So this might be a little late for me to call them New Year’s Resolutions, but I hadn’t really thought of them as such. As a new year and a new semester approached, I thought back on the previous semester and year and thought about what areas in my life upon which I would like to improve. I created a list of general concepts where I would like to progress. Fresh starts provide a perfect opportunity to start taking steps towards integrating these things into my life or reminding myself to maintain other goals.
I would say most of these fall under the category of maintaining balance. Since I started college (with the roots starting before then) “balance” has been a mantra. As anyone could attest, there are so many things in life that a single person wants to do and that an individual has to do. The responsibilities of all these things only grow as we get older. So I suppose here are my goals to maintain balance in all these important aspects of my life (in addition to the habits and routines already established). I think of them as on par with the six areas of health in general. So I try to maintain, on various levels of regularity, my relationship with God and spiritual life, exercise and healthy diet for physical health, school work, relationships with family and friends and communication with them, and my service for others through working at the Writing Center, leading a small group, and mentoring two girls for discipleship relationships.

Just in more concrete terms, I am hoping to progress a lot in future planning, most of which applies to things happening at some point in this year. There is the obvious keep up with school and earn good grades. Then I am taking the school bit further with researching graduate school programs, which of course will be followed by applying to said schools and taking the GRE. In the near future I will also start the summer job search. If it’s at all possible, it would be incredible to somehow work at a counseling office/practice, even if it’s just working in the office in some way. That would get me around counseling in action. If not, I would enjoy waitressing again. At least that job still puts me in a position to constantly interact with a variety of people. It lets me quickly read people to figure out how to best serve them.

A weakness of mine that I have been aware of for some time and yet always had trouble strengthening is my lack of assertiveness. I suppose it stems from a couple different factors: an avoidance of unpleasantness, a weird part of me that views it as me being rude or burdening another person, and a desire to please everyone as best I can (while it’s good to “please” people, it can go a little too far when I can’t say no when I need something for myself, such as solitude). I’ve talked to professors throughout previous semesters, but I typically don’t go ask for help if I might need it. This semester, I’m planning on visiting with professors (at least some a couple times). My classes this year make it easy for that since most of them have projects of sorts that I can go discuss with the professor to show my interest and concern and to make sure that I’m heading down the right track. It’s definitely good practice to work with people in general and with professors (practice for speaking with bosses in the future?). Plus, they’re there to help, and it’s nice to develop a nice rapport with them. I would like to find a good professor to help advise me on some future stuff as I plan out the next year.
I mentioned the people pleasing aspect of this as well. This one is more difficult. I have such a hard time with saying no to people. Sometimes I’m glad that guys don’t ask me out often because if it was someone I did not want to spend time with, I would go through such a tough process of getting myself to let the guy down. The same thing applies with even smaller things. If a friend wants me to do something with her or for her, I will typically try to do it if I can. What I have to remember is that if it goes too far and I really need something, it ultimately makes it impossible for me to joyfully be around others and serve them because I haven’t balanced things. For example, I need some sort of good solitude time after spending so much time interacting with people (because I am a very strong introvert). Especially during times where I feel a little more overwhelmed, I need to have my private time to combat them. This past week I knew by midweek that I needed some quality “me” time during the weekend. Otherwise, I just start getting distant when I’m around my friends. Ironically I had several people asking to do things with me this weekend. At least for Friday evening, I wanted my time to do my relaxing thing with myself (have dinner, watch a movie, enjoy a drink) before I got into the rest of the weekend, chugging along with everything else. So I had to tell some people no, which was some progress. At some point, I need to be able to tell people more assertively that I have certain needs to take care of for myself or that I need more of a break. I have a long way to go with speaking up for little (and big) things I need in most situations. Most of the time, they don’t impose on other people. So I’m trying to work on speaking up for myself so that I can make the best of every situation so that they go well and I can balance what I need so that I can continue joyfully being around other people.
A note on my maintaining relationships with people: I did not go to visit my family and friends from “home” where I went to high school at all last semester. While I was busy and did have my reasons, I should not have done that. We all really missed each other, and I shouldn’t deny spending time with these important people. I have promised my friends that I will visit at least a couple times. So I will uphold that. We need more quality time together, and it’s not all that far for me to make a trip or two.

In another slightly more concrete fashion, I would like to maintain some sort of semi-regular writing time. Fortunately I am taking my last English class this semester, and we are going to be doing writing on a weekly basis it looks like. So at the very least I have that and am glad for that. Even if it’s just once or twice a week, I would like to spend a little bit of time on my couple projects. I would also like to work on this blog, see what I can do with it as a new sort of outlet in which I use different types of writing than my other works.

Another weakness of mine that will be rather difficult to work with: “conversational criticism.” I tend to display some pretty judgmental tendencies, even if I don’t mean them to be so critical. Whatever it is that I’m observing, I need to consider before speaking out loud. Not everything needs to be spoken aloud (or sometimes even thought). So even if I’m just talking to avoid nervousness or whatever, I want to watch this. As an incredibly sensitive person myself, I know that some things can come off as mean even when not intended to be. Not to mention, there are so many good things I observe in these very same things that would be worth noting.

I created a list of positive adjectives that have been used to describe me and that I would like to live up to and ones that I strive to exhibit in general: genuine, gentle, honest, personable, compassionate, inviting, loving, trustworthy, faithful, open, joyful, kind, hospitable, insightful, deep, beautiful, unique, and intelligent. It seems like a rather lofty, abstract goal to try to inhabit all these qualities, but I try to remind myself of these positive adjectives. Thinking of them and praying about them, knowing God created me to display these qualities  helps. I want to shine His light, sharing His love through pouring it out in these ways. One of my absolute favorite verses says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and true, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). And then of course there are the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galations 5:22-23). God pours His love into these things. As I strive to display them, I hope it points people to Him.

I also hope that my attempts to display good character through those traits helps in my efforts to encourage personal and spiritual growth. I am in the awesome position to have the opportunity to work with people through small group and discipleship where I hope to foster an environment for this growth and community. Through these relationships, I hope to help point people towards God and His wonderful plans for them.

Lastly (I think), I would like to continue my efforts to examine my strengths and weaknesses on some sort of regular basis so as to be aware of them and strengthen them. It’s become evident to me that discovering these things about myself, being aware of them, makes it that much easier to utilize them. I took a spiritual gift inventory last semester. For some reason, I needed to be told what my strengths were to realize that they were gifts I had. We tend to take such things for granted because they seem so normal to us. Sometimes when in a position where it’s so common for us or those around us, we forget that they truly are gifts. For example, I have noticed that it seems common for people not realize how intelligent and lucky we are to be at my school or in college in general. Not everyone is built that way academically. Or even in our specific fields of interest and careers. It’s so neat how we all balance each other out. I have a good friend who will be a doctor someday. I so could not do that. I’m not inclined in those areas. Or where I would be even more lost: trying to do something involving computers and technology. I’d be so lost, and I’d probably constantly just want to cry and give up. Yet we have people who are gifted in the medical field who work to keep everyone healthy, and we have people who can understand and create computer programs to enhance our ever-growing technology. I’m incredibly thankful that we have such people. Then I have my strengths to balance it out. I have been gaining good understandings of people and can help them. I have to remind myself that not everyone sees what I see when I observe people. Not everyone is gifted in hospitality, wisdom, faith, encouragement, teaching, writing, and pastoring. My compilation of those gifts is part of what makes me me. God gave me those so that I can create an open, honest, and vulnerable environment with people that makes me personable, which in turn makes it possible to connect with people in general and in a “counseling” type way. I hope that utilizing these gifts continues to make people feel at home in my physical and spiritual home as I open them up. And a more concrete thing in this realm that I would like to do is be better about spreading the word about my Sunday Tea tradition; every Sunday I have a sort of open house where people can drop by for tea (or coffee or whatever) and chit chat or work on writing or homework if need be. It’s supposed to be like a traditional relaxing Sunday that way. I try to provide that for people and give them a chance for it. I just felt weird about constantly telling people or got nervous about the slim possibility of too many people showing up at my place at one time. Or perhaps there was also a small selfish part of me that still just wanted to be alone (but I typically have my Sunday evening  ritual time to myself to wind down the weekend and psych me up for the upcoming week).
And as I mentioned my weaknesses, becoming aware of them makes it possible for me to work with them. I recently perused one of my Myers-Briggs Personality Type books and looked at the weaknesses for my personality type. I looked over the bulleted list, agreeing aloud, “Yes. Yes. Oh yeah!” as I read. Then I chuckled at myself for my enthusiasm at pointing out my “flaws.” However, it did make me feel good.  Those weaknesses are a part of me too. I thought about how they made sense given my other general characteristics and strengths. Then I contemplated how I could possibly start strengthening them as I saw them occurring in my everyday life. I can work on my inflexibility, my tendency to be judgmental, etc. So I hope to continue to sit down, going over those weaknesses and how I am progressing with those. I have taken to creating mind maps of things I want to work on (strengthening gifts and strengthening weaknesses). That makes me actually think about them and notice them, allowing me to work with them.

So this was slightly scattered, but those are most of the things I’m thinking about in regards to the major areas of improvement in my life. Now that I have written them and shared them, it gives me extra reason to follow them through.