Dani Reyes-Acosta climbs Castleton Tower. Photo by Kaya Lindsay.

Embrace All of You: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself to Send it into 2022

“Why wouldn’t you just take the job? It’ll make you so much more money, then you can finally live in the Bay Area, maybe get a nice apartment.” I remember hearing these words out of a loved ones’ lips, the judgment on the back of their tongue. I thought I sensed disdain for my chosen path—a gap year of travel after quitting my corporate job—but maybe it was tradition that they’d transmuted into encouragement for a more socially acceptable way of being. Being home for the holidays is always difficult:  how is it that all conversations we’d rather not have come to the table with family?

In 2015, I was in the throws of what I jokingly call my Great Reset, a different version of what some might know as the “Year of Yes.” I’d quit the job, bought the one-way plane ticket, dumped the terrible boyfriend, and spent 13 months chasing my passions.  But my family and a lot of my friends questioned my decisions: why would I leave behind (what they perceived to be) success? Why would I throw caution to the wind and go down the path of permanent play, constant growth, and an attitude that embraced a fair amount of discomfort?

Plain and simple: the life I’d been leading wasn’t giving me what I needed. The unhappiness lurked behind a smile, sneaking in during the wee hours of an early morning bike commute to work, or anxiety nagging with constant restlessness. I was following a path that someone—my family, my friends, and society—had told me was the right one to walk. But that path had taken me down some dark roads, into a dubious relationship, and left me questioning: was I doing this all for me…… or someone else?

That year of personal discovery (plus the adventures, opportunities, and struggles that ensued) taught me many things, but one big lesson stands out: I needed to learn to make decisions that would honor who I want to be in the workplace, the mountains, in relationships, and in the world. This means, ultimately, that I had to start to know myself, to learn who I was. (Read More about this journey here).

Whether you’re reading this in the new year or any other time of the year, I encourage you to grab a journal or a notes app and write on the prompts I’ve shared below. Given to me by a teacher several years ago, I come back to these three questions time and time again, and each time, I learn something new.

(Note: this post isn’t meant to take the place of a therapist, self-help book, meditation, movement class, or any other way you’d connect to your story and self. Instead, these are simple questions you can ask yourself at least once a year, a practice that’s proven invaluable to me.)

Get to the Trailhead: Start Your Journey

Mi forma de ser, my way of being, is as unique to me as is yours to you. And this way of being can grow, change, and evolve over time—this is part of being human. When we tell ourselves we are just one way, one thing, or one job, we minimize all the other gifts we bring to the world.

There are secrets behind the shadows of our being.

Honor those gifts. Start your journey thinking about where you are—proverbially orienting yourself at your personal trailhead so that you can find the path ahead.

Journal Prompt: 

Spend a few minutes (at least three per question) documenting who you are for yourself, your family, your work, and your friends. This can take the form of writing, drawing, making a collage, or some other creative form, but be sure to separate this documenting into four different buckets:

  1. Who is the you you know?
  2. Who is the you that your family knows?
  3. Who is the you that your work knows?
  4. How do your friends perceive you to be?

After you’ve finished this exercise, reflect: do these identities overlap?

Map Your Route

To get to where you want to go, first you have to figure out the path you’ll take. Just like any good adventure, ski tour, rock climb, or backpacking trip, there are a million ways to arrive at the same destination, some ways more difficult than others. When you make the time to identify your metaphorical (or literal) destination, you’ll have a better idea of the obstacles and waypoints that mark progress.

Journal Prompt: 

How will you define fulfillment in the next year? (We often imagine fulfillment as happiness, success, or personal progress). Think about the goals you want to chase, the dreams you haven’t had a chance to achieve. 

Spend a several minutes documenting the following:

  1. What is one goal you want to achieve in your personal life? List the goal, plus at least three skills, activities, or milestones you need to tick off in pursuit of that goal.
  2. Repeat the above, but for your professional life. Think career!
  3. Rinse and repeat: what do you want to achieve in your outdoor/recreational life?

If you can list your individual goals, you can also start thinking about who you need to have along for this journey, leading to our next prompt.

Crew Up

Just like any good adventure, your journey will be defined by the partners you choose as much as when and how you actually reach your destination.

Remember that every turn of the trail ahead provides an opportunity to learn something new or share the load with your fellow adventurers. The company we keep on the adventure of life can support (or detract from) the choices we make. 

Journal Prompt: 

When striking out on our own path, it’s critical we dedicate some thought to the types of people we bring along for the ride. Sketch or write out what types of people you want to have along for this journey. 

Spend a few minutes doing the following:

  1. Try listing personality traits for the people you’ll want to accompany you on this journey. Are they verbally supportive? Are they highly organized? Do they constructively criticize when you need to do something different? Oftentimes, the people we truly need in our lives complement our own areas of opportunity and growth.
  2. Now list the, interests or , hobbies said friend group likes to pursue. Are these areas you’d like to grow into? Or are they things you’re already doing well, but just need support on?

When, or success markers to start, creating your own categories or groupings, try to refer back to the previous question: your desired social group should be in alignment with the goals you’ve defined with the previous prompt. What do you find interesting about your answers?

While it’s exciting and scary to find your own path forward, the new year offers us the opportunity to consider how we live in alignment with our true selves. I’d encourage you to sit down and reflect on your answers as each season changes: add these dates (Spring Equinox, Midsummer Solstice, Autumn Equinox, and Midwinter Solstice) to your phone’s calendar for accountability and as a reminder. You’ve already taken the first few steps to pursue the relationships, goals, and objectives you want: now you just need to keep up the momentum!

Listen. Pace yourself. The path to success doesn’t happen in one frenetic push—it’s a process that requires a measured, steady pace.

This article was inspired by a course the author, Dani Reyes-Acosta, teaches in partnership with outdoor educators. Equanimity Outdoors pairs technical skill building and outdoor education with personal empowerment coursework to support next generation leaders in the outdoors.

Learn more about Equanimity Outdoors here.

Cover Photo: The author embraces discomfort and wiggles into an off-width in Utah. Photo by Kaya Lindsay.

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