Creating Lasting Change with the Canteen Method, Guest Writer: Sarah Jensen,

A new year and a fresh start, or so it seems. I don’t know what it is about the calendar starting over, but it always gives me hope that I can start over too. Without fail, I become incredibly enthusiastic about the goals I want to accomplish. I go overboard on reflection and planning and dreaming, all of the fun parts. But I do my best to ignore the feelings that linger just below the surface – the understanding that all I’m doing is chasing an idealized and perfected version of myself; that all I’m doing is running from the current me.

This year has been no different. I began making plans and setting goals. All of the usual goals – exercise more, write more, work better. But this time, in the middle of me making my exciting plans for more, a thought popped in my head: “All you need to worry about is making healthy decisions.” I stopped making goals and began considering why I even had them. It’s really great to always want to build and progress, but it’s equally as important to know why you’re doing it. We should not only strive for growth, but to live with purpose and intention.

I came across a quote online that sums it up. It was said by a professor to his students, but we can easily apply to our own lives: “You cannot be successful and help others if you are sleep deprived, malnourished, or out of shape. Take care of yourself. Find a balance and don’t let go of what defines you.” In order to accomplish what we feel we’re here to accomplish, we must be healthy – mentally, physically, and spiritually. If you’re not at 100%, you can’t give other people (or projects) 100%. It is that simple, and that complicated.  

I still made my goals. I still wrote down an unattainable amount of things I want to do this year, but this time there’s something deeper to them. I’m trying to pay attention to the underlying feelings. Instead of simply trying to produce more, I’m trying to get down to the characteristic I need to develop in order to accomplish what I dream of. Instead of “working more,” I want to develop the self-discipline it takes to build a business. And so on and so on. 

Someone said to me recently, “a busy life does not mean you have to be rushed.” I think that’s a great way of going into this new year. Slow down, breath. Live with intention. Make healthy decisions for yourself. What needs to get done will still get done, not despite slowing down, but I think probably because of it.

Maybe 2018 felt hopeless and exhausting for you like it did for me. But I promise this year is full of hope. It’s overflowing with love. It’s filled to the brim with joy. Do you feel that? It’s your heart beating, alive. Learn its rhythms. Treat it with kindness. 

An intentional way to slow down:

Mike Foster is the founder of People of the Second Chance. Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend one of his sessions at a conference where he introduced us to something he calls the Canteen Exercise. The idea is that you have a canteen, and you fill your canteen by practicing specific self-care exercises that are solely for you to enjoy. You begin by breaking self-care into four categories: daily, weekly, quarterly, and annually, assigning each category a monetary value. 

Daily: You decide, according to your budget, what you can afford daily. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee in the quiet of your home, or maybe you enjoy your coffee at a cute cafe. It doesn’t have to cost money, by the way. For me, my daily self-care is my shower time. I do my best thinking in the shower, so I usually take 30-45 minutes and just allow myself to relax. And about 2-3 times a week I add a face mask, just because I love them!

Weekly: The weekly category should be a bit more expensive. This might mean going to a movie by yourself, or enjoying a nice meal on your own. Maybe it’s going to a bookstore and purchasing a new read. Use your creativity! I personally love going to the theater and book browsing, so I switch off every other week. There are no limits to this, only you can define what is good for your soul. If you don’t know yet, test some things out! Do you relax better while reading in a park, or doing DIY projects?

Quarterly: The quarterly, again, should be assigned a larger budget. Once a quarter, you take what you’ve been saving up in your monthly budget, and you spend it. Maybe you love shopping, or maybe you’d rather go to a play. I use my quarterly budget to alternate between going on a weekend trip or to a concert of one of my favorite bands.

Annually: The last category, the one with the biggest budget, is annually. This typically means a vacation. A week or two somewhere new to refresh your mind and see life through a new lens. It isn’t required to be a trip though, the annual category can be anything you want. The point is, it’s something you love to do that brings life and rest and perspective.

So there it is, a way to be intentional with yourself. A way to be kind and allow yourself rest while you develop your character and accomplish your dreams. 

*Download the canteen method here to personalize it!

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