I have always made New Year’s Resolutions or goals. Most of the time I’d achieve several of those goals, and made significant progress toward the others. However, I always felt a sense of disappointment or a feeling like I’d missed out on an opportunity or something important.
For all my self-reflection I still felt disconnected from my life. Like I was just on auto-pilot rather than paying attention and driving. It wasn’t until I changed up my New Year Resolution ritual that I started making progress toward goals that mattered.
MY OLD RITUAL
New Year’s Resolutions give me the same peace and reassurance I would get when creating any action plans. It gives me a sense of calm and focus in the scattered white noise of “What Might Happen.”
It’s not unlike looking at a blank white page. The yawning new year of possibility. The empty blankness of a potential story.
I used to sneak off and find a quiet moment in the hubbub of New Year’s Eve, and take a moment to write down thoughts of the past year. They were stream of consciousness and unguarded and (usually) filled with a lot more self-criticism than highlights. Then, sometime after the ball dropped, I’d go to my journal again, and write down my hopes for the coming year and what I want to accomplish, which would then be translated into SMART goals.
It was all so technical and textbook and exactly what I did for my day job to achieve success.
The problem was, I wasn’t achieving success. Not my definition of it, anyway. Yet, I kept achieving my goals.
I usually just chalked it up to my usual self-critical, high achiever nature. I was dissatisfied because I was never satisfied, and I believed I wasn’t supposed to be satisfied with anything. At least, not in this life.
I wasn’t completely passive over the years, and I don’t think anyone would have characterized me as such. I’ve been told that I was confident and analytical and independent, all attributes that I admire. But, most people that I interacted with at the day job (which took up 90% of my waking life) would never have called me goofy, silly, or creative, which I also felt embodied the Real Me.
I had completely embraced this role of being the Professional (which is a role that I thought I needed to be in order to drive the sales results I needed), that I ignored, ridiculed, and suppressed anything else that didn’t conform to that view of myself.
(Most of my life I was textbook INFJ. Only in the last 10ish years did I flip to an INTJ).
I was enjoying success at work. I had a wonderful relationship with my husband and we would go on these epic adventures. I had a goal to write novels, and even though they weren’t quite polished or publishable, they were still being written, so that’s a positive, right?
I was doing all the right things, so why was I still feeling like I was missing out on my life? Why did I want more?
Of course, the first thing I did was chide myself for wanting more. That was materialistic and bad. But, I knew I didn’t want to stay where I was, so the only choice was continue going up the ladder and be promoted, right?
After (too many) years of self-doubt, I finally stumbled upon thought leaders and books that have changed the way I viewed myself and my accountability toward my life. I didn’t have to be unsettled or dissatisfied with my lot in life always wanting more. The “more” that I wanted wasn’t material wealth or gain. The “more” I wanted was living a life that used up my full potential and talents.
What I had been feeling was stunted growth. I always felt on edge, like I had to do and say the right things or be a certain way. Like I was playing a bit part in the story of my own life.
I had crammed all of me in a too-tight jacket and pointy-toed heels.*
In just a couple of years, I had attained success and awards that only 1% of my peers would reach. I was set up as a mentor and coach. I was respected and sought after.
I didn’t have a concept for it at the time but looking back, I realized my soul wasn’t getting fed.
The only time I felt true joy and light was when I was creating and writing, and I ignored it or wasn’t serious about it because I needed to make the practical and responsible choice of getting an income and providing for my family.
Thankfully, I stumbled my way out of that soul-crushing job into a place where I realized that I wasn’t the problem. It was the system. I didn’t want to move up in a corporate system that wasn’t feeding my soul. And only when I removed myself from that environment, was I able to see that I wasn’t wrong to feel stifled.
It’s OK to want other things. It’s OK to want a career that doesn’t involve moving up a corporate ladder. It’s OK to choose out.
It’s OK to choose me.
And what I realized I wanted was to be in business for myself. I wanted Freedom. Around 2 years ago, on New Year’s Eve 2014, I wrote a new kind of resolution. Operation: Freedom.
MY NEW RITUAL
On New Year’s Eve 2014, I wrote myself a story. It was kind of depressing, but it was a story nonetheless complete with highs and lows and learnings. But I didn’t end it with action plans for creating a better 2015. I continued writing the story, writing it in present tense. I described all I felt and saw and did. I wrote out what I created for myself and what I was known for, and I ended it with a “can’t wait to see what happens next.”
Then, I re-read what I had written, and saw a motif. I realized that in order to accomplish what I needed to get done, I needed to be fearless in action. I couldn’t play it safe or be stuck in analysis-paralysis. Fearlessness is acting in the face of fear. I would “feel the fear, but do it anyway.”
Everything I wrote out for myself in 2015 came to be, and it felt good because they were the Big Things that mattered to me. I was making progress on the goals that fed my soul, and gave me a sense of deep satisfaction. I became debt-free, which was a huge burden lifted. Talk about Freedom! My husband and I enjoyed an anniversary trip to Maui, where we got married. I was still working a day job, but it filled my creative and business side well, not to mention, paid me more than the soul-sucking one. I made progress toward my writing goals. And I laid out a strong foundation for my business.
I wanted Freedom for 2015, and I did it by embracing the idea of Fearlessness.
For 2016, I did a similar exercise, but instead of Fearless, I chose the word Curiosity. It was a subtle difference, one that I could relate to more authentically.I loved acting fearlessly, but I also know that fear is important and signals something, so I didn’t want to quite be fearless all the time.
Besides, I was tired of acting. I’d been acting for the majority of my adult life, and I didn’t want to pretend to be something I wasn’t in my entrepreneurial endeavors.
So, Curiosity would be the fuel that pushed my boundaries in order for me to grow. Curiosity would be the guiding thought that would empower me to “try it out.”
If I ever felt that body-cringe of fear when faced with a new and different idea, I would open up, and lean into it instead. Lean into new experiences. Lean into new challenges. Lean into vulnerability.
Because I did that, I have made strides to launch my business, write new content, create a passion project, and found a coach and mentor to accelerate my success in 2017.
I know 2016 isn’t over yet, but I already know what I want 2017’s theme word to be.
The last couple of years, and the experience of over a decade, has imprinted this truth into my life: that I need to absorb what is useful and aligned with my core values and purpose. Discard anything else. I need to ask Why? before I even think of adding something else to my vision.
I already know that I can accomplish goals. My question now is: Why is that a goal in the first place? Is it aligned to the outcome I want?
Simple. Efficient. Effective.
See the difference? I think of my outcome first. Then, I design my goals to get me to that outcome.
Thank you for your time today. Maybe in the future I’ll create a challenge around creating Simple, Efficient, Effective action plans. “SEE Your Goals, clearly” or something like that. Still an idea, of course, but it has merit, for sure! 🙂
*there’s nothing wrong with business suits and stylish shoes. I love them! But I also love sandals, Converse, being barefoot…you get the drill.