Setting annual goals and sticking to them are an entirely different matter - especially when we’re mainly accountable to ourselves. There is a lot of evidence that the stickiest goals are specific. Here are some examples to help you improve your resolutions for 2019:
Don't: Start a new career chapter.
DO: Get 3 job offers by March 2019.
Don’t: Get fit.
DO: Run a 7 minute mile by June.
Don’t: Spend more time with family.
DO: Set aside every Sunday.
If you’re familiar with SMART goals this should come as a welcome reminder. You will benefit greatly from getting into the nitty gritty of what a goal looks like when it's accomplished. It’s much easier to leap from pavement than from sand.
Keep in mind that goals are a tool, not a solution. They can be limiting, and our biggest challenges in work and life are not neatly summed up this way. If you’re not quite sure what you want this year or are having trouble defining it, this blog post is for you. One of the most common things people seek from my coaching is clarity.
“Your work is simply to determine what you want.”
The rest will come naturally.
The problem that many of us have in feeling fulfilled, moving our lives in a positive direction, and getting what we want is not that we’re lazy, or lacking in motivation. The fundamental problem is lack of clarity. There is a wealth of evidence from psychology, coaching, and brain studies to suggest that most of us are pretty out of touch with ourselves.
When it comes to pursuing life goals most of us are walking with our eyes closed, bumping into things occasionally. Sometimes the bumps are inconsequential, and sometimes we stub or break our toes. We are especially likely to collide with overlooked realities when we don’t have external standards or authorities in place. For instance what our neighbors are doing, our boss, a milestone we're supposed to reach.
The problem with relying exclusively on external references is that a) they’re gone when they’re gone, or no longer relevant and b) they can cloud our underlying hopes and intent. In some cases they're not in our best interests period.
By getting better at tuning in to what’s inside of us, we don’t have to rely on the world around us to make our way. Instead of wanting aimlessly, we start allowing, in the following ways:
Allowing for dreams
“Dreaming” may sound fluffy, especially if you have unhealed battle wounds or are prone to doubting. But very often the reason we’re not clear on what we want is that we're protecting ourselves (see Allowing for fear, below). The Catch 22 is that you are very unlikely to make a real effort unless you truly believe it can happen, and this creates a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Allowing for fear
Dreams are based on basic desires and drives, and desire and fear are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other so if you haven’t yet, it is time to make friends. If you don't "go towards the fear" at some point, you'll only end up smaller.
Allowing for our experiences
People from achievement-oriented cultures tend to get stuck in their heads, coming up with endless lists of goals and to do's. These tools can be useful, but the weaker your grasp on their origin, meaning, and impact, the more likely you are to lose steam or go off course in a major way. Reflecting and tuning in regularly grounds and energizes.
If you can’t figure out what you want, it’s very likely you aren’t allowing for one of these things. It’s usually not obvious or easy, and you may need help along the way. But if you can do it well for one major challenge or dilemma, it becomes much easier for the next. You’ll have the clarity and energy to achieve what you want, naturally. You won’t hem and haw and doubt your decisions constantly. You will be free.
It's officially holiday season, and if you're like me the idea of reuniting with certain relatives goes something like:
"They're crazy, out of touch."
"We have nothing in common, we're not on the same page."
"It's impossible to have a meaningful conversation."
"I'll make an escape with spiked eggnog, television, or hiding in the kitchen."
Forever and ever, amen.
Relatives, both in-laws and family we grew up with, have their own special way of getting under our skin.
Looking for a more pleasant alternative? Try some curiosity for a change.
Curiosity can be applied to:
Of course this technique requires some humility and honest introspection. Your relatives may indeed be aliens, crazy, toxic even, but you're going to see them anyways and relating is a two way street. Curiosity will help make those who seem completely opposed to your values, interests, and way of thinking more tolerable, sympathetic, and human.
By the way, since everyone likes to be seen and understood, this strategy can go a long way toward gaining others' respect and smoothing over conflicts in the long run. Carnegie's classic How to Make Friends and Influence People didn't focus on genuine interest in others for nothing. Not to mention it will give you information you were previously overlooking. Applications for improved relationships and influence with just about anyone - bosses, coworkers, stakeholders at work, children, significant others - are a stone's throw away.
Unlike those with whom you have frequent contact, it's pretty unlikely that you'll get your crazy cousins to see things your way over the course of one conversation, but you can definitely create more holiday cheer this way.
Happy holidays to you AND your crazy cousins. I hope you have some curious conversations today.
I am a big fan and longtime practitioner of mindfulness. There is strong evidence that this age-old practice improves our stress levels, overall well-being, emotional intelligence, and a host of different things. But I will be the first to admit that tapping into the present moment when I’m knee deep in to do’s and riding the emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship can be challenging.
Mindfulness meditation is a bit like high altitude athletic training, where you stretch your skills and capacity to the max in a specific environment, while day-to-day life represents a stroll (or a harried pushing and shoving) through the market stalls and crowds below.
You have the natural capacity to be mindful (receptively aware) anytime, anyplace, but sometimes we need a little extra support or intention to apply this skill to new situations.
Simple Ways to Tune In
To cultivate more inner zen throughout the day, IN your day (no lotus pose, yoga mat, or 15 minute break required) try this simple quick check: One to three times each day, ask yourself, with genuine curiosity, “How am I?”
How are you in that moment – physically, mentally, emotionally, or energy-wise? You can try it now. There’s no need to analyze it. Keep it simple. What is the experience/sensation that most stands out? It might be subtle, but you might just be surprised by its obviousness when just a moment earlier you were completely unaware.
To implement this regularly it’s often helpful to use a specific cue (e.g., beginning and end of meetings) or a technology-based alert to remind yourself. The cue can also be a particular emotion or type of situation. For example during a difficult or unpleasant encounter you might notice you’re clenching your fists or feeling a lump in your throat.
Additional techniques for tuning in during your 9-to-5 include:
Unless you’re on a traditional Vipassana meditation retreat, mindfulness will not look like meditating in a pretzel-like pose for 8 hours a day. And it doesn’t have to. While mindfulness focuses on our being, it’s not mutually exclusive with doing. It’s how we are in the doing that is key.
I love sharing my love of mindfulness and offer corporate wellness workshops on basic concepts and practices applicable to the workplace. If you or your company is interested in learning more please contact me.
Over the course of my career I have equated success with "faking" or selling out in some way.
I made the assumption that if I wanted to be "successful," socially, financially, occupationally, in other words for anyone to possibly value me and what I could offer, I would need to do serious self-sculpting. The alternative to "success," in my mind, was to drop out and become a hippie. In fact when I decided to live a few months in a yoga-centric town in India this was my greatest fear.
Over the years my equation of success with selling out has manifested in workaholism, career decisions that felt like compromises, and difficulties with authenticity, among other things.
There's nothing wrong with honing yourself and adapting to circumstances, of course, except when it's mostly a form of hiding and a complete dismissal of your gut instincts.
You might be selling out if:
If you meet these criteria and aren't satisfied with the results, the good news is that there are lots of ways to get back in the driver's seat and achieve the outcomes you really long for in your own way.
Selling out is not a given, but shifting from an outside-in to an inside-out existence is going to require perspective, soul searching, and unconditional support along the way. Because the fact is, finding your own way is scary, and many of us substitute social norms and others' often well-intentioned suggestions for the deeper truths inside of us. Social proof feels more foolproof, and faking it becomes easy.
There is a place for tactical moves and managing impressions, of course, but 360 degree success and selling out are incompatible, at the end of the day. Ultimately you'll only reap the bounties of your internal drives and abilities if you make the space for them. What will stop you from making that space today?