As a girl, I cherished the diary I kept. It was the kind with a tiny lock and key, whose security was solely in the owner's imagination. I wrote many silly things in that diary that I prayed would not be read by anyone. It was a place for me to express my feelings freely. Those daily journal entries would be the building blocks of my love of writing.
I've had many journals over the years, and often the time between entries grew so far apart it made more sense to set it aside and start a new journal. As it seems every writer does, I have a stash of blank notebooks at the ready. Writing on that first page is exhilarating. A mental clean slate to create a new story for your life.
As it was for millions of people, 2020 was an extremely challenging year for me. My beloved mother passed away in January, and I was only beginning to process my loss when the COVID-19 outbreak hit. The world was suddenly sheltering in place, and I felt my own world closing in around me. Again, I set aside my journal and decided instead to write poetry to process my anxieties.
In December, I was feeling the need for a new mindset. I'm not one to make yearly resolutions, but I wanted to create a thoughtful plan for 2021. A fellow writer suggested the Artist of Life Workbook by Lavendaire, and I decided to give it a try. It's esthetically pleasing, with its pastel yellow or blue cover and elegant fonts and layout, but the true beauty of this workbook lies in the practical content found in its pages.
This workbook is aptly named as it inspires the journalist to do the work of self-reflection and goal-setting in both your personal and professional life. Its purpose is to create a holistic plan for the coming year, focusing on goals that will help you succeed at the speed of balance. Before you move forward, you are encouraged to say goodbye to the previous year and review key moments, what worked and what didn't, and what you'd like to do differently in the new year. It was just what I was looking for.
Three months in, and I'm kind of addicted to using it. The goal-setting and habit tracking are real stand-outs for me. I love a checklist! However, the self-reflection section, which comprises the first half of the book, has been a joy to complete. More than once, I've had to carefully consider my answers and dig deep to assess my hopes and fears.
The first quarter check-in was a place to celebrate wins and be honest about goals that were adjusted or not completed at all. It was a mental letting-go of the first three months of the year and taking those learnings forward to the next three months. I found that even the short-comings didn't sting so bad in light of all that I'd accomplished and that created an excitement for the next quarter's goals and plans.
Who can say what the rest of 2021 has in store for the world? In my neck of the woods, COVID-19 infections are still on the rise and we are heading back into a full lockdown. Regardless of the things I cannot control, I feel cautiously optimistic about the future, and I suspect it is because I'm putting my plans on the page. I'm also giving myself a chance to fail so I can learn to honour my own reality and focus on the wins, even if they are small ones.
If you are looking for a mindful path through 2021, here are some tools that might help:
The 9 Best Self-Journals of 2021 by Spruce