“All of us every single year, we’re a different person. I don’t think we’re the same person all our lives” Steven Spielberg
It’s a new day, a new year. The promise of fresh starts and clean slates dangle before our eyes. The possibilities seem endless, for certainly THIS will be the year of big magic, life altering change, and boundless accomplishments. What is it about a new year that gets our insides churning? Our blood is pumping and bodies primed with enthusiasm to finally reach our true potential. And yet, we all know how this story ends. We all have been there. We all have watched friends’, family, and co-workers’ resolutions fall away. We all have woken up in March with little progress and even less motivation.
When I was little, I loved playing with Barbies. I loved Barbie’s shiny hair. I loved her beautiful, bright eyes with painted catchlights and dark lashes. I loved to choose the perfect outfit for Barbie’s night on the town or trip to the store. Barbie’s wardrobe was far better than mine.
“Put this on,” I’d say, as I handed my dad a naked doll and her small article of clothing. “But it won’t fit me!” he always exclaimed, before agreeing and wrangling her rubber body into the cheap fabric.
My sister and I would spend hour after hour setting up Barbie’s home. Our Barbies didn’t reside in a majestic dream mansion, but rather, inhabited the glass top wooden coffee table in our living room where brown eyed, brown hair girls sat cross legged on brown shag carpet.
We would arrange furniture, unload miniscule groceries into the fridge, make beds with Mom’s fabric scraps, and argue over the silver Corvette. Finally, Barbie had the perfect domicile, the perfect outfits, even the perfect fruit bowl on her perfectly pink kitchen counter. She was ready to handle whatever our imaginations could throw at her, and yet, by the time the planning and staging was complete, we had had grown bored of Barbie.
I still play this game, not with Barbie of course, but with spreadsheets and schedules, with plans and Pinterest boards. Oh what fun it is to dream, to imagine a better life lies beyond a perfectly formulated plan, as if achieving our greatest goals and aspirations were as simple as putting pen to paper.
We continue to believe we are one well planned resolution away from lasting change when in reality, we will spend spring sifting through fragments of our broken dreams and failed aspirations, hoping to recognize shards of the people we long to become buried amidst the rubble. Specific, actionable, measurable, timely, realistic goals are the key to success they say. Then why do only 8% of New Year’s resolutions ever see the light of February when we worked so hard on our plan?
Well it must be us of course. Our plan wasn’t good enough, or it must be our lack of willpower. We don’t deserve to achieve our dreams. Maybe I don’t want to look like Jennifer Aniston after all, I bet she’s always hungry. I work too hard to be miserable. I deserve that new shirt. This week would be far better after a few glasses (or bottles) of wine. And so we convince ourselves what we want is not what we want after all, and we skip the gym, we spend the money we planned to save, and we yell at our kids. Of course we yell at our kids. How does one NOT yell at the kids?
I slowly, ever so slowly, am beginning to understand the problem, in fact, does not lie with us. It is not our lack of willpower, or discipline or abilities, but rather, the problem lies with our belief that true potential awaits on the OTHER side of a perfect plan.
“We must be the change we want to see in the world,” but I challenge you to consider you MUST BE THE CHANGE you want to see in yourself. Stop viewing goals as the arrival at a destination where you are a new and improved, more generous, more polite, better read, richer, thinner, final product.
We improve not by BECOMING but by DOING. The universe calls us to act, not so we will look better in jeans, but in order to outgrow habits, behaviors, and views that stagnate our spiritual growth and limit our full potential.
There is No After, Only During
Forget the Pinterest worthy outcome and before and after photos. Put the sum of your creative visions to work architecting change around who you will need to become in order to achieve your highest aspirations.
Do not worry yourself with progress. Do not bother counting pounds lost, pennies saved, or books read. The days you simply show up and work diligently towards your goal is the new metric of success. Surrender to the process of becoming the change, your vision unencumbered by an after, instead driven by a desire to fall in love with the simple, daily work of leading an intentional life.
Fall in Love With the Process
In 2015 I started a book club and was determined to read a book a month by year’s end. The club fizzled out before winter’s snow thawed. Instead of starting a book club and imagining a stack of conquered books and the knowledge gained after consuming so much content, I should have focused on the joy of actually reading.
What if I had imagined rising before dawn each day, picturing myself shuffling into my favorite slippers and throwing my worn fuzzy robe around my shoulders. I can smell the freshly brewed coffee and feel the warmth of the ceramic mug in my hands. I curl my legs under me, sinking into the worn hollow in my favorite, oversized chair and throw my grandmother’s crocheted blanket around me. The woodsy smell of fresh pages and strong coffee nudge away the last vestiges of sleep and I dive head first into a carefully selected book, my intention nothing more than to show up each morning and enjoy reading.
I don’t concern myself with the number of books I will finish by year’s end, but rather, focus on the task itself, on creating a habit to make time for books. I create dedicated, non-negotiable space within my day for my priority. I imagine losing myself in the pages of a thrilling novel or feeling my mind expand from an insightful memoir. Instead of detailing a path to a final destination, books read, I illustrate a vision to help me fall in love with the process. Figure out how you can make the process more alluring than the end result.
Imaging trading starched dress shirts and pointy shoes for an elastic waistband and running shoes. Think about stretching stiff limbs after a long day behind a desk. Imagine your strides growing, propelling you forward as you cover mile after mile of asphalt.
Show up for the runner’s high, a hum of fully exhausted, exerted muscles, the sweet, deep breaths of fresh air and the pounding heart and pumping of blood through your veins. Run because it makes you tired and tireless, because you’ll sleep sounder, gain energy and begin craving healthier food to fuel the wholesome, powerful, machine your body is becoming.
Stop dreaming of the sexy AFTER and start focusing on the immediate joys of moving through the daily habits of your goal.
Maybe you will arrive at the after, maybe you won’t, and that’s okay, because your goal isn’t a final destination. What happens once you “arrive” anyways? Please know you are so much more than an after. You are every step, every battle, every failed effort and second attempt you become along the way. You see someone living your dream and you long to become her. Your goal is not to become her, but rather, your aim is to become a woman capable of becoming her.
Progress Over Perfection
Your goal is progress, not perfection, and as a parent wouldn’t expect their child to master a new skill in a day or a week or even a month, neither will you.
Progress is doing something today you didn’t do yesterday.
Progress is believing you can handle more than you think.
Progress is showing up and giving your best.
Progress is forgiving yourself when you fall down, and you will.
Progress is never linear. It is two steps forward and one step back, always.
You will mess up, but you won’t quit.
Set big goals, not because you aren’t good enough, not because you need to change, but because you want to become the person capable of achieving big dreams.
If your focus is on the effort itself and personal growth instead of the final outcome, you may surprise yourself this year.
I am done setting myself up for failure by believing “I’ll be happy when…..”, and I’m working on accepting simply that happiness is growth.
Do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? Have you set one this year? And if so, how can you tweak the goals to help you fall in love with the process instead of the end result?