Last New Year’s day, I wrote a blog post where I talked about my theme for 2017, which was how I spend my time and energy matters. This theme was important to me because I had been spending so much of my time and energy on things that drained me and left me joyless and miserable. I had been so caught up in living up to others’ expectations, I forgot about my own expectations. I forgot life was not about proving, which only leads to a fragmented self, but was about existing as a whole human being.
So, this past year, I spent more time with family and friends. I showed up when they needed me because I had my priorities in order. I didn’t rush to keep pace with this racing world, but instead kept pace with my natural rhythms. I spent more time reading and writing – two of my favorite things. I took more time to snuggle with my pug because life is short, especially for dogs. I gave my energy to this blog and its readers because that’s what makes me feel alive.
None of that was easy, though. It took intention. My brain was constantly telling me something else was more important. My brain was constantly telling me to hurry. Even now, sitting here writing this blog post, my brain is telling me all the things I should be doing instead. Nevertheless, when my brain is trying to throw me off track, I simply take a deep breath and keep doing what I know is the best use of my time and energy. Like in meditation, when your mind wanders, you gently pull your thoughts back to your breath.
Towards the end of 2017, I started thinking about my theme for 2018 and something kept coming up. I realized I was prone to conformation bias that stemmed from a fear of vulnerability. Whenever something would start chipping away at what I had always understood to be truth or “just the way things are,” I would quickly slink back into the comforts of my biases like an earthworm retreating to the safety of its hole.
I’ve never liked the feeling of vulnerability, the battleground of the unknown, the mental and emotional earthquake shifting the ground beneath my feet. It’s disconcerting to say the least.
But it’s also necessary.
We’ve all been handed beliefs and notions about the way things are, and many of us, myself included, have held on to them out of fear. Somewhere along the way we were given the message: if we let go, we’ll fall forever. If we refuse to believe, it will be our demise.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true. If we hold tight to only that which we know or are comfortable with, we most certainly hurt ourselves. And worse yet, we hurt others when we refuse to be open, to listen and to learn. We rob ourselves and others of the very thing that vulnerability is here to give us – connection.
So my theme for 2018 is learn about the other – “the other” being anything or anyone that is different or unknown to me. In a world polarized by fear of the other, I want to stand in the gap. Because when enough people stand in the gap, the gap disappears.
Learning about the other is going to look like reading books I wouldn’t normally read, or listening to podcasts I wouldn’t normally listen to, or having conversations and asking questions when my brain is telling me to shut down.
It’s going to look like humility, but it’s also going to look like daring greatly.
The realization I came to in 2017 was I needed to spend 2018 leaning in to vulnerability, despite my fears. Fear has its place and its place is not between me and learning. Fear is a follower – it will follow me around the rest of my life – but I am the leader. I get to tell fear when to take a seat because I’ve got this! I get to tell fear, “Not this year!” And I get to let vulnerability do the necessary work of connecting my heart and mind to the world around me.
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