How to Reduce Struggle & Flow Toward Your 2023 Goals With The Tranquillity of a Lazy River
I used to think success required struggle to "keep going." But 2022 taught me better.
“Madame, would you like champagne?”
I cocked my head and caught a glimpse of a petite woman barely taller than me as I sat in my hairdresser’s chair. Her sparkly dress paired perfectly with the champagne flutes she was carrying around the salon.
I wouldn’t normally have a drink at one o’clock in the afternoon. But it was New Year’s Eve.
“Sure!” I answered from under the mountain of tinfoil my colourist was piling onto my head. I sipped my champagne as she finished my highlights, and we laughed about how nostalgic the overhead music made us.
Later, my thoughts drifted, and I started thinking about rituals. Specifically, how the rituals I’ve created over the past year have transformed my lifestyle. I no longer feel like I have to “keep going” to achieve my dreams. Instead, I’ve engineered enjoyable ways to “keep flowing” toward them. That makes my success inevitable and the journey all the more relaxing.
Today, I’m sharing how you can reduce struggle in your life and start “flowing” toward your 2023 goals (with the tranquillity of a lazy river).
A ritual is a sequence of activities involving specific objects.
Rituals can be prescribed by a community or crafted as your own.
My Saturday salon visit reinforced how sparkles, champagne, and hype music are part of a typical New Year’s Eve ritual. But rituals can be smaller-scale. For instance, most of us have a morning ritual to greet the day.
My definition of a modern-day ritual is anything that bundles your favourite things into a single experience with the coziness of a warm blanket.
Rituals For Pleasure
I was living in Paris when the pandemic hit. On March 17, 2020, the country went into lockdown and the city became a ghost town—albeit a hauntingly beautiful one.
Here’s a photo from one of the many strolls I took to maintain my sanity while confined to a tiny studio apartment (if you have yet to visit the city of lights, you should know getting a photo with no one in it is unheard of):
Cultivating a Fitness Ritual
One of the hardest parts of the lockdown was giving up the gym. On top of no longer physically going to work—or anywhere for that matter, my friends and I questioned what the hell we were going to do with ourselves.
That’s when my friend Claire dusted off a twelve-week strength and mobility program she had purchased a few years prior. She suggested four of us form an accountability group to follow the program, so it would be as if we were still working out together in class.
At first, I wasn’t sure where I was going to work out in such a tiny apartment. But I was pleasantly surprised to find my exercise mat fit perfectly between the foot of my bed, my big French windows, and my yucca tree in the corner. I ended up with a dreamy setup overlooking the quaint courtyard outside of my apartment. Who would’ve thought? (That’s one of the pitfalls of growing up in North America. We think we need excess space—and stuff—that we don’t. It’s no wonder anxiety runs rampant on this side of the Atlantic.)
My at-home fitness routine became a daily ritual I looked forward to. I would roll out my mat, swing open my windows, and create a sense of internal awareness as I followed the instructions of the grounding—and hilarious—Aussie fitness trainer.
After each workout, which alternated between strength training and yoga, my friends and I had the added satisfaction of sharing our wins. We made a ritual of adding a daily checkmark emoji to our group chat with a side of banter about how brutal things like Bulgarian split squats were. And my Irish friend vocalized her paranoia about the trainer “bloody losing count” and “adding extra reps” when she occasionally started talking mid-count. (The jury’s still out on that one.)
Nearly three years later, I’m still obsessed with the same workout program. And now, granted I have more space in Montreal, I have a similar ritual where I set up next to big windows overlooking the (currently snow-laden) trees outside, and surround myself with indoor greenery. I’ve even added a diffuser with essential oils. And I’ll mix in scented candles when I opt to do yoga sessions at night.
By having a ritual, working out is not something I struggle to keep doing. It’s something I look forward to that keeps me flowing toward my long-term goal of being at my mental and physical best.
Cultivating a Writing Ritual
For a while now, my appreciation for my fitness program has framed how I think about goals and making progress toward them. I realized last year, after experimenting with different approaches to building a writing habit, that I wanted to create a writing ritual I enjoy as much as I do my exercise one.
So I asked myself, how can I bundle my writing practice with some of my favourite things?
As I stared off in thought, I caught a glimpse of this book on my coffee table: The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well.
If you haven’t heard of hygge, the first thing you should know is you’re guaranteed to pronounce it wrong. I say this having bastardized it myself when I said it to the first friend I made in Paris, who happened to be a Dane.
Here’s what hygge is and how to pronounce it correctly:
“Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) encompasses a feeling of coziness, contentment, and well-being found through cherishing the little things.”—AFAR
Back to me pondering my writing ritual. When I caught a glimpse of the book, I immediately reframed my question to: how can I create a writing ritual by infusing my writing process with hygge?
Now, my morning writing ritual entails hot tea or coffee, and a cozy set up next to big windows overlooking the nature beyond them. I leave my phone in another room on do not disturb and eliminate other distractions. It’s simple yet powerful. And it’s become a calming experience I look forward to, versus a frictional activity I have to do.
Turn Dreams Into Goals
Rituals are great for the sake of pleasure. But they’re even better when they’re cultivated in service of achieving a goal. For instance, over the weekend, I wrote a short reflection on my monthly highlights-turned-lessons from 2022.
It was a fun exercise given I’d done a decent job of capturing my highlights in this newsletter and via Twitter. Reading through them—many of which included photos and screenshots as social proof—was like flipping through a modern-day scrapbook.
It inspired a new ritual in service of my 2023 year-end review. Here’s a breakdown of the three things I mapped out to create this outcome-driven ritual:
Desired outcome (point B): Make it easy to look back on my year and retrieve details of my major highlights and lessons on a month-to-month basis.
Current situation (point A): I’m doing a fair job of sharing highlights and lessons in my newsletter and through Twitter but I’m mostly scrambling to write and publish day by day.
Ritual to bridge the gap (from point A → B): An end-of-month writing ritual to recap highlights and key lessons. I’ll use a similar approach to my general writing ritual and time-block an afternoon during the last week of the month for this specific purpose.
My Challenge to You
Dreams do come true when you break them down into goals—and then create rituals to flow toward them.
So my challenge to you is to pick a dream you want to chase in 2023. Then map out the following three things to create a path to success:
Desired outcome (point B)
Current situation (point A)
Ritual to bridge the gap (from point A → B)
Visualize yourself flowing toward your goal with the same enjoyment you would get from basking in the sun as you float down a lazy river. Think of creating rituals as picking a comfy floatation device.
Cheers to Celebrating Every Achievement
Back in May, I shared a story from August 2019. The short version is I was marvelling at how I made my dream of living in Paris a reality over lunch (and champagne) at Créatures—the rooftop restaurant at Galeries Lafayette. Grateful as I was, I was well aware self-employment was still a far-off dream.
Little did I know, I would realize that dream two years later.
I shared that story in May after attending my first Running Remote conference in Montreal—an event dedicated to celebrating remote workers. That’s when it hit me I was living three dreams simultaneously: self-employment, the ability to work from anywhere, and the ability to continue working with people based around the world despite returning to Montreal (after the better part of a decade abroad).
Below are some photos from the event. Special shoutout to my friend Lavinia (who I met through a writing course called Write of Passage). She flew to Montreal all the way from Bali to attend. And good thing she did, because her startup, Liv It (pronounced “live it”), snagged the award for best remote work culture. If that doesn’t convince you that dreams do come true, I don’t know what will.
Here’s a virtual “cheers” to making your dreams come true in 2023:
Thank You & Join The Conversation
Thank you for being an early supporter of my writing and solopreneur adventures. I appreciate every like, comment, and heartfelt reply more than you know. I love that my weekly writing ritual keeps me connected to friends around the world.
I would also love to hear your thoughts on creating rituals and “flow” dynamics to achieve your goals in 2023. So comment below with anything you would like to share.
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Wishing you a wonder-full week.
All the best,
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