Explore Life Coaching, Patti Phillips

Word of The Year Review

With just a couple of weeks of 2018 remaining, I’ve started to do review of my year. It’s not just a random review of trying to remember highlights, challenges and what I did. As with the past five years, my review is focused on my learning and growth related to my “word of the year”.

The above photo is a collection of words that women in my Explore Life community shared with me at the beginning of 2018. These were the “Word of the Year” that each of them mindfully chose for the year, with the intention of using that word to focus on personal growth and healing. I promised to hold those words for the year and keep them in my thoughts and in my heart. Now it’s time to invite those women (hopefully you remember who you are and the word you chose) to consider the extent to which they remained connected to their word.

What did you learn about and from your word? How did your word show up in the different areas of your life?

The word I chose for 2018 was “CONNECTION”. I picked it because I had been feeling a general lack of social connection to people for a while. I realized that over the last nine years, I have been spending less and less time with the people who have been important to me. Some of it by choice and some of it because of changes in circumstances.

Before I started my life coaching business, I was employed and my work had built-in social connections. Whether it was the daily “good morning”, shared time and stories during lunch breaks, or planned events with certain colleagues outside of work hours, it was never a challenge to have a variety of people to talk to and spend time with.

When my parents were still alive, they were my main link to connect with extended family. Aunts and uncles and cousins came to visit my parents and I was always invited for dinner and had a chance to catch up. If my parents wanted to go for a visit and because I had become their driver, seeing family didn’t really take any effort on my part.

My siblings and I still seem to be adjusting to our parents no longer being the hub that had been connecting us for almost all our lives. We’re figuring out how to connect differently.

And truth be told, I am not a very good initiator of inviting people to spend time together. Playing team sports pretty much guaranteed I would connect with many of my friends. But as I play less team sports, I don’t have the same amount of built-in connection time.

If I’m really honest with myself, I know I still carry a deep fear of rejection. I moved from one city to another when I was thirteen years old and all the friendships I had were eventually lost. Over forty years have past and that grief experience still has some effect on me. I’m very aware that, for me, offering an invitation, feels very risky because I fear a “no”. And it’s easy for me to interpret a no (or someone being really busy or making a change to a plan) as I’m not important.

So with this sense of heightened awareness, CONNECTION seemed like the best idea to focus on for 2018. I set my intentions to make more effort to reach out to people and to pay attention to the level of connection I felt during the time spent together. Intuitively I was aware that simply being with people does not translate into a feeling of connection.

As with my previous “word of the year” experiences, I learned a lot. I learned about my own needs, what connection actually means to me, about my boundaries, and about making new connections.

For me, connection occurs when a conversation gets to a heart level. This includes the sharing of feelings, values, personal celebrations, challenges, and grief. If the conversation only includes a reporting on “What’s new?”, I don’t feel the connection.

I also need to be playful and lighthearted with people to feel connected to them. For me this translates into not even having to talk but just experiencing a special moment in shared company. Things like biking a new trail with a friend, seeing the smile on her face and knowing we shared the adventure. Hiking late at night with a star filled sky, hearing the sighs of my companions and being reminded we’re all connected by something bigger. Walking my dogs at the off-leash park, having them join in play with other dogs, and a simple exchange with another dog lover who understands the joy they bring. Playing hockey and celebrating a success with a high five; no words needed.

I realize that when it comes to feeling the depth of connection I desire, I have clear needs of what I want to offer and what I want to receive from my relationships. I expect vulnerability, authenticity, and curiosity. Not everyone is interested in or willing to go there with me.  This can often result in disappointment if I don’t pay attention to my expectations. I’m still sorting out the extent to which I adjust the expectations I place upon the relationships or find new relationships that can meet my expectations.

Which leads to my biggest surprise from CONNECTION as my word of the year.

I have come to embrace nature as a relationship that I can always count on to meet my need for connection.

Nature is always available and never puts me off because it’s too busy.

Nature always listens to me.

Nature always accepts my feelings, perspectives, and challenges without judgement and without needing to fix me.

Nature always offers a piece of wisdom that either validates that I’m on the right track or directs me to an alternative path that may serve me better.

My relationship with nature is mutual. I need it and it needs me. Nature does not exist simply for my pleasure and my consumption. I don’t just live in nature or visit nature. I am nature. When I commune with nature, I connect to myself.

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