Look how far you’ve come

What’s one word you would use to describe this year?

Before you read on, take a few minutes to let your mind wander over the past year.

What events make their way into your thoughts?

It’s natural, this time of year, to start looking ahead to goals for the next. But before you do, look back. Reminds me of something my daughter and I used to do when we’d slowly climb a set of 293 stairs on our way to her school. (Yes, Seattle is that hilly … and I am that crazy.) Every so often, we’d stop and turn around. “Look how far we’ve come!” we’d exclaim. We’d take in the view, really give it a moment.

I invite you to give it a moment.

Jot down the events that come to you; the word that describes your year.

Then you might add to your list by thinking about your year in some organized way. I like the categories mind, body, and soul. Here are some things that came up for me — transformation was my word — and some questions for you to guide your own reflection.


The books I read this year were an attempt to understand in a broader context how humans behave and why. I got a 100,000-foot view from the brilliant Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. I delved into the critical issues of our time — systemic racism, white privilege, and poverty — with The Case for Reparations (a thought-provoking essay in The Atlantic), The New Jim Crow, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America (best if you’re already very familiar with these issues), The Color of Water, and Evicted. Brain-development books this year included Social, Smart but Scattered, and Brain Rules for Aging Well. The novel Perfect Little World was a fun indictment of evidence-based parenting run amok. I’d highly recommend any of these titles.

Language of Listening® transformed the way I interact with my daughter. So I spent the past year studying with the founder. I gained a greater understanding of my daughter, myself, and this strengths-based coaching style. I can’t wait to share it with you in depth.

No new parent should be alone. That’s my deeply held belief and the founding belief of Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS). This year, I joined the board of PEPS. I’m proud of the tough internal work we’re doing to adopt a racial equity lens and increase access to PEPS support groups for all new families in our region. I also joined the advisory board of the Children’s Screen Time Action Network (CSTAN), which supports professionals concerned about technology and kids.

Taken together, I’d say this year I was seeking out compassion, a way to make a greater difference in the world, and connection.

What ideas were you drawn to this year?

What interests did you give your time to?

Who was a positive influence for you, and how? Let that person know.


The biggest thing I did for myself this year was an Olympic-distance triathlon. Before having a baby, I was very active and fit, and I was missing that part of myself. Desperately. I kept hurting my back doing minor things, so I knew my core was weak. I needed a goal to force me to act. A triathlon seemed like a bad-ass thing to do.

One problem: I didn’t know how to swim freestyle. I’d grab for the edge of the pool after two laps; I eyed lakes suspiciously. But I hired a coach and I did it. That’s a confidence I take with me out of the water. Creatively carving out time for training showed me I could find a way to do what mattered. I didn’t have time to drive over to the hilly loops where cyclists train on fancy bikes, but I could borrow a bike trailer and bike my daughter to preschool.

I feel strong in my body again. That’s huge for me. The training also proved to me that a higher level of exercise is really what enables sleeping well and eating well. Suddenly I couldn’t stay up late if I tried, and I lost interest in junk food.

If not for training, I never would have thought to go running barefoot on the beach or swim in Crater Lake (pictured), one of the deepest, clearest lakes in the world. Those are experiences I cherish. Four days before my 40th birthday, I finished the race happy and strong.

With a goal and a coach, we’re capable of so much.

What’s one area where you gained confidence in this year?

In what way do you feel stronger?

What’s something you did just for yourself this year?

It sounds silly, but this year I also appreciated discovering Knixwear, maker of a super comfy bra. Out with the underwires! I take it as a sign of getting more comfortable in my own skin. That surely fits the theme of transformation.

Describe a moment you felt truly comfortable with yourself this year.

Or a time you went against the tide to act in line with your values.


Before we get more comfortable, we have to get uncomfortable.

My daughter loves to yell “Wheee!” as we bike down a hill. When I’m huffing uphill, she says, “Go faster, mama.” I like to tell her, hey, you can’t get the “wheee!” without the “unh.”

To that end, I took every opportunity this year for introspection and prayer, cultivating my spirit and capacity for love, processing some things about my childhood, and sitting with the overwhelming chaos in the world.

I fed my soul with my favorite yoga retreat, a sweat lodge at winter solstice, kirtan, and meditation. I felt deeply grateful for island getaways, a house in the woods, game nights with friends, talks with my husband by the fire, and the infectious joy of our daughter. Setting aside lingering perfectionism, I said yes to personal coaching, an abstract painting class, and a dance class where I can let loose.

What feeds your soul?

What’s one thing you learned about yourself this year?

What were you grateful for?

Looking inward is not comfortable. But pushing through the uphills, and nourishing yourself along the way with the things you love, you find the thrill of the downhills.

Both get you closer to the person you want to be: yourself.

Make your list! And next week we’ll look ahead to the new year.

Copyright Betty Udesen / Pear Press
Written by

Tracy Cutchlow

Tracy is the author of the international bestseller Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science, a public speaker, and a creator of places to speak and be heard. Sign up for her newsletter here.

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