Every December, I go through a process of listing out my accomplishments for the previous eleven months, figuring out what worked and what didn’t, setting goals for the coming year, and giving myself an intention to focus on for the coming year.

Part of that process is reading over the plans I created the December before.

If you do that too, you probably got a good laugh this year as you looked back at your thoughts and beliefs from a mere twelve months ago. I know I did.

I was so optimistic!

I wanted 2020 to be a year filled with building my perfect life. Doing more of what I love to do, and less of the things that weren’t giving me joy or results.

I had travel on my list – almost every month of the year!

Best laid plans …

We started the year taking a fun-filled trip to Vegas with two other couples, and it all went downhill from there. Celebrating my 55th birthday in Portugal never happened. That hurt, as my 55th was a big deal.

Very early, the world began to pivot.

Change. And more change.

No matter how it touched your life, I know 2020 has been a challenging year.

It has for me.

When I look back through my journal, I’m surprised at how much I’ve endured. And I know I’m not alone.

But we’re resilient. We have to be. We have no choice.

How Words help in Midlife

The older I get, the more focused I am on my lifestyle. I think about that a lot.

It’s because I’m no longer at the starting point of creating my life, with high expectations of everything around me. I’m more of a realist. And I don’t mean that in a bad way.

There was a time when I saw myself with friends and family “forever.” Now I’m a firm believer that every person in my life is with me for a “reason, season, or lifetime” and it isn’t up to me to design that.

Some of my best friends today aren’t the people I thought would stick with me through the thick and thin. And that’s surprised me.

My lifestyle works in much the same way. Ten years ago, I never thought I’d be where I am today. Heck, here in December 2020, I had no idea this is where I’d be had you asked me back in December 2019.

Here in my 50s, I have perspective. I might not be doing what I planned in my 20s or 30s, but in many ways, I’m happier than I ever was before.  Studies show that happiness peaks when you’re 16, and once again when you’re in your 70s.

Life is fast. And I’m planning on living for a very long time.

Living an extended time only has value if you can live healthily. That includes mind, body, and spirit. So I work at that every day. (You can use a Life Expectancy Calculator to determine longevity. It’s a great way to put your midlife in perspective.)

I think a word for the year plays right into that. For me, it keeps me in focus. It gives me in a one-word visual queue, a way to pay attention if I’m staying true to me.

For 2020, it was all about working on my vision, gaining clarity. And when I look back at what I did throughout the year, I probably spent more time on that area than I would have if it had been a “normal” year.

Even though 2020 wasn’t anything I expected, looking back, I still stayed true to my core. My intention was clarity, and I have to say, I’ve never been clearer in my life.

My Word of the Year for 2021 – Become

I’m good at choosing words, I’ve been doing this for more than a decade.

About a month before I start making my new year plans and goals, I start thinking about what I hope to accomplish in the next 12 months. Who I want to be, where I want to go.

I take notes along the way to make the entire process easy once I sit down to write. Words pop out at me as I go through this process. Gentle. Focus. Balance. Center. All of these and more ended up on my list this year.

Then one morning, as I was reading a newsletter, the word “become” jumped out at me.

If you look up “become” it means:

begin to be

Just be. What a concept?! And just what I need in 2021.

The better you get at life, creating goals, self care, and being present, the more you realize you stay on target, no matter what comes your way.

I discovered that when I reread my goals for 2020.

I wrote this one year ago:

2020 vision – the ability to see my life clearly as I move forward into the coming decade. To lay out my midlife – my second act – in a way that will bring me closer to my “perfect” life.

2020 clarity – the state of being clear. No more questioning which direction to go or what I should do in my second act. Seeing exactly what’s in my life and pursuing it with perseverance.

It’s all about priorities. The older I get, the more priorities seem to matter. I’m not afraid to say no. I’m not willing to do things that don’t feel right, way deep down inside. I think that’s the gift given to you once you hit midlife.

If I want to travel more extensively, focus on my health every single day, and build time to do what’s most important to me, I have to see that lifestyle always. I can’t allow other things to move in and take the place of things that are more important. Therefore I live a fairly structured day – but in such a way that I do what’s most important to me.

That means I write every day, no matter what.

I spend my Saturdays with my husband, no matter what. Think of it as “date day.” We walk in the mornings. Have breakfast together. Travel or do something new. Eat out at a favorite restaurant. Talk and talk some more.

I eat vegan in most cases, vegetarian if I go out with friends and plant-based isn’t an option. (It’s always the cheese …) I walk every day. I hit the gym several days a week. This isn’t negotiable. I do it because I want to feel as good at 100 as I do right now, here in midlife.

And I’m doing that. In fact, I’m clearer on who I’m becoming even more.

Become

Michelle Obama said so many great things in her book, Becoming.

“Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

“Confidence, I’d learned then, sometimes needs to be called from within. I’ve repeated the same words to myself so many times now, through many climbs. Am I good enough? Yes I am.”

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”

2020 was a year of the great reset. A time when we as a collective species all got to rethink our world together. We’re making choices even as I write this about who we will all become.

I can’t control the world.

I can only control me.

And that starts by controlling who I become.