At the first of the year, I announced my mantra. Ten months into the year, I took the opportunity to see if I was still choosing to shine.

When I began my master’s degree in adult and post-secondary education at the University of Wyoming, I was a 45-year-old single mom with four kids, a mortgage payment, and a full-time job as a secretary at the school district. However, when an opportunity to have a portion of my graduate tuition offset presented itself, I seized the chance. Still, I was in a constant state of overwhelm.

That’s when I came up with the mantra, “In it to win it.” It was my go-to line whenever I felt like graduation was an impossible dream. I’d crack open a textbook or download an article to read and tell myself I was “In it to win it” and the case study in front of me suddenly didn’t seem as daunting. I finished my degree in less than two years and to this day I believe that thought and mentality of being “in it to win it,” got me through my master’s program.

So now at the start of every year, I think of my goals and what I hope to accomplish, which usually gives way to my yearly thought.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the 2015, my thought going into the New Year was simple, but powerful in its simplicity. In 2016, “This won’t kill me” kept me going. And I realized I was capable of more than I knew.

In 2017, with the majority of my health problems behind me, I was excited for a fresh start. And after a year of always physically hurting, I wanted to push myself mentally and spiritually. I set out to write three, full-length manuscripts for my publisher with the goal to have all three published in 2017. So, when I saw a silver bracelet with a charm that read, “She Believed She Could, So She Did, 2017,” I bought it and wore it almost every day. I believed I could and I did. And in having three, full-length books published in 2017, I felt like I surpassed what my mind often told me I couldn’t possibly do, and what my spirit always reminded me I could.

When 2018 approached, I was mindful of what I wanted guiding my thoughts. And the guiding thought for the year was another simple one, but I find when I keep it simple I have the best chance of success.

For 2018, my mantra is, “Choose to shine.” It’s something I saw stamped on a glittery journal and coffee cup set that I bought for three writer friends. And in encouraging them to “Choose to shine,” I realized it was what I wanted in my life as well.

It seems so simple, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want to choose to shine? But then life steps in — a rushed driver, a snappy sales clerk, or a rude child and then suddenly, choosing to drop a few unkind words seems justified. But that’s the kicker. Choosing to shine keeps me centered no matter what happens around me. That means — my words, actions, and daily life will focus on the positive regardless of the situation. And for someone, like me, who’s prone to reacting versus taking a beat, this won’t be easy.

But I want to remember 2018 as a year I choose to shine — personally, professionally, and financially. For me, shining in those areas isn’t about seeking praise, racking up awards, or waiting for a windfall. It’s a conscious decision to pay attention to areas where I tend to be negative.

My negativity comes out personally with my children, who can push my buttons better than anyone. In my professional writing life — I watch my Amazon book rating the way a gambler watches the track — always hoping this time my horse will come in. It’s not helpful. How can God ever work in my life if I’m constantly holding the reigns? And financially I don’t always make the best decisions. If it’s glittery, I tend to buy it.

Ten months into the year, I took the opportunity to see if I was still choosing to shine.

Personally, I’ve tried to be a calmer mom, who adds a little sparkle in my children’s life. That means that when I get home from work, I don’t see what’s wrong — dirty dishes in the sink, unmade beds, or laundry piled high. Instead, I’ve tried to focus on what’s right — my kids are home, safe, and when I hear them laughing — I know that it’s not about the dishes or the laundry. Their giggles honestly make me laugh out loud. And the more I laugh, the more I shine. I have found that it’s really hard to be angry when you’re laughing.

Professionally, I’ve discovered that focusing on what I can do is all I can control. And in an office environment with varied personalities sometimes remembering to choose to shine means not engaging in gossip or getting upset about petty annoyances like finding the copy machine paperless. Hey, more steps for me to walk to the supply room and fill it up! It’s seriously that simple. The more often I reframe my attitude the more I see the upside. Plus, I don’t go home all bent out of shape over something as silly as an empty copier.

And financially, while glittery things are fun, I’ve discovered that when I plan for the future, my husband responds favorable. On our walks to get coffee, he talks about our beachside home in Newport, Oregon. It’s our retirement dream. So since the first of the year, I’ve had more income deducted from my paycheck into a retirement account so that I can contribute to our dream and our future. I’m still a fan of retail therapy, but I work with what I have. Listen, I’m no saint, but I am more mindful that the buzz I may get from one purchase pales to the idea of having the beach for my front yard.

This all sounds so grown up when really it’s a conscious choice to choose to shine versus electing not to.

And here’s an interesting fact — did you know that the antonym to shine is bomb? Yeah, that’s a hard no for me. My ego would much rather shine than bomb!

Ten months into the year, I haven’t perfectly shone, but I’ve made progress. It doesn’t have to be the start of a new year to choose to shine. It can happen today. I’d love for you to join me. The more of us that choose to shine, the less we’ll collectively bomb!

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  • Mary Billiter

    Mary Billiter

    Mary Billiter is an Arts Education Specialist for the Wyoming Arts Council, college writing instructor, and domestic fiction author. Mary writes with clarity and raw emotion to explore difficult subjects and issues close to her heart. Her upcoming release, "A Divided Mind," offers a compelling look into how far a mother will go to protect her child and how far a divided mind will go to protect itself. Mary resides in the Cowboy State with her sexy bald husband, their blended family of six amazing kids, and their runaway dog. She does her best writing (in her head) on her daily walks in wild, romantic, beautiful Wyoming. Read more about Mary and her work at: Follow Mary on Twitter: @MaryBilliter