It was December 31, 2016 – New Year’s Eve. I sat sprawled on my living room floor. The ball was an hour away from dropping as I rushed to glue my life goals onto a white poster board. This was a vision board party featuring me, myself, and I – a party of one. I was surrounded by images of people laughing and hugging. All around me were cut-outs of affirming statements about love, faith, and health. I glued these items to the board and called it my future.
For much of 2016, I had given up on optimistic thinking. Failed jobs, failed romances, failed friendships, failed everything, had whittled my optimism down. But in a last-minute push as the new year loomed, I committed to taking control in 2017.
I picked up the sheet of paper that listed my 2017 goals and read them aloud to my mom, who was in and out of sleep on the couch nearby. Her job was to help me add or eliminate goals. When I got to “More me time,” she woke up. “More me time? But your whole life is me time. You work from home, travel alone, workout alone, go out to eat alone, pamper yourself – alone. How much more “me time” do you need?”
She was right, so I crossed “Me time” off the list and replaced it with “Be more social.” This revised goal got her full support, because more social might lead to a romantic relationship which might lead to grandkids – but I digress.
While all the goals featured on my vision board were important, I zoomed in on “Be more social” – which eventually became #MoreSocialIn2017 – as the flagship goal around which much of my time and energy revolved. It began as a nudge for me to stay connected to the world and to loved ones, but turned into a life changing experience.
#MoreSocialIn2017 is my “life hack.” It’s a challenge to myself to say “yes” more (thanks, Shonda Rhimes). I dove head first into hot yoga, rock climbing, patio lunches with strangers, music festivals, helicopter rides, speed dating, kickball, online dating – you name it, I did it. And it was fun; but amidst the excitement, I realized that it was more than just fun. People started asking about it. “Tell me about your year of socializing,” they’d say. “I’ve never seen anyone transform their life and mentality so quick.” Not only were they watching – they were cheering me on and looking to me for inspiration for their own lives and goals. They also approached me differently.
Everywhere I went, people were drawn to me. Young and old, preppy and hipster, black and white and everyone in between. People went out of their way to engage in conversations, invite me to events, and invite themselves to my comings and goings. That was my confirmation that this 2017 theme was having a positive impact on my life. A fact which I’ve always theoretically believed came to life in a real way: sometimes how people treat us is a reflection of the energy that we project. Sure, some people are just plain mean – or disinterested, but my #MoreSocialin2017 experiment confirmed that the more receptive and positive we are, the less likely we are to attract the negative types.
My eyes were also opened to just how much of life I was missing out on. Being an introvert, I took pride in my Friday evening dates on the couch with myself, enjoying a home cooked meal while cheering the Shark Tank contestants on. When friends joked about me being a hermit I laughed, because I am who I am, right?
The truth is, my hermit lifestyle grew to be a literal shell. I used it to protect myself from disappointment and vulnerability. Sure, I often just really enjoyed relaxing at home with a meal and a drink, but sometimes that was just the safer choice. The more I avoided people and the places people frequented, the more I avoided potential awkwardness, disappointment, rejection, regret – the list goes on.
The more I avoided people, the more I could throw myself into running, working out, traveling (solo, of course), reading, writing and other things that required little or no human interaction. I told myself that these were healthy activities (and they are). But how good was it to be only committed to things that required zero participation from others?
Once I allowed myself to open up to people, my life opened up, as well. Not only did I create new possibilities and experiences, my former relationships where strengthened, too. #MoreSocialIn2017 allowed me to make room for love – my love for life, people, myself, and experiences.
I made new connections, dived into a few new experiences, met a potential life partner, and found myself (again) because of #Moresocialin2017. Yes, a hashtag changed my life. Will these things last? Maybe, maybe not. But the memories and experiences garnered along the journey of openness and adventure will.
As I write this, it is October. Little kids and big kids alike are getting their Halloween outfits together. Everyone knows that once the trick-or-treating is over, the other holidays are close behind.
I’m trying to live in the moment, yet I can’t stop thinking about what’s next. What happens after #MoreSocialin2017? Is it #EvenMoreSocialin2018? Or more “something else” in 2018? I have no idea. Perhaps it will come to me as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, like it did last year. While I try to figure it out, I encourage you to find your “theme.” More fit, social, bold, joyful, adventurous, calm – whatever it is – commit to it! Do the thing that scares you the most. As you choose your focus for the new year, remember that we often resist what we need most. Go ahead – be more _______________ in 2018.
You’ve got this.
Click here for your copy of the “Be More” eBook – a document that lays out the 10 steps I took to making #MoreSocialin2017 a success.
Rashida Powell is a marketing communications professional based in Metro Atlanta. To learn more about the hashtag that changed her life, search #MoreSocialin2017 on Instagram where she shares updates as @rashidathechameleon.