When I picked up the watercolors at my kid’s favorite toy store, secretly I was just as excited for my daughter to open them as she was. I had been vying the pearlescent beauties for weeks, and when she decided to spend the money her grandma gifted her with on a different toy — one of those surprise boxes — I was determined that it would not be the end of the watercolor discussion. So, as Christmas approached, I decided they would be a perfect stocking stuffer.
Sure enough, the watercolors were a hit — both with my daughter, and of course, with me! After promising her that I would replace her canvas paper with more and that we could buy more variants of watercolors, she obliged to let me paint whenever I wanted. Thank goodness because it would be my watercolor paintings that would give me the direction I needed for the year ahead.
The year welcomed itself as the New Year rang while I was tucked in bed. While so many people had dreamed of putting 2020 behind us, I knew that for that to happen I needed to be intentional, I needed some deep reflection and I needed some helping doing just that. One of my clients offered a reflection series, so I opted to set aside a few hours for two days to reflect on where I’ve been and on where I want to go.
I had my pen and paper ready for the first virtual reflection call, however I quickly realized that I obviously had the wrong tools to be most effective. Writing is my jam … it’s cathartic and has become my outlet. However, this reflection was meant to take me places that I hadn’t expected to go. While I journaled my responses to the reflection questions that were asked on the first day of this virtual series, I knew that there was more that I could uncover … there was more that needed digging up. But I wasn’t sure how to encourage myself to dig there.
The first day of reflection was focused on the past year. We reflected on the blessings that 2020 provided as well as the challenges that made it most difficult. This seemed easy to answer because many of the challenges are those faced by the masses. But the second day of reflection was focused on being forward thinking. This was the unknown for me, and I needed to up my game. So, I pulled out four canvases and watercolors, poured some of my drinking water into the only small tin I had in my office, dipped my brush into the chilled and filtered water so that I could step back from letting my mind lead the reflection, and instead, I let my hands.
There is something amazing that happens when you step outside of your normal “box” and allow your creativity to work in new and unexpected ways. My hand stroked the simple brush that was made for my 7-year-old’s fingers and I was reinvigorated with an excitement that I hadn’t experienced in years. I was ready even though it all felt so foreign to me.
The facilitator asked the virtual group only four questions. Each question prompted a 12-minute pause, allowing us to reflect on the question and formulate our answers. For me, it gifted me 12 minutes to allow the watercolors to stroke across the canvas and paint a story that my heart was feeling but my head needed to hear. I’d like to take you on my reflection story in hopes that you can pull out your crayons, colored pencils or even your watercolors and possibly listen to your heart’s song instead of the verbiage that your mind tells you. Take an intentional pause and consider each of these questions for yourself for they may, too, provide you the direction you need to conquer 2021 with peace, grace and purpose.
The first question posed pushed us to reflect on what from 2020 are you going to bring forward into this new year. Overall, 2020 is a year many people want to forget, but the truth is that in some of the hardest most challenging circumstances, blessings arise. 2020 wasn’t a year that I want to forget. Sure, there are pieces that were unbearable that I will likely compartmentalize, but the more I reflected — and the more I painted — I was left with a beautiful reminder of the critical pieces of the year that I’ll always hold close.
- For me, the year washed away all of the “want tos” and focused on the “must haves.” I realized that if I have nothing else, I’ll always cherish the love that I have from my family and the love that I freely give to others.
- Five yellow flowers showed up next on my canvas, symbolizing my little family and how 2020 gifted the family back to me. We had to cancel sports practices and even shifted how we school our children, but they are my roots and they are my purpose. Last year reminded me of that.
- The more I painted, the more I realized that it is when I prioritize what is supposed to be first, first, that peace comes on like a wave of comfort. The chaos of the year actually showed me the path to peace, and that’s something I’ll always cherish.
The second question asked was a toughy. Who do you want to be moving forward? I had no clue. I knew what I wanted to do in my business. I knew how I wanted to progress my kids in school. I knew the tasks that I had hoped to accomplish. But who did I want to be? I had no idea. I turned my mind off and put the answer in my hands, literally. As I began to paint, an unexpected rainbow showed up on the canvas, and a series of meaningful words flooded my brain.
- I want to be positive and creative.
- I want to be open and a bright light in the lives of others.
- I want to be unrestricted and free; unapologetic and a risk-taker.
- I want to be anything but dull.
- I want to be memorable.
The third question the facilitator suggested for reflection was a question I didn’t expect to have to answer. Here I had come up with some really energizing thoughts and feelings, but I was pulled back to reality, being asked what is preventing you from dreaming bigger? The facilitator had shared that the box that we live in is usually a box that we put ourselves in. How can we throw away the box and reach higher, dream bigger and fulfill our purpose?
I sat there for a bit — the 12 minutes ticking by — for I didn’t really know why I couldn’t think in bigger and different ways. I put my brush on a new canvas, closed my eyes, and asked myself this really hard question.
- I began by painting the hands on a clock — one pointed to 1 o’clock and the other to 6 o’clock. I realized that this was a symbol of how time restrictions can hold me back, but timing is critical to moving me forward.
- I then painted three eyes, bringing to light that the demands from others can be overbearing and the expectations that they provide can hold me back if I let them.
- A series of question marks reminded me that the unknown is scary, and even though I like to think big, bigger than what I am comfortable with brings anxiety and worry, causing me to fall back into my box of comfort.
- I ended with some clouds and color bursts, which symbolized how my own thoughts and my beliefs on how others see me can cause me to pause and not go further, even though further may be just what I need to do.
The final question seemed so practical, but yet the most challenging of all. What’s the first step in going forward and being who you want to be? I realized later that others in the virtual classroom took this question literally. They shared how they would network or restructure their business and teams to be more effective. They highlighted how they would shift their mindsets or carve out time for ongoing reflection. But my paint brush had a different idea. Instead, it decided to start painting in the middle. And once the middle was covered in the glittery watercolor, a ring was invited around it. More and more rings filled the page until the whole canvas was colored, stemming from the center.
What is the first step? For me, the first step is the next step and the next step is the beginning of the following step. Like a rock tossed in a pond, your first step will become the ripple to the water, helping you reach more, do more, become more, share more. The ripple extends in ways you never knew or will ever know possible. It touches other ripples of steps that others take. It’s independent and yet interconnected. For me, the first step is just the next step, and my painting helped to uncover the single word that I will use as a guide for 2021.
When you think back to what holds you back the most, it’s likely that you don’t have the energy to just give something at try. But it’s the “try” that becomes the catalyst for big things.
Children start off walking by trying.If they never tried, how would they ever have the opportunity to run?
My son never knew how to ride a bike, but it was because he never tried. After some trying and some practice, he now rides with ease.
When my husband and I started dating, he had never really been a cook. It wasn’t because he couldn’t read a recipe. It was because he never tried. Now, he is probably the best cook in our house!
So many people I come in contact with want to write a book. They wonder how I did it and the answer is easy; I just tried. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I didn’t let that stop me from doing something that I dreamed about. I just needed to try.
Trying requires you to take a leap of faith and do something even if it means that it may not be the success you are seeking. It requires you to put aside your limiting beliefs of what you think you can do and try anyway. It is not an outcome; it’s an action. And persistent action is what creates outcomes. Without it, there will never be momentum.
This year, I’m going to try. I am going to try to be the change I think this would needs. I am going to try to bring inspiration into the lives and homes of many. I am going to try new things that get me excited. I am going to try to love myself more, give myself more grace, and make time for me time. I am going to try to be present with my family more and continue to deepen my faith. This year, I am going to try.
After you reflect on these four questions, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that you learned about yourself and one word that you walked away from for the year.