My New Year's resolutions were starting to feel like dreams deferred.
The year is almost over, and the holiday season is looming. I don't know about you, but with all the shopping, cocktail parties, and more shopping, my life usually goes on autopilot from now through early January.
I wanted this year to be different. I had to try to complete my most important goals of 2017: commit to a financial plan, drop these pesky 10 pounds, and, most importantly, write the first three chapters of my romance novel. I vowed not to bring this year's failed intentions forward into 2018.
"I know what I'm going to do," I said one recent evening, chatting with a girlfriend over a glass of bubbly. "This is going to be a 'No-vember.' "
"Come again?" she said.
I explained: During the month of November, I pledge not to give into the twin demons: Fear of Missing Out and Fear of Disappointing Everyone. In November, I pledge to say No to invitations and obligations I'm not 100 percent enthusiastic about so I can accomplish what I want.
For me that means no flitting around after work to specialty store openings and book signings. As much as I love getting my namaste on to Nas beats, it also means goodbye spur-of-the moment evening yoga classes. And, alas, I'm gonna have to pass on the impromptu happy hours — at least for now.
The bottom line is I have to say "no" in November so I can say "yes" to my life's big picture. I gotta say "no" to distractions so I can say "yes" to my passions. Adios, random goings-on. Hello, inner desires. It's time I get to really know Elizabeth.
So, in addition to my No month, it's also my Know month. To keep this self-actualization journey positive, I'm dedicating myself to a Know-vember.
LaVerne Adams, a Philadelphia-based life transformation coach and owner of Total Life Consultancy says I'm on to something.
"When you say 'no' to something, it's important that you immediately turn around and say 'yes' to something else," says Adams. "It's important that you lead with the, 'yes,' because psychologically we are opposed to 'noes,' It means sacrifice, giving up. But what you are really saying is 'yes' to what really fuels you."
For most of us November marks the beginning of the busiest and most selfless time of year. The focus is on food, family, fun — oh, and food.
That, says positive psychology expert Pax Tandon, is good for us. After all, humans thrive on social connections. They improve our overall sense of happiness.
The problem, Tandon explains, is that we get so caught up in the giving and doing, we end up entangled in a web of obligations. "The whole season becomes an excuse for us to mentally check out on ourselves," Tandon says.
She's right about that. I don't know about you, but I typically don't get a chance to do any self-reflection until New Year's Eve. And by then I'm fried, frazzled, overwhelmed, and behind the eight ball.
I spoke to about half a dozen Philadelphia-based life coaches and they were all on board with my Know-vember concept. It is a good idea, they said, because it will help me jump-start some new habits, like sticking to a budget. And, they all agree, it will train me to take advantage of the present moment.
"I love Know-vember as a way to build resolve about making choices," Tandon said when I ran my idea by her. "As you prepare for the chaos, you will bring balance into your life and build the muscle you need to help you get clear about what you really want."
Sound like a good idea to you? Why don't you join me? Starting today, the moment you realize you are getting too caught up in life's busywork — racing to the neighborhood potluck from the kids' soccer practice with no time in between for yourself — stop!
Instead, look up those green smoothie recipes for Monday's breakfast and lunch. Reorganize that closet. Heck, light a candle and draw a bath.
It may feel selfish at first, but don't sweat it, because once December rolls around you can ease back into do-gooder mode. For now you'll have a purpose.
How will Know-vember work?
As with any self-actualization plan, one must first set an intention.
"The intention becomes the why," Adams said, "the conscious reason that drives your decisions. This is how your 'no' becomes a 'yes.' "
My intention is to write the first three chapters of my novel.
Then, says Joe DiBianca, a South Philadelphia-based mind-set coach, you must accept that "every time you say, 'yes' when you really want to say 'no,' you are giving your power away."
This, DiBianca says, will help you get serious about your choices.
That's hard enough when you are turning down a glass of wine with the girls, but what about Thanksgiving — that feel-good holiday that tugs at our please-the-whole-family heartstrings? The sausage stuffing alone can throw me off my game.
This is where self-compassion and intuition become key, says Center City-based life coach Jennifer Blaine.
If your heart flutters with glee at the idea of hosting a cookie bake-off for all the children in your family, then by all means do it, Blaine says. That flutter "is your body's way of telling you that you are being kind to you," Blaine said.
"But if your stomach drops at the thought of yet another moms' meeting — even if it's about your organization's Christmas toy program for needy kids — skip it. Do something for you. You can always donate in December.
"You will be giving yourself the ultimate gift," Blaine says. "Your time and your compassion."
The next step is to make a plan that will help you reach your goals.
Remember those 10 pounds I've been trying to lose all year? Jennifer Dent Brown, a Philly-based health and wellness coach whose specialty is helping her clients maintain a healthy weight, is offering a free clean-eating plan on her website, JenniferDent.com/holiday.
Starting this Wednesday — the day after Halloween — Dent will post recipes rich in veggies, whole grains, and lean meats to prepare on the four days following Halloween, the four days before and after Thanksgiving, and the four days after Christmas.
"Then you don't have to worry [about the holiday weight gain] and you can really enjoy your holiday," Dent says. I'm on board.
Last, suggests yoga coach and mindfulness expert Jennifer Schelter, let go of expectations. That means resist the urge to participate in the manufactured razzle-dazzle of the season — including the Black Friday sales.
Instead, use the Friday after Thanksgiving to make lists and think of smaller gifts that will show your loved ones how much you appreciate them. Isn't that what the season is all about?
"It's about making the best little choices for ourselves," Tandon says. "Once we get diligent about them, our Know-vembers can turn into Deliberate Decembers."
I really like the sound of that.