Wow. So 2020 sucked. There’s really nothing else that can be said about… *gestures vaguely* that.
It’s 2021, and while I don’t do resolutions per se, in the past several years, I did start picking a word for the year to focus on, and it’s done wonders for my life. It improved my professional situation in 2018, in multiple ways, it got my butt up and moving overseas, it’s helped me reduce stress and manage my ulcers. I know that technically, it’s me doing that and not a word, but choosing a word gives me somewhere to focus, and doesn’t feel as rigid as a list of resolutions.
Anyway, my word for 2021 is discipline. After the dumpster fire year we just had, I think it’s something we’re all lacking right now. Discipline has never been a particular strong suit of mine in anything but work, but last year, I slept at random times, woke up at random times (there were weeks on end where I slept all day and was awake all night, something I didn’t even manage to pull off when I worked night shift in retail). I ate what was convenient, and was only leaving the house for groceries. I binge shopped online for food and pajamas, because why get dressed if you’re not even leaving the house?
I had plans for various professional and personal skills I wanted to work on, since I’d have time during a pandemic, and I did…none of them. Honestly, I even wrote less. And I, a complete introvert, was handling the pandemic well! For me, 2020 turned out to be a wasted year (except for my Nora Roberts Challenge, which I nailed). Business dropped off, because, well, travel writer in a pandemic, but while I initially tried to branch into other areas of content creation, too many businesses were struggling. I had some luck on smaller projects, but long term clients are hard to find when no one knows what long term is going to look like. And as time went on, I kind of stopped caring.
So I’m embracing discipline as my word for 2021. Let’s talk about what that means for me.
Discipline at Work
I’m a freelancer, so I can set my own hours, choose my own jobs, work where I want. It’s great. But it also requires a certain amount of discipline. Granted, this is the one area where I can rely on getting my s*** together before deadline, but I’ve been settling for making enough to get by. That was fine, when I was learning to assimilate to Italy, dealing with being so far from family and friends, but long term, I have goals and I need to actually start putting in the work to reach them.
So this year, I want to improve my professional discipline. I want to create and maintain a routine that not only keeps up with my current workload, but also allows for new clients – and I want to get those clients. I am figuring out a few different areas I really want to write in – areas that can keep me going even during a pandemic – and I’m going to start picking up some clients there.
This also means working on and pitching some travel content to magazines. I love the work I’ve done with hotels and such, but one of my goals of being a writer is to work with Fodors or Lonely Planet at some point, and the next step is to get some pieces published in travel magazines. It’s something I haven’t been great at moving on, because there’s no set deadlines (I make deadlines for myself, but I know that boss-me won’t do anything if I miss them). I need to move past that and step up.
Discipline at Home
Look, stuff that needs to get done gets done. I’m not a complete failure. But I’m also not who I want to be yet. I dream of having these organized, relaxing mornings that culminate in a cup of coffee on my balcony after some morning exercise. I dream of having a perfectly organized and clean house, that I keep up with in 20 minutes every day instead of a frenzied 3 hour cleaning session every week or so because things got out of hand. I dream of cooking nice, well-rounded meals every day, instead of once a week and grazing in between (granted, this one I’m actually likely to do, if I had better access to a store – I just keep picking less-than-ideal places to live). And I want savings.
I think the best way for me to start moving towards those things is developing a routine. I need to just get in the habit of how I want my life to go, and I need to build the discipline to stick to it. That discipline, I’m hoping, will also help when I legitimately can’t stick to the routine or my to-do lists, because if I know I have the discipline to do it and there’s an actual reason it’s not getting done, I’m hoping I can talk my depression and anxiety off the edge of the cliff, knowing it’s not my fault.
My biggest plan is to reactivate my dayplanner. I’ve been using it for work deadlines, but this year, a habit tracker and a budget tracker is going in there. I’m going to start building the habits to structure the life I want and I’m going to work on doing them all, even when I don’t want to. I think all the minutiae will be worth it for the end result.
Discipline In Fun
So I have two issues with enjoying life. One, I’m lazy, so while I love traveling and going out to do things, if it’s at all difficult to do those things, I tend to just let it slide. Two, I’m a very stressed person, due to my depression and anxiety. Even if I go out and do whatever fun thing, the whole time I’m either multitasking on my phone, stressing about money or other things I should be doing, or just getting trapped in my head. This was actually something I wanted to work on in 2020, but….well, 2020 then happened.
I’m hoping that if I’m disciplined in other areas, I won’t feel like I’m dropping the ball quite as much by doing something fun. But my plan is also to just focus on the fun. I want to be a responsible, productive person. But stress all the time isn’t good for anyone, and I deserve some times of just being happy. So, if I set aside a day to go scuba diving, I want to just enjoy that, rather than feel guilty over it.
Discipline as a Plan
I know, this is all fairly ambiguous right here. I have actual clear-cut steps to try to reach the elusive goals, but the reason I use a word instead of a resolution is because it’s more flexible. I may think that doing thing A is going to work, and it may turn out thing B is the key (in 2018, the year of spine, it was a freaking music playlist that kept me in the right mindset).
My overall thing is by the end of the year, I want to have integrated discipline into my life. I want to know that I will follow through on stuff, just because I want to, not only when there’s deadlines or someone else relying on me. I want to build the life I want, the habits and routines, the work and the fun. I don’t know if I’ll get all the way there – I probably won’t – but I want to see steps along the path.
Have you chosen your mood for 2021?