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Word of the Month: Growth    

Word of the Month: Growth

Art by Andrew Wetmore

By The Local Optimist Team 

Every time a new year rolls around, we get reflective – thinking about how the past year went for us (both the highs and the lows) and what the next year might bring. While we love a good goal to work towards, sometimes the new year's resolution game can be toxic, flattening our lives into what we’ve “achieved” and what we haven’t. At The Local Optimist, we’ve decided to kick the year off not by focusing on surface-level accomplishments but on growth: how we grew over the last year and the ways we’d like to grow in 2022. The thing about growth is that it doesn’t always come from the highlight reel of our lives – it can stem from the good and the busy moments, yes, but also those that are challenging or slower-paced. 

To get the conversation started, we brought some of our team members together to reflect on their own personal growth journeys and the ways they’re hoping to grow in 2022, below.

Jessica Schiffer, Managing Editor: Our theme this month on TLO is growth, which is fitting for a new year. There's always a lot of focus put on the future during this time (how you'll evolve in the coming year and what will change) which is exciting, but I think it's also important to reflect on how you've grown in the past year and celebrate that before running towards new goals. 

I think I grew (and learned) a lot in 2021 – I played it less safe and realized that risks can pay off, and got more confident in my decision-making, even when those decisions were hard. I also got really honest with myself about the things that still need work moving into 2022. If you had to sum it up, how would you say you guys have grown over the past year? 

 Stephanie White, Office Manager & Executive Assistant:  I feel that so much. For me, a lot of the focus this year has been around me releasing where I thought I'd be by now and embracing where I'm at. I've worked on celebrating the changes I've made for myself--living closer to my family and the ocean, two things I've wanted to do for ages. I've also spent time reevaluating who I spend my time with, who I develop relationships with--I think curating this more carefully into the new year will continue to be beneficial to my mental health. I'm much more comfortable standing by the boundaries I've created than I was pre-pandemic.

 Hallie Sheinbaum, Editorial Coordinator: Wow, I feel a lot of this myself. Summing this up is hard because I feel like this year was honestly super transformative for me in all areas of my life (my relationship with my family + friends, my mental + physical health, my career, etc.). But I think the most growth occurred in my relationship with myself. It wasn’t always comfy for me, and it definitely took a lot of self-work, but I gained a much greater sense of respect and acceptance for myself in 2021.  And because of that, for the first time ever, I started to prioritize my own needs before others (without feeling insanely guilty about it), learned to say no to people, stopped saying sorry for things that didn’t warrant an apology, and learned to truly love spending time in solitude.

JS: Love these, they're all so important. Do you consciously set goals for yourself throughout the year that you want to work on or does it happen more organically, like if something goes wrong or you catch yourself in a negative feedback loop and then realize there are changes you need to make? I find that, for me, big changes don't happen until I get a really clear sign that that change is needed, even if it’s something that theoretically I want to do. It's not as simple as writing something down on paper and making it happen, as much as I wish it was.

 SW: I think pen and paper is often where I start but I have to constantly go back to my list, check-in with myself in order to see tangible progress. It's good to be in therapy again because I share what I'm working on with her in real-time and I feel held more accountable. I've also realized that a big part of goal setting is being okay with the reevaluation process. Sometimes I have to pivot away from something I wanted to work on/thought I needed to aim towards in an effort to get realigned with something else. It's an ebb and flow. Having friends who check in on me regarding my goals has been so important too, this past year especially as I've been more focused on creative ones.

HS: Consciously planning bigger goals does not work well for me. I find myself feeling overwhelmed, which causes my follow-through rate to significantly decrease. This is making me think of the saying, “We plan, God laughs, “… which resonates with me because a lot of times when I plan something and set expectations for myself, it often goes in a different direction or has a different outcome than I had anticipated. Then I am usually left feeling let down. I do, however, like to set intentions for myself at the beginning of each week. I evaluate what I want to get done by the end of the week in addition to what would help me get there, and I write it down! Steph, I totally agree with you on having someone hold you accountable somehow as well, whether that’s a good friend, a fam member, or a therapist!

 JS: This is reminding me that I need to start therapy again, ASAP. I have amazing friends who I can open up to about my goals, fears, and challenges but it’s not reasonable to expect them to hold me as accountable as a therapist can, and it’s always good to have someone looking at your life and behavior a little more objectively (AKA freely calling you on your bullshit). 

When you look back on 2022 next year, what kind of growth are you hoping to see in your life? 

SW: Therapy has changed the game for me for sure! I think mainly because I finally found someone I truly connect with, who hears me & holds me accountable (for the first time maybe ever in this setting). I'd like to continue seeing her into the new year.

As far as the rest of 2022 goes, I want to hold myself to my creative goals, even if I have to amend them along the way. I want to continue to explore Laguna and show myself a bit more grace and patience as far as establishing my community goes. I know this process takes time and I think honoring that rather than judging myself for its ebbs and flows will serve me this year. On that note, I want to get back into taking art & writing classes (locally if possible). Not only does immersing myself in settings like these feed my soul, it also helps me meet other people with similar interests. Growing artistically and connecting to others looking to do the same is a big one for me moving into the new year!

 HS: I love that, Steph! Following through with creative goals is something I hope to hold myself to moving into the new year as well. I think something that would help get me there / an area I'm seeking growth in is letting go of perfectionism. I've recently been exploring writing poetry, graphic design, and drawing like how I used to when I was younger. But, I often find myself not finishing most projects I start because I'm afraid it won't be “good enough,” my handwriting will look weird, and I don't know how to properly break a verse. This mindset is not beneficial and is taking away the joy from the things I love doing. So, I think letting go of perfectionism and not taking things so seriously so that I can enjoy all my creative endeavors is an area I would love to see personal growth in this year. Jess, what kind of growth are you hoping to see in your life?

JS: Oof, perfectionism – it rules my life a little too much as well. Every year I try to let go of that a bit more, and even though it’s been slow I have seen progress, so I’m going to continue chipping away at that this year. I think my biggest goal going into 2022 though is to be more adventurous and get outside of my comfort zone more often. I’m big on routines and stability, but I can be too rigid in my day-to-day life under the guise of it being better for my mental health, when that’s not always the case. I had an epiphany of sorts over the last few months, after doing things outside of my comfort zone and feeling happier than ever, that I’m deeply bored by my routine and playing it so safe. I’ve realized that the only way I can push past that is to occasionally ignore the ingrained voice in my head that always wants to know the outcome of a plan or decision and freaks out when it doesn’t, or defaults to the worst-case-scenario in every situation. So I hope I look back on '22 and see that I had a looser grip on my life (in the best way), that I tried a bunch of new things and took big risks, even if they didn’t all pay off, and had a lot of fun along the way. 

Even though I’m stuck in Covid quarantine right now and it’s a little tough to imagine doing anything outside my four walls, this conversation has me truly pumped for the year ahead. Let’s check in in February and see where we landed. 

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414 and subscribing to our bi-monthly newsletter here