Make a wish, cross your fingers and hope you will keep on keepin' on as February rolls around. Does this sound familiar?
There is a simple reason why many resolutions fail, no matter what time of the year. And its not always your fault. You may have been getting bad advice over the years. Or no real advice at all.
The advice to just "be persistent" is a failed strategy.
The short version of this post is, when we set goals or resolutions, there are moments when it gets hard and we may ask ourselves, “What the hell am I doing?”
We all need a simple strategy to support our resolutions. Here is one to consider.
Ask yourself these questions:
The answer to #1 will help you because it ties today's choices to your larger "why".
Use the answer to #2 to help you take a small step to confront #3 and stay on your path.
And don’t be surprised if you have to do this alot. Rinse and Repeat. It can take awhile.
Its taken me most of my adult life.
Since I graduated from college, I have often wondered, “What the hell am I doing?”
In grade school, I enjoyed the goals that were set out for me - book reports (dioramas!!), spelling tests, worksheets that smelled like fresh ink - my young brain thrived on devouring the little modules of info fed to me in elementary school.
I got gold stars, won spelling bees and made my parents happy.
By the time I got to college, I excelled at the game of going through the motions. I confused academic success with the idea that I actually knew what the hell I was doing.
After I graduated, all that academic spoon feeding had not taught me how to forge and pursue my own goals. The success I had achieved in school had very little to do with the cravings of my soul. I'm grateful for my childhood and education. In fact, I was even more confused because I knew how lucky I was. I felt guilty not being happy.
Not knowing what else to do, I continued to go through the motions of an “achiever”. For years I persisted in making "safe" career and life choices based on the past.
Soon the nagging thought “What in the hell am I doing?” began to creep in, most often on Monday mornings.
Good news! After living with this question for many years, I’ve converted it from a cry of frustration into an invitation to re-direct.
Case in point: this morning, as we are a day away from 2017, I feel behind again.
I’m doing many new fun things all at once. I just moved to an amazing global place - Mexico City, I’m in love with a handsome artsy Mexican man who was born here. I’m super happy but also have alot of uncertainty about how things will go this year.
Little Me whines, “Really? What in the hell are we doing?”
In my free writing this morning, I’m puzzling over this.
I think, OK, I’m working on my goals. That’s the main thing I’m doing. I just have to keep at it and be persistent, because persistence is the key to success, right?
We all know of people with an amazing work ethic and incredible persistence who have not achieved their goals over several years. They may become frustrated and cynical or simply resigned to a smaller version of what they imagined. I have experienced this in the past as I persistently made the same decisions over and over, hoping something would change "this time".
That makes me think, no, persistence is not the key.
The experience of others can serve as a guide, but the only person I can change is me.
This is what I did recently; may it spark some ideas for you:
I ask myself 2 questions from above:
What is different for me now, than in the past?
Well just about everything, but, for this example, let’s say: for many years, I did not set goals.
I now have 3 clear desired life outcomes (goals), pegged to short, medium and long term horizons. They are based on my life values, with actions and revenue milestones tied to them, and flexible space around them to let life unfold in ways I don’t expect.
I am making a ton of progress on them already - through a series of unconventional, difficult, yet hugely rewarding life choices.
Now on to the less fun question:
When do I cross my fingers and hope things will change?
Put another way: When do I sacrifice a strategic response to what IS, and react based on the way I want things to be, blindly persisting in the same behavior that hasn’t worked over and over again in the past.
I googled the phrase “persistence vs. knowing when to give up”. A great blog post by Liz Seda popped up -The Humongous Difference Between Persistence and Perseverance and How One is Ruining Your Life
Aha. I forgot about the word perseverance. Sweeet.
When I read Liz’s comment about goals and perseverance vs. blind persistence, I think, BINGO. I am on the right track.
Good news: I have my goals and a path. I know how to persevere. (Successfully navigating the cross border, months-long byzantine process to get my Mexico Resident Card, issued in Mexico City, without hiring a lawyer, is one example.)
I have much better tools for divining answers than I used to. Meditation is one.
Here is another: Two years ago I went through Darren Hardy’s Insane Productivity course. It is a great fit for me and awesome in several ways.
I do most of the work, the big pieces for sure (like goals and a path).
In 2016 I gave up a permanent address and spent the year traveling and working online.
Travel serves one of my life goals really well. Now I see it isn’t very compatible with another.
But for now my efforts need more of home base than random coffee shop wifi or a not-so-cozy chair on an overnight layover in JFK airport.
So, good start!
I book a sunny apt. for a month in Mexico City. I mentally commit to this city for a year at least. My inner gypsy if fine with this trade-off. Mexico City is definitely its own adventure, after all.
I set up my office, I have my Kanban, my wall is covered with The Plan, I have my revenue goals on a yellow sticky on my computer. I know what I need to do next. I make progress in fits and starts, taming my fear dragons as I go.
A couple days later, I ask myself, why am I stressed and not feeling the flow?
I’m stressed because even though I know what to do next, there is SO MUCH to do, it’s overwhelming.
So, rinse and repeat with the same question.
Where have I crossed my fingers and hope things will change?
Well, here's one: One simple, proven technique used by lots of successful people is consistently writing down 3 top daily tasks tied to larger goals. I do not do this.
I still wake up with fingers crossed and hope I react to the right things each day.
Sometimes, I do the very thing that will move me closer to my BHAG goals. Too often, I end up working on something urgent but not that important.
After a few hours, I got some stuff done yet I don’t feel a sense of accomplishment. I’m still stressed (what the hell am I doing?) and I think this is why:
I’m still hungry. I haven’t fed something bigger than me.
I tried - in 2016, I bounced between online calendars, journals, to-do lists and yellow stickies.
I bought a new hardcopy planner in November in Montana. I tell myself once I have the big picture set, I’ll drill down into weekly and 3 daily to-dos and write that shit down.
As of today, that planner is empty. I’ve carried it to coffees shops, on planes, and now its sitting on my desk, just off center. Its cute, just the right size. I have one yellow stickie list sticking out of it, waving at me, yet I haven’t written one single thing on an actual page.
I’m afraid of the accountability, of the size of the job at hand. What if I can’t do it? What if I DO do it?
I am afraid of failing.
Well, ef that. I'm calling BS on myself on this.
Here is my resolution that just happens to be landing on New Years Eve 2017:
I write down three actions per day in my planner.
REAL SOUL FOOD bites linked to the banquet of my life goals - like completing a section of the online course I’m creating, meeting someone new and fabulous, working on online marketing strategy, or reaching out in a specific, measurable way to improve on serving you.
I commit to doing whatever it takes to get them done. By this time next year, my planner is dog-eared and worn.
That is the black and white starting place. I know some days I will end up in the gray area of not being able to finish all 3. That’s perfect - real life happens in the gray area. In the simple act of writing it down (being accountable) I get more done with less stress.
And in 2017, I will finally know what in the hell I am doing.
Big Love <3
What is your resolution? Do you think the plan above can help you?
Share it in the comments below, we would love to cheer you on!
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