I love the “clean slate” feeling I get when I flip my calendar to January every year. Sometimes, I get the urge to clean out and reorganize at work and home, asking myself questions like, “Do I still need all these files?” and “Why haven’t I gotten rid of that fax machine yet?”
I ask myself bigger questions, too: “Am I living a life that reflects my values? Am I spending time doing the things I want to—or only the things I feel I have to? Am I growing? Am I being my best self?”
The whole exercise is a great reminder that I get to define success for myself. So do you! Some people define success as a six-figure salary, running a marathon, or getting a pilot’s license. But all that matters is your definition.
You, like me, may have been hearing a lot about Becoming by Michelle Obama. I was struck by her realization—after she had gotten a law degree from Harvard and was a lot of money at a top law firm—that she hated being a lawyer. “I felt empty doing it, even if I was plenty good at it,” she writes. “Somehow, in all my years of schooling, I hadn’t managed to think through my own passions and how they might match up with work I found meaningful.”
She figured that out in her late 20s, but it’s not unusual for midlife women to have a similar realization about life—that they just kind of “ended up” with the life they have, rather than being intentional about it. But it’s never too late to change that.
In one of our podcasts, Amy Eller talked about how middle age, in general, is a time “to release what no longer works, what takes from your energy.” That includes measuring your own success by other people’s definitions.
A simple first step is giving yourself permission for self-care. You may be tired of hearing me mention getting enough sleep and regular exercise; and eating right—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins; and connecting with friends, but those are the basic building blocks of life. It’s hard to be successful—whatever your definition of that is—without them.
Self-care takes time, which is something we all feel short on. You might try looking at a calendar for gaps in your weekly routine, and blocking that time for yourself. Treat that time with the same respect you'd give an appointment with your doctor.
You can’t control everything about the coming year, but you can take control of some things. Do what you can, and let yourself off the hook for whatever you can’t. Here’s to 2019 and being your best self!
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.