. Our goals were simple but admirable and, more often than not, we achieved what we aimed to do in a given week. Of course, we did have weeks when we didn’t achieve our intention (or when we forgot to fill out the document entirely!). Those weeks simply presented an opportunity to practice self-compassion.
My favorite part of our intentions document was writing and reading our reflections. Whether it was a week when we declared “I did the thing!” or one when we explained why an intention didn’t happen, we learned a ton about ourselves this year, which is always a win in my book.
There are only three weeks remaining in the year. Before long, it will be time to turn our attention to 2023. I’ll be asking myself the same questions I always ponder: What do I want to do more of? Less? What would make me feel like I’m spending my time wisely?
As Becca and I near the end of our 2022 intentions document, I’ve felt a twinge of sadness. It’s been such a fulfilling experience to set and track so many simple goals, and it’s been doubly fun to do it with a friend. And while we absolutely can (and will!) do it again in 2023, I kept thinking how I wish more people had the opportunity to set loving intentions for themselves each week.
And that’s why I’ve created a customizable weekly intentions document for you to fill out next year!
If you’re a paying subscriber to this newsletter, this guide is one way for me to express my gratitude for your support. I’ve created two versions of this document, accessible using the links below: one that you can fill out on your own, and one you can do with a friend. Choose your own adventure!