Welcoming in a New Year: The Blank Slate Effect

December 31, 2017


The start of a New Year is special time because of the "blank slate effect." It is a Clean, Open Space full of Promise! All of our hopes and goals and desires seem possible. This is a New Year, a Fresh Path, a Second (or 52nd) Chance, and THIS time, this time it's all going to be FANTASTIC.  This time, it's going to go our way.  

 

A good friend and colleague of mine met up recently to touch base and do a mini-strategy session to help with some goal clarification. I think the world of this wonderful, caring, person. She's easily one of the smartest, most skilled people I know who works in the fields she works in, and she is one of the people who I can turn to and no matter how frazzled I feel, I instantly feel more centered.  She's amazing. Having a network is one of the key things we can do to help us achieve goals. This provides us with accountability, support and a sounding board when questions arise. Just sharing your goals with someone else and checking in periodically can have a huge impact on how likely you are to complete tasks.

 

My friend and I are pretty good at goal setting and achievement, we both has numerous certifications, qualifications and credentials. We also know we're not perfect. So, here's one of the best moments of that meeting we had. I talked about getting my ducks in a row (one of my all-time favorite expressions because I love the visual, and the sense of strength in family it calls up for me). I was talking about being responsible and planning and all those things. I'm a contingency planner.  When I have a birth doula client, I have my doula partner AND a secondary back-up to be sure everything is covered. So, right, ducks.  Ducks in a row, all lined up neat and tidy. And how sometimes, even with all the preparation, there may be some bits and pieces that create some unexpected shifts, moments or outcomes. My friend laughed and said something about after all the careful, responsible planning of lining up the ducks, there are times you realize they're not ducks. They're chickens. I've mentioned how much I love spending time with this person, right?

 

So we have this ideal "blank slate" right now, and, in 12 months, we'll have a completed, finished slate, the Slate of 2018. We may have some grandiose plan for how to get our desired results, or what the results will look like. Or maybe it is all vague and dreamy, but either way there's some notion of what we want. Either way, the draw of the "blank slate" is probably nearly universal. We see the blank slate and we instantly start filling it. Maybe you're a color-coded sticky-notes and flags person. Or all outlines and bullet points. Or a calendar-block filler. 

 

Let's live in the joy and excited anticipation of 2018's blank slate for just a little while. Let's breathe into the space of it all. Even just five minutes, breath in mindfulness of the amazing adventure before you, before you take a single step.  Feel the emptiness of this excited anticipation. 

 

Then, carefully begin to select what you want to bring into the New Year. Use great care, because, much like folding and unfolding a paper, the things we add never completely go away, so really be conscientious about the choices you are making.

 

Be sure to leave some blank space and free time and room for those chickens to wander a bit, they may be more likely to fall back into line if they have space to be their wild, "chickeny" selves at least some of the time.  

 

Again, I'm a contingency planner, so I, personally, could never seriously suggest to just "Let it All Hang Out" all the time. Although, amusingly, that was the motto of one of the four colleges and universities I graduated from. Yes, four. I mentioned I plan for contingencies. That's probably why I do well with Birth Work. Birth is filled with the unknowns and unexpecteds. And I find joy and satisfaction in dancing through the moving parts as a prepared professional.

 

What to do when you thought you were dealing with a duck situation and it turns out to be a chicken:

Dance with the unexpected.  Greet it with curiosity.  Acknowledge the "chicken-ness" of the moment. And that's how we can provide ourselves with some stable ground when we hear a surprising "Bock-bock-bocka!!" from the line behind us. Plan for ducks AND expect some random chickens.

 

So, back to the blank slate/completed slate concept. And the chickens and ducks. We can accept that there will be some chickens, and we can leave space for some chicken presence in 2018, knowing that chickens may arrive at random, after all, they can a little bit. We can create our year by always leaving room for some chicken-ness with each of our goals and plans. We can rearrange our schedules to allow us to make lunch so we can bring lunch so we don't have to wait online at a cafeteria or restaurant or drive through, and know we can always eat in the car or while waiting for the bus if a chicken shows up and keeps us from having a proper sit-down meal. We can allow ourselves one less hour of Netflix to provide ourselves one more hour to plan out outfits for the week so there's not need to rush around finding undies or the left shoe or some such in the morning.  We can take care of ourselves better when we allow a little more time to do what is important for our well-being and, yes, comfort! You know that friend I mentioned, and how good I feel when I get to visit with her?  Make some time for that stuff as you begin to decide what you want your 2018 finished slate to look like.  

 

Take a look at the birth room pictured below.  Imagine for a moment that this was the space your dreams and goals were going to come to fruition.  Imagine this happens through a literal birth process.  What tools and equipment here will suit YOUR process?  As you take a few moments here to visualize or imagine how this works.  You can rearrange this space to your wishes, simply touch an item and it recycles someplace else.  Each item serves a purpose, but that purpose may not be aligned with your goals, so let that go.  Do you want that bed or did you want a futon?  Or maybe a comfy double bed with a headboard and nice pillows?  Will the large tub sooth you?  The warm water supports your weight, allows you to move easily and provides for a smooth transition, IF that is what you are comfortable with.  What about the Birth Ball?  Maybe doing the hula-hooping motions and swaying to some music is what you plan, so check out that nice speaker by the window.  Maybe you want a little bench instead of that changing table so your doula or partner can be near you where ever you're laboring?  These can all be metaphors, if you weren't already catching that.  ;)  What do YOU want as YOU bring YOUR dreams into the world in 2018?

 

Here are some more suggestions as you prepare to Create the Slate of 2018:

1) Take a moment first.

2) Be selective about what's allowed on your 2018 Slate.

3) Plan for ducks AND chickens.

4) Re-focus on what really matters for your wellness and comfort.

5) Find or create your Networks for accountability and support.

6) Get visual and/or imaginative with some sort of representation of the "future history" of your Completed 2018 Slate.

7) THEN start planning. Work with skilled help/professionals when you need help beyond your own skill set.

8) Aim to accomplish no more that three important things in a day.

9) Take up, return to or continue with three types of recreational activity: one musical, one physical, one reflective/meditative.  

10) Remember to leave space for friends, family, and yes, random chickens.

 

I wish you all good things in 2018.  May it be a year where we all find love, peace, friendship and room for both ducks and chickens.

 

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