The Sisters’ founder, Roz Savage, reflects on the past year and shares her New Year’s Resolutions.
There aren’t many good things about being born on 23 December, at least not in a country that observes Christmas (or some consumerist corruption of it), but one thing I do like about the timing of my arrival on Planet Earth is that it creates a convergence of dates, towards the end of the Gregorian annual cycle, that make it a potent corner of the year for looking back and looking ahead.
It is actually January that is named after Janus, the two-faced god who looks in both directions, but I prefer to do my annual review and planning in December so I can tie up the old year in a neat bow and go into the New Year feeling fresh. So somewhere in the period between the shortest day (usually 21 December or thereabouts) and 31 December, I make sure I carve out a couple of days for reflections and resolutions.
If, like me, you sometimes wonder where the last 12 months went, it’s good to find out. So, my first step is to go through my appointments diary and write up a high-level summary of what happened in each month: where I went, what I did, who I met. If you’re artistic, which I’m not, it would be fun to create a pictorial overview of the year or a montage of photographs. By the end of this part of the exercise, you’ll have a better idea of where your time went, and whether it was where you wanted it to go.
Then I read back through my journals for the year. I don’t write my journal every day, but try to keep Friday mornings sacred for a catch-up. What I did is of secondary importance; I’m more interested in how my thoughts have evolved over the course of the year, so I like to note formative conversations, external events, and new ideas that have come to me and what inspired them. It’s also helpful to look out for recurring patterns. Are there some problems, behaviours or conversations that are cropping up time after time? And if so, what do I need to pay attention to in order to break the cycle? Even if the patterns initially appear to come from sources beyond my control, I find it fruitful to consider: “What did I create, promote or allow, for this to happen?”
I glean a lot of ideas from books, most of which I read on the Kindle app on my iPhone. (Apple, Amazon, and Uber are my guilty pleasures.) The great thing about e-books is that I can skim the passages I chose to highlight when I was first reading them, by going to my Amazon notebook. All my highlights are automatically synced up to the Cloud. This exercise refreshes my memory about what books I read, and which passages particularly resonated with me and were duly incorporated into my worldview. Sometimes it’s surprising to find that something that I now regard as a self-evident truth was actually a novel idea just a few months ago – and this also reminds me to be humble and compassionate, to myself and to others, because we’re all works in progress.
When a book or idea has particularly struck me, it’s not unusual for me to share it in a blog post, so I check in on those as well. I confess that I write these blog posts at least as much for myself as for my readers – the discipline of summarising and applying new ideas or information helps to reinforce the new neural connections in my brain. Even if nobody reads my blogs (and I’m grateful to those who do) I would still find them worth doing, as a weekly exercise in essay-writing.
I’m a big fan of mindmaps, so at this point I use an app like iThoughts to sidestep my aforementioned lack of artistic ability, and create a map of important new ideas and how they relate to each other. This could just as easily be done with pen and paper depending on how you like to work. Seeing the ideas in visual form, as well as text, really helps to reinforce the learning. By this point, I’ve got quite a good overview of the last 12 months, and hopefully some sense of having progressed in my personal evolution. Now, it’s time to make some resolutions for the year ahead.
The way I make resolutions has fundamentally changed from what it would have been a few years ago. They used to be something like:
Lose x pounds
Do y speaking engagements
Run a marathon
You’ll notice that these are all outcomes. These days, I’m more interested in good habits, consistently applied. Now the emphasis is on the way that I “be” every day, rather than what I “do”. I find this works much better for me, because it’s about the way I show up in the world and something I can control, rather than external results, which I can’t.
So, the above would translate to, for example:
Eat a healthy, plant-based diet
Read two mind-expanding books per month to add depth to my offerings as a speaker
Create a six-month running programme and stick to it
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a long-term vision for where you want to be by the end of the year – in fact, this can be the inspiration and motivation to keep you going on a daily basis – but in my view, that vision absolutely has to be tied to a regular daily or weekly practice that will keep you on track. If discipline hasn’t been your strong suit in the past, enlist support. Reach out to a Sister and ask her to hold you accountable. It really helps to know that even just one other person cares about whether or not you keep your promise to yourself. And ask if you can do the same for her.
Socrates took the view that “the unexamined life is not worth living”, which is just a tad dogmatic, but overall I agree that it is worth taking some time to step back from the minutiae and look at the bigger picture of where you’ve come from and where you’re going.
A final – and very important – recommendation. Be compassionate with yourself. If you see recurring patterns in your behaviour that are causing problems, avoid lapsing into “I always” or “I never”. These are unlikely to be true. Reframe your thinking to “in the past I have [done unconstructive thing], and from now on I will [do constructive thing]” or “I haven’t yet [achieved goal], but when I [take positive action] I will [achieve goal]”. The language that we use to ourselves is often so unkind compared with what we would say to anybody else, and beating ourselves up does not serve us. Find the exceptions, and focus on the positive. Make it a practice every day to be grateful to yourself for the ways in which you have followed through on your resolutions – or at least to be grateful that tomorrow you will have another chance to get it right!
None of us know what 2019 might bring. Often the world can feel turbulent and stormy. No matter what happens externally, we can ensure that we keep ourselves shipshape, calm, and clear about who we are and how we want to show up every day – as beacons of sanity and serenity in a world that sometimes seems to have gone mad.
Roz Savage MBE is the first woman to row solo across the ‘Big Three’ oceans: Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian. Her adventures raised awareness of environmental issues, as a result of which she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen. She now writes and lectures on global challenges, sustainability, and the urgent need for change in the collective human narrative. Having herself made the journey from bystander to activist, Roz passionately believes that women have a unique and crucial role to play in creating a better future, and that every woman has the potential to find her inner leader.