It’s mid-January and 2024 is settling in. There has been ample time to reflect on the past year and set aspirations for the year ahead. However, I have never been one for big New Years resolutions, mainly because for me they have proven to be a sure-fire way to set myself up for failure. I do appreciate intentional positive change and goal setting, and I love dreaming big. So instead of making a list of lofty goals on December 31st, I have become a big believer in tiny habits, because “to grow big, we have to start small”¹. Added bonus ---- we can start them any given day.
Fifteen years ago, I started a tiny habit of daily stretches in the morning. A few years ago, I built a tiny morning habit around gratitude before getting out of bed. This past summer, I introduced a new breakfast habit.
Some days are better than others, and I have learned that with a little effort and commitment, each tiny habit usually and eventually sinks in. Once there, they work as anchors for my wellbeing. Even when I slip up, they are relatively easy to get back into.
The week before New Years Day 2024, 4000 miles away from home and surrounded by our family there, I had the opportunity and time to simply walk 45 minutes a day. The start of a tiny habit that I have been able to keep up for most days since we returned home.
Admittedly, I didn’t go very far. As a matter of fact, I paced one street back and forth, with neighbors likely wondering who the crazy lady was walking up and down their street. Venturing beyond the confines of that ‘safe’ space meant anticipating fast driving traffic and unknown dogs on a small country roads, and I simply didn’t feel like being on guard.
Usually, and especially in our beloved mountains, I love hiking for hours from one place to another, and letting the nature around me sink deep into my soul. I also love the meditative repetition of swimming lengths in a pool. The sign positioned at the start of this road indicated the stretch was only 1/10 of a mile. These walks felt more like swimming lengths on land rather than exploring, but that’s exactly what I was looking for. I just wanted to walk and be with my thoughts. It didn’t matter where I was going with my legs. What mattered was that they were moving and where I was going in my mind. So back and forth I went, and pondered on 2023 and the year ahead.
Reflecting on the year, personally and professionally, while trying to list the highlights, my mind kept coming back to all the 'moments in between’.
It’s the moments in between that lead us to achievements, that allow us to acknowledge the challenges, and offer us time and space absorb the lessons learned. Those constant string of moments in between are like lowlights, always on in between the highlights.
It’s in those moments in between that we connect with who we are, what our purpose is and our why. It’s in the moments in between when we connect with those we love, we admire, we respect, we struggle with — with all the people who are part of our daily experiences, for better or worse.
It’s in the moments in between that we laugh until tears are flowing down our cheeks. It’s in the moments in between that tears erupt from the onset of deep emotions, often built up during many other moments in between.
It’s the moments when we notice the genuine smile or deep hurt in the eyes of a loved one. It’s when we embrace in hugs that speak volumes while using few words in our ‘hellos’, ‘see you laters', or ‘goodbyes’.
It’s in the moments when we squeeze the hands of our children or give them one last hug before they fall asleep. It’s in the moments that we comfort them and in the moments that they encourage us with a simple gesture or affirmation. It’s in the moments that they point out something so obscure and beautiful that we would have otherwise missed them. And it’s in the moments when they hold up a mirror to you, humbly reminding you that they will likely teach you more than you will ever teach them.
It’s in the moments during meetings with colleagues when we encourage and challenge each other’s thoughts and ideas, only to find ourselves growing as an individual and as a team. It’s in the moments you allow yourself, and offer others, the space to be vulnerable and are reminded of the power of connection.
It’s in the many moments when you are working towards a big milestone moment, that you will look back on as momentous highlight of the year, or perhaps even of the decade, or your entire life. It’s in the moments that you almost feel like giving up, and in the moments that offer you that glimmer of hope to keep going.
The list is long, and the list is personal and unique for everyone of us. All these moments in between are worth celebrating just as much as the achievements themselves. And all these moments in between make the challenges worthwhile.
When we got married, someone gave me the wise advice: ‘enjoy the moments of happiness’. A reminder that happiness, or any emotion, is not a constant. Just as there will always be change, there will always be moments — yet we don’t always remember to embrace them.
As another year has started, I am grateful for the opportunities to stretch myself and to take note of the moments in between, within myself, with my loved ones, with my colleagues and within the communities where I feel at home. The moments in between when life, in this very messy world, briefly lines up perfectly and comes full circle.
My new tiny habit for 2024: At the end of my working day, I will write down one meaningful ‘moment in between’, take a moment to reflect, and turn off my computer. And repeat.
This is my ode to the the moments in between and tiny daily habits that make a big difference over the span of a year.
¹ Fogg, B J. (2020). Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.