The year 2022 was life-changing for me. It was a year of facing fears, taking risks, and making a long-time dream come true. Sixteen years after getting my undergraduate degree in 2006, I decided to take the plunge and wear my student hat again.
Around the same time last year, I was busy compiling my university documents at the height of a new COVID-19 variant spreading, taking the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) home edition, seeking recommendation letters, and having my transcript of records converted to US standards. On top of my work, I was secretly applying for my dream graduate school abroad.
At 37, I did not know if I still had what it takes to survive a rigorous academic program. I have no idea how I conquered and powered through the lingering self-doubt and imposter syndrome. I just knew that I repeatedly asked myself if I still have the physical energy to pull all-nighters or enough time for a full year of study. Looking back, what worked for me was intentional planning that began the previous year (2021).
As early as grade school, I have been writing down goals at the start of the year. My life planning involved a long list of what are commonly known as New Year’s resolutions. Yes, I was also one of those who vowed to make changes that did not even make it to February (Promising to avoid chocolate and other sweets did not even last for a week!). From an estimated list of ten resolutions, achieving one or two has been the norm, with hundreds of excuses in between. Time after time, I failed to follow through on a lot of things I swore I would do. I just grew tired of the pattern. Eventually, the moment I became more realistic and dropped the list of resolutions to focus on just one or two, I began noticing a positive difference.
Here are three powerful quotes that became my game-changers:
“A year from now, you may wish you had started today.” This quote attributed to author Karen Lamb gave me a preview of regret waiting on the other end if I do not take action. This is perfectly aligned with quotes I came across online – an anonymous one that constantly reminds me to do something today that my future self will thank me for and another by hockey player Wayne Gretzky that says “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
“There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” With several failed attempts to create habits all at once under my belt, this quote said to have been dropped by the late bishop and theologian Desmond Tutu, made so much sense. When a goal tends to be daunting, breaking it down into more manageable tasks is the key. A case in point is looking at goals on a yearly view and mapping them out into weekly and daily.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Business magnate Henry Ford captured the essence of believing in one’s capabilities. 2021 meant working on myself and addressing limiting beliefs I have accumulated in my subconscious. I am still a work-in-progress, with constant bouts of self-doubt, but I have a better relationship with myself that allows me to embrace my flaws and opportunities simultaneously.
For 2023, I am still in the process of finding a theme. This idea, as easily described by content creator and lifestyle designer Aileen Xu of Lavendaire, simply entails finding a word that will determine the all-encompassing energy you want to experience the whole year (eg. Nourish, Recover, etc.). The other powerful prompts I learned from her are: How do I embody my theme this year? What do I want to release in 2023?, and How do I want to evolve in 2023?
As a saying goes, “You get what you focus on, so focus on what you want.” Having a simple yet powerful theme will be a quick guide to assess intentions and initiate a series of actions. It should ignite joy, kilig and, passion from within. With these things in place and many of us becoming active goal-getters, 2023 has the makings of something bigger and better.
The author is entering her second semester of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania. For your random thoughts, e-mail her at [email protected].