Writing is a lot like like gardening. When we’re willing to get our hands dirty, the blank page becomes a space to cultivate and sustain life — a little plot for growing seeds that, when exposed to just the right slant of sunlight, blossom into nourishing fruit. But as any gardener would know, there’s an art, a cadence to growing green things: A season for uprooting, and another for tilling. Next, a time for waiting while the elements work their magic. Then, finally, the harvest.

The same rhythm rings true in growing ourselves. Thankfully, unlike actual gardening, storytelling requires no green thumb. You don’t even have to identify as a writer to reap the benefits of writing — you just have to want to do the work.

I knew right away she wouldn’t like me. She embodied authenticity with her tattoos and loop nose ring. I, however, was a walking stereotype with my highlighted hair strategically pinned to appear messy, feeling edgy in my Keds. One of us seemed to belong, and the other one of us was me. It was my first day at the cafe and she, of course, was the barista who would train me.

This girl, I came to find, knew no strangers. She seemed to have a sort of magnetic force that drew all types of people to her. It was not her appearance or her talents, though she was both attractive and talented. She seemed to have an uncanny ability to see the best in everyone — strangers and friends alike.

It’s a question that most of us bump up against for decades, no matter what it is we are in the middle of doing: Is this what I’m called to do?  We wonder, in the middle of our working and coaching and mothering and writing and dancing and dating and marrying and studying:

Should I be doing something else? Why am I still not sure what I’m made for?

Integrity is the map to achieving our maximum potential; it is the wholeness of our self. As we pursue integrity, we obtain virtues that better us. We all desire to capture the best possible future that exists and make it our present reality; setting standards accomplishes this. Standards are the footprints on the path we hope we’re brave enough to take. They define our personhood and determine our character as we discern the character of others. How we believe we should be treated is directly related to the standards we create.

New Year, new you. Sound familiar? We’ve all heard it. Many of us have said it; even fewer of us feel any assurance in our ability to make it come true. Resolutions fly about as wayward as falling snow. We make promises for health, fitness, family, or friends. But so often there’s this semi-joking expectation of failure. And that preemptive guilt, that fear of disappointing before you’ve even begun, can paralyze our potential for progress.