I thought that it might be useful to do a post explaining what it is I mean by taking on a yearly theme and what that enquiry means to me. I hope that it will be the useful kind of post that means others can take up the idea if they wish – it’s certainly not mine, I’ve seen it in a dozen different places and ways; this is just my way.
Some people do resolutions, sometimes they’re at the beginning of the calendar year, at birthdays or other siginificant points. (Mine used to run from Swancon to Swancon – annual, but not really specifically a year between them.)
What’s the point? Or, why might you do this?
It gives you a chance to take an opportunity to spend an extended length of time on one aspect of your life that you’d like to concentrate on. It may be something that you feel is missing, or not working. Or, it may be something that you feel particularly passionate about or interested in. Whatever ‘pings’ as significant to you, is worth considering for this.
I find that when I stumble on the thing that is right for me to spend a year thinking on, that there’s an inner sense of knowing. Something just feels ‘right’ about it. I’m inclined to call this intuition and run with it, your mileage may vary.
The point is doing it and that if you’re doing it, there’s something to be gained. It may be that you get better picking your themes – I have. I’ve certainly realised that if I pick something that I think I ‘know’ what it will be about, that I learn far more than I expected and that invariably, what I thought I knew is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. However it happens… is fine. This is your space and it only needs to work for you.
So, pick a theme. Something that resonates with you inwardly and maybe ‘pings’ in your brain somehow. Think about it. Think about it a lot – you can write about it in a private journal too if you wish. Also, talk to those you trust most about it. Talk to those who know you best. Share your thoughts and feelings, your doubts and wonderings about it. The conversation builds the shape of the enquiry.
Not everyone is socially minded or inclined to share such personal things, so don’t feel that this is necessary – do what works for you and adapt as necessary. Have it work for you, because that is the point. You know yourself and if the thought of journaling bores you, or the thought of sharing these kinds of thoughts with others is horrifying, don’t do it.
But think about it. In depth and let your mind open it up like a many layered parcel. I think that the children’s birthday party game ‘Pass the Parcel’ is apt as a metaphor here. Every time the parcel makes it’s way around the circle (otherwise known as your brain), you know something new about it.
Take all those things and write something down as a beginning. Talk about your theme and what it means to you. Identify aspects or elements, even specific goals that form part of what you’ve come up with for your theme. You can do this privately or publically as I have, but it’s really up to you. I’ve gotten to have some of the most meaningful and heartfelt conversations with people asking me about my themes, and that’s incrediibly validating.
Don’t overthink this. It’s an enquiry – it will tick over in the back of your mind. It will be part of what your subconscious is doing in many ways. You may have picked specific and very visible things to happen and let those happen, but don’t stress overmuch about it. In putting the enquiry in motion, it has a life of its own and rest assured it is happening.
Do the obvious things you’ve set and do your best not to over-engineer the other things happening. Instead, notice what is happening around you. What challenges come up, what ways in which you win at life, adulthood – or anything really. Noticing is part of the point. Just let yourself pay attention to your feelings and thoughts.
After a time be it a month or six or ten, you can check in with the enquiry and the things you identified as being part of that year’s theme. Talk about what you struggled with, what you felt you achieved and the expected and unexpected things you noticed. Again, you can do this privately just for yourself or in some measure of public post/discussion.
Finally, toward the end of the year, revisit your preliminary check in thoughts. Think about where you’re at now with the year coming to a close. Think about what you’ve learned overall about the enquiry over the course of the year. Consider what you’re going to take into the future with you and what you’re going to leave behind. This is a chance to evaluate and process as an ending point to the current year’s theme.
Around the same time as you’re winding up for the current year, you begin to think about the new year. It’s the same sort of process as I described above as a beginning. Let it happen and don’t worry too much if it doesn’t seem obvious. If the ‘perfect’ thing doesn’t occur to you, whatever you do pick, will still be worthwhile considering for the year.
Also, while I tend to do enquiries that are year-long, you can adjust as feels right for you – quarterly, half yearly, monthly, really whatever feels right for you. It’s yours.
So, the summary or ‘tl:dr’ version:
- Pick a theme, pick something that resonates with where you’re at right now.
- Think about it and find out what it means to you, then write about it either privately or in some public form including what elements or actions, even goals characterise the enqiry.
- Don’t think about it too much as the year goes on. Trust that it’s happening beneath the surface, and appreciate what you notice as time passes as well.
- Do a check in post, or several – whatever works for you. Again, this can be private or shared.
- Review and evalutate what you got out of the theme, consider what you know now that you didn’t before, or what changed, what shifed or what you learned. Write about it, privately or shared and create an end point so that you can be open to a new beginning point.
- Rinse and repeat as works on the cycle best for you. Trial and error encouraged!
Also, feel free to ask any questions in the comments.