It’s a beautiful bright and sunny morning here in glorious Queensland, Australia. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the air is just filled with intention. Can you feel it?
I credit that to it still being the beginning of a new year. 2018 has just descended upon us and there is just so much energy and excitement as new things are beginning. So I really want to capture that today, I want to come and share with you what my intentions are for 2018.
I’m going to do that by sharing my 3 words for 2018.
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Before I share my specific words with you, I want to explain a little bit about how and why I decided on three words. A few years ago, I stumbled upon a really interesting blog post by a guy named Chris Brogan. His business, Owner Media, really encouraged me to start to take true ownership, not just of my business or my time, but also of my life. He talked about using the process of choosing 3 specific words that had personal meaning to him to set the direction and focus and intention for all of the activities in the coming year.
This really resonated with me so much more than the practice of setting new year’s resolutions, which I’m sure we’ve all done many times. After 2-3 days, or maybe 2-3 weeks, even the first 2-3 months, and then that stuff falls by the wayside.
The difference with choosing 3 words is that they really crystalize your focus so that it’s something overarching. These key words become something that can direct everything that you say, everything that you do, everything that you intend, and everything that you work toward over the course of an entire year.
Now, as I said before, this was a concept that I stumbled upon just a couple of years ago. Since then, I have heard a lot of other people describe similar variations on the same theme. Some people choose to have only a single word as their driving force for the year. Others prefer to draft a mission statement or a single sentence of intention to direct them.
I have to say that I prefer 3 words over one for a few different reasons. With just a single word on which to focus, everything becomes all or nothing, black or white. You are either focusing on that one word, or you aren’t.
With three words, however, you can have three different intentions. These different ideas can come together or they can stand alone.
Now, I’m not the type of person that likes to just focus on one thing; I love a variety. I want to do everything, and that’s hardly an exaggeration! So, I think the idea of having 3 words offers me the diversity I need, without making me feel boxed in to a more narrow and constricted path for the year.
So now, taking a deep breath, I want to share with you the 3 words. These words aren’t just for me, but for Our Kitchen Classroom in 2018:
So now I’d like to share a little bit more details about what each of those three words means to me, and how we are planning to use those words to direct what we’re going to do–not just in Our Kitchen Classroom–but also, how you can in yours!
The first of our 3 words for 2018 is CURIOSITY. This is a characteristic that I have really enjoyed observing in my 20+ years of teaching, especially the time I’ve spent working with young children. CURIOSITY is something that young children are born with; you can almost see it oozing out of every fiber of their being. They just want to know everything, don’t they?!
“Why?” They always ask the question. “Why?” “But, WHY???” As a parent, I know that that constant questioning and wanting to know can get a little tiresome, frustrating, or even aggravating sometimes! But, that desire to understand, that CURIOSITY with which we we all born, can fuel the most incredible explorations!
I want to tell you a little story.
About a year and a half ago, we were on summer vacation from our school, The International Academy of Matsumoto, in central Japan. It was probably about one o’clock int he morning, and I was up surfing the internet, checking out some things on my friends’ Facebook pages. And as I was scrolling through pictures and posts, I ran across a shared post with a headline that caught my attention.
“Don’t miss this special opportunity!”
The post went on to say that this would be a great way to truly experience farm-to-table cooking, and introduced an absolutely unbelievable chance to travel to Italy. This tiny little cooking school in the middle of Sicily was going to be hosting a special 12-week course, which sounded incredible enough in and of itself.
But there was more. One of the former students of the school was also offering free air fare to and from Sicily to encourage others to participate in this cultural experience-of-a-lifetime! “Oh,” I thought to myself, “would that be so cool?! Let me check this out!”
I had to double check my geography to find the little Italian island, off the southern tip of the boot-shaped peninsula. Even with my high-speed internet connection, it still took Google Maps a few extra seconds to locate and show me the minuscule hamlet in the hills where this school was hidden. It all seemed so remote, so obscure. Yet, something deep inside me longed to explore this little-known land.
Perhaps it was the fact that I stumbled upon this gem in the wee hours of the morning, without the normal bombardment of the distractions of the world, but something prompted me to ask the question, “What if . . . ?”
What if i could really go?
What if i could actually attend this cooking school?
Suddenly, I wasn’t thinking about some random impossibility in the far-distant future that may or may not ever come to pass.Simply asking the question caused me to seek out the more specific details I would need to turn this pipe dream into a reality.
Of course, the practical side of me pointed out the fact that it really wasn’t a good time. It would really be better if I waited to this and do that and do the other thing, too. But in the back of my mind, I kept asking myself, “what if . . . ? What if . . . ?”
And, do you know what? That, “what if” actually came to pass! My family and I actually spent three whole months in the beginning of 2017 in the middle of the most glorious rolling hills and agricultural heaven in Sicily!!! The entire experience of Cook the Farm was so much more glorious than I feel like I could ever adequately describe.
And it all started with an honest CURIOSITY that simple asked, “what if . . .?”
So, I want 2018 our to be even more purposefully directed toward that, “what if . . .?” Where could the new year take us if we ask ourselves that question? Where might you end up that you never dreamed possible???
Our family, overlooking the magnificent gardens at Case Vecchie, in Sicily
When I say the word FEARLESSNESS, what images does it call to mind for you? Do you picture braving the wilderness with nothing but determination and a backpack? Or, how about a lion tamer with his head inside the jaws of the great beast?
No, I’m not talking about a FEARLESSNESS that claims to not be afraid of anything because, let’s face it, the world can be a scary place! Embarking upon something that’s new or different can be very scary, indeed.
I’m talking about a FEARLESSNESS that acknowledges your fears, that chooses to stand face to face with that thing that scares you the most, and then doing it anyway!
My husband and I had only been married for about 3 years. We were sitting around in our little 1-bedroom condo in Albequerque, New Mexico, when he first brought up the idea of moving to Japan to teach. I laughed! The idea was absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion, so I wasn’t really taking him seriously.
I mean, really! We didn’t know anyone in Japan. We didn’t understand any Japanese. We had no goals, or even prospects of speaking, reading, or writing this difficult Asian language. Who just gives up their comfortable life and home and wanders off into the unknown like that? Why would anyone actually do that?
At that point in our lives, we didn’t know anyone who had done anything of the sort, so it really did seem kinda crazy to me. I was surprised that it didn’t seem more insane to my husband, too! I laughed it off, and we didn’t discuss it anymore until almost four years later . . . .
Fast forward to 2007, and my husband brought up the idea of moving to Japan again. Just like before, I chuckled and wend to brush off the idea. But this time, we sat down and had many more serious, heart-felt conversations about the possibility. Sometimes, those discussions even got a little heated.
I really didn’t understand what could have possibly gotten into him. Why on earth would he want to uproot our established careers and move to this totally foreign place on the other side of the world? So I asked him.
When my husband very calmly explained to me that this was something that her really felt God had placed on his heart to do, I was completely taken aback! We prayed about it, and eventually made the decision to move to Japan.
I have to tell you, I was terrified!
What we were proposing to do was wholly outside the realm of what we knew. I’m not just talking about the Japanese language here, which was a mystery of gibberish unto itself. I’m talking about the fact that we had no frame of reference for embarking upon this journey into the unknown. We didn’t know a single living soul who had ever even considered what we were about to do. It seemed insane!
But we did it. Not only did we do it, despite my fears, but we did it confidently, as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
And it was the beginning of a new chapter in our lives, the commencement in a new walk of faith. It was the start of our faithful journey as a married couple, and the beginning of our eventual adventures as a family of three.
Now, it’s perfectly normal to be scared, especially when you are embarking on something new. But what happens when you take the time to acknowledge your fears and do it anyway? Let me tell you, Our lives are living proof that God can do the most amazing, incredible, unbelievable things with your life when you step out in faith like that!
And that’s why FEARLESSNESS is something that I want to embrace in 2018, and I want to encourage you to do the same.
The third characteristic that I said I really want to embody in this new year is PLAY.
When I think of the word PLAY, I usually picture gaggles of giggling children climbing and sliding and swinging on a playground. What do you see in your mind’s eye when you hear the word PLAY?
Our Little Sous PLAYS on the monkey bars during cherry blossom season in central Japan
For a long time, I thought that work and PLAY had to be two completely separate things. However, the more I threw myself whole-heartedly into my work, teaching young children, the more it really began to feel like PLAY.
For many years, people have repeatedly asked me what it is I enjoy about my work. Having spent more than two decades focused primarily on working with children under the age of 6, I can honestly say that their love of fun overflows into everything they do.
Young children have such an earnest desire to embrace every single activity with a sense of wonder and joy and CURIOSITY. Living this experience day in and day out, seeing the world through such innocent eyes, has really helped my work over the years to be a lot more fun, to feel a lot more like PLAY.
I would even laugh and joke about it with people I’d just met at parties or out and about in the community when we introduced ourselves to one another. The question invariably turned to our jobs, and when asked what I did for a living, I would wave my hand vaguely and chuckle that I just PLAYED with small children all day.
Looking back on those time, I can say that those were the years in which I personally experienced some of the most joy and fulfillment in my work. When I approached each day as PLAY, when I tackled each new challenge as a game, I really had such a great time!
And why can’t work be fun? Who said it was wrong to enjoy what we do? When did we decide that this was OK, that this should be accepted as normal?
I honestly do not believe that our lives are meant to be so stifled. I don’t think that our time should be so staunchly categorized into “serious” and “work” boxes, with only the occasional possibility of being let out of the box for a brief breather of enjoyment and relaxation. Why not have fun in the work that we do every single day?
Dr. Maria Montessori used the term “work” to describe the children’s CURIOSITY, their activities, and their focused periods of concentration in the learning environment. I have spent many years studying the teachings and the methods of this incredible innovator in education. I have spend hours upon hours with other teachers and parents discussing this idea of focusing on their child’s learning as the “work,” and the development, and the concentrated efforts of that small individual to becoming a full-realized and independent adult.
Now, more than ever, I fervently believe this to be true. The things that young children do in acquiring language and movement and social skills and so much more is incredibly challenging work. In fact, how often do we adults lament the fact that we struggle to learn new skills such as communicating in different tongues, picking up a musical instrument, or challenging ourselves to new physical heights, when children seem to do these things so effortlessly?
The more I study Montessori’s writings, the more I contemplate these concepts of work and PLAY as separate or integrated ideas, I feel like that specific word “work” was intended for us as adults to give children the respect that their diligence deserves. When I take the time to reflect upon what these small human beings accomplish in the first few years of their lives, I am absolutely astounded at the seemingly limitless capacity of their absorbent minds!
In just the first three years of life, young children are able to sort through the incredible barrage of information that pummels their brand new brains and all their senses on a daily basis to soak up and reproduce the complexities of language (even multiple languages), culture, and movement. They take their first steps and say their first words and begin cooperating with other people in the complicated dance that is human interaction. That is really hard work!
But, think that part of the key difference is that young children don’t see what they do as hard work at all! They approach it as PLAY. They approach each new task with joy and enthusiasm. That’s the sort of love and passion with which I really want to approach everything I do here in 2018.
Now, as I said way back when I started this missive, this post isn’t just me taking the chance to share my 3 words with you, dear reader. I want us to focus on how these 3 words can be more than just nebulous concepts as we go about our day-to-day lives. I want these 3 words to be action items that we can apply to everything that we say and everything that we do here in 2018!
How can we display more CURIOSITY?
We can ask, “what if . . .?” And then, instead of automatically poo-pooing these crazy ideas that occasionally come to mind or cross our paths (as we are prone to do into adulthood), let’s take the time to step back and seriously ponder, “what if . . .?” Let’s explore, with childlike CURIOSITY, the many possibilities we may never have imagined if we hadn’t taken the time to stop and ask ourselves this question. I can tell you from personal experience that, when you really and truly open your heart to these possibilities, you can make room in your life for the impossible to become a reality!
How can we embody a greater sense of FEARLESSNESS?
Remember, I’m not talking about not being afraid of anything! The very thought of doing new things can be scary, indeed. I’m talking about acknowledging your fears, and then doing it anyway!!! What do you fear? Why does the prospect of doing that something new or different scare you? What might you discover about yourself and your capabilities when you set your anxiety and apprehension aside and tackle that challenge in front of you with a faithful sense of FEARLESSNESS?
And, of course, we can’t forget PLAY!
We want to have fun with the things that we tackle here in Our Kitchen Classroom in 2018. PLAYING with your food is fun!!! We would really love for you to join us this year as we release our first book, and as we bring you along on our adventures, teaching you what we have learned and continue to learn as we travel the globe and take big, juicy bites out of life along the way!
So now, I’m CURIOUS! What if your new year encapsulated these three words?
Are you scared by the possibilities? Does it sound a little bit daunting or intimidating? Do you want to feel that FEARLESSNESS?
How about we PLAY with these concepts? Let’s sit with the ideas for a little bit, experiment, try some new things.
I want to know, which of these 3 words most resonates with you? Please leave a comment and let me know! Are you feeling more CURIOUS? Do you want to tackle some FEARLESSNESS in your life? Or do you really want to PLAY?
I would love hear from you!!! How will your 2018 look when you join us for a full year of CURIOSITY, FEARLESSNESS, and PLAY here in Our Kitchen Classroom? Wishing you a Happy New Year full of fun and intention!