Welcome to 2021! It feels very strange to write this. I also say this with relief, however, after last year’s devastating events—many of which we are still living with. Rather than pretend like turning the calendar page will magically fix everything that was terrible about 2020 (if only!), I want to talk about what it means to look forward in this context.
At Ideas on Fire this month we’re focusing on beginnings or what it means to start things in our current world.
What it means to begin this year
New year’s resolutions are an obvious example of our collective desire to begin again, to have a fresh start, and to build supportive habits for the year ahead. But as we’ve all experienced at some point, often our resolutions are super-humanly ambitious and don’t account for the normal life changes that happen every year. Additionally, in the face of massive upheavals like those that transformed 2020, such resolutions can seem almost silly.
Many of you have been talking with me and the rest of the Ideas on Fire team lately about feeling like you can’t plan anything or look forward to anything since the global pandemic means we still have many more months of uncertainty ahead.
I deeply understand this feeling. So instead of jumping right into planning mode, which tends to be my go-to strategy and not always for the better, the IoF team has chosen to focus January on what comes before the plan. Don’t worry, we’ll get to planning next month, where we’ll tackle how to make plans that can survive the uncertain present.
But here in January, let’s think together about the act of beginning.
Beginning comes before the plan
To begin doesn’t necessarily mean to have a plan yet. To begin doesn’t require we’ve fully figured out what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Instead, a beginning is that moment of possibility, that moment when we get to dream, brainstorm, and imagine without judgement and without the naysayer voice of reason that demands we be realistic.
Beginnings also don’t necessarily need to be about new stuff. Sure, you might decide to start a new project, develop a new goal, or cultivate new habits this month, and we’ll be sharing resources on how to do all of these things.
But beginnings can also entail renewing commitments, returning to old events with changed views, revising expectations, and letting things go that no longer serve us. Many of our resources this month address these less well represented elements of beginnings, too.
Beginning is iterative and transformative
To begin means to recognize when something in your life or the world more broadly is calling for change. To begin also means to make that first gesture into the unknown to try to figure it out.
To begin can be as simple as asking a new question of something you thought you already knew or resolving to remaining open to what your personal and professional selves need right now. For instance, many folks are realizing the crisis mode of living prominent last year is not sustainable over the long term, and they’re resolving to build more supportive and long-term systems to nurture their selves, their families, and their communities this year.
This month we’ll be talking about the fear of beginning, or the internal and external voices that prevent us from starting things. Sometimes this looks like putting off starting that new project because you’re not sure you can finish it or an inner perfectionist who tramples your curiosity about a new way of doing things.
We’ll also be talking about the iterative nature of beginnings, how we begin over and over again as we work through a project or a goal. Rather than seeing those restarts as a sign that our plan is in fact a failure, we’ll be exploring how renewable beginnings are a vital part of any journey, whether that’s publishing a book, teaching a new online class, or building more self-care time into your schedule.
Beginnings embody hope not because the next thing will be perfect (it rarely is) but because we get to change and celebrate that change, regardless of where it might take us. So here’s to a month of beginnings that can bring us joy, transformation, fascination, and growth.