The year of living gently

Set up the scaffolding you need to be successful
January 18, 2023

During a recent meeting of CEOs, the idea of 2023 being “the year of living gently” came up. Stemming from the Lunar Year of the Rabbit, this concept resonated deeply.

In Q1, I routinely hear a desire to “finally make this the year I truly take care of myself.” This intention is placed on top of a list of personal and professional shifts to make. One executive outlined her list, pronouncing that, should her desired changes all come online this year, she would be a member of the group “for life.” 

I tend to play a similar number on myself. My professional milestones co-mingle with my desire to become healthier, adopt daily practices that ground me, improve my sleep, and lower my BMI. These priorities sit on top of supporting my family financially, shepherding teenagers through the middle and high school years, and spending time with aging parents.

Reading through this list of priorities for the year, it doesn’t sound like living gently! In fact, it sounds like the opposite – living aggressively, with overwhelm being the norm. In short, not how I want to be. 

What options are available – to me, and to you – should you find yourself in a similar conundrum? How can we sharpen the focus for a year we are already well into? 

To start, defining what practices make up “living gently” for you can help. Here are four practices that can be building blocks:

Turning compassion inward – Once a source of pride to be busy 24×7, now when I hear others say, “Wow, you’ve got a lot going on,” I am reminded to take stock of my priorities and cut myself some slack. With the intensity we live in daily, it’s helpful to remember that we’re asking a lot of ourselves. One of my favorite questions to ask my executive clients when they are frustrated with a co-worker is, “What is the compassionate view?” They then take a moment to change their perspective and come from a more accepting place in trying to understand the frustrating behavior they are experiencing from the other person. What if we turned that compassionate lens on ourselves? 

Making self-care a part of your daily routine – My life works best when I rise at the same time each day, sit with a few minutes of guided meditation or self-guided alternate nostril breathing, followed by a bit of Qigong, and then Morning Pages. The whole ritual takes just 30 minutes, and occurs before I check my email or let any other influence into my consciousness. Whether it’s a skin care regimen, a Peloton workout, or a short walk outside, embedding a healthy habit into your schedule – even if you feel you don’t have time to devote to it – puts a stake in the ground for you and helps you return to center. Over time it gets easier to carve time out for it.

Sharing what’s important to you, regularly – Saying things privately to ourselves is one thing; declaring our intentions out loud to others is quite another. Telling a friend or thought partner about a plan to run a marathon or write a book immediately increases your chance of success. When others know about your priorities, you can engage them to ask you about it regularly. One of the most underused tools at work is the well-run one-on-one with your boss. How can you use that time to drive your intentional agenda, instead of just reacting to the crisis du jour?  

Harnessing the power of others – Eating empty calories? Consider hiring a meal delivery service for 90 days, saving time while improving your well-being. Ready for your next career move? Engage a career coach – or resume writer –- to guide you through the process. Not everything has to cost money. Want to increase your exercise but keep putting it off? Enroll a workout buddy. Sometimes all that stands between us and what we truly desire is the structure of not having to hold the bag ourselves. 

We live in a complicated world that asks a lot from us, more than ever before. Living gently can feel attractive but elusive. What I’m finding is that living gently requires a willingness to get quiet, confirm your heart’s desire, and then align your actions around those priorities, one step at a time. Although it may feel like a contradiction to slow down to speed up, living gently is a key success strategy to both tackle the complex challenges in front of us, and live the life we long for.

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