You might have noticed a theme with me lately - I've been taking a big step back, a moment (or, several) of reflection. This is due, in part, to it being the end of the year. But also because it’s important to consistently re-assess; to not let your goals become bigger than you.
What the hell does that mean?
All goals serve a great purpose in our lives. I should say – all incentives serve a great purpose. They give us a reason to move in a certain direction, whether we ever get to that end destination or not, that incentive gave us momentum and kept us from stagnancy, and, one way or another, got us to our next stepping stone. But we must stay open along the way and be willing to change course, to adjust the end goal, and even in some cases, let go of the original goal altogether.
A few years ago I was living in Spain and felt ready to come home. I had already tried New York on for size once, and it kinda chewed me up and spit me back out - or, back to Spain anyway. Feeling intimidated by the city, I planned to stay at my Mom’s house upon my arrival back in the states. For the last month or so that I was in Spain, I relied heavily on this plan, taking great comfort in knowing that I could live there. I mapped out the local yoga studios and imagined cooking meals for my Mom and stepdad in their big grown-up kitchen. It was having this plan that made me feel okay – excited, even – to come back to the US.
Just before I left Spain, I stumbled into a job opening in Brooklyn. It was a great fit for me, and my first thought was: I wonder if they’d let me work remotely from PA. Over the next few days, I negotiated with myself: perhaps I could do a few days at Mom’s, and a few days at my sister’s in Brooklyn. It seems strange to me now that I didn’t even consider just moving back to Brooklyn at that point.
On my flight home I had a layover in Copenhagen, and boarded my second flight with a book in my hand. It was a relatively random book that a friend in Barcelona had given me (I’d name it but I highly don’t recommend it), and the guy sitting across the aisle from me was reading the same one. Can you say meet-cute? Also, do you know I’m obsessed with rom-com’s?
He was about my age, a photographer from LA now living in NYC, tattoos, yogi, super nice. After we landed in NYC we exchanged digits and I made my way to my sister’s apartment (which was formerly my apartment), where we’d stay for a few days before heading to Mom’s for the holidays – after which I’d just stay there and officially move in. But, landing in Brooklyn with an exciting job prospect and a potential romance, I started to change my tune about New York. I thought, well, if I have these things lined up, maybe I could make it work in the city after all.
Before I even got to my Mom’s later that week I’d decided I wanted to live in Brooklyn with my sister. Good thing, because upon arriving at my Mom’s I realized what an unrealistic plan that was in the first place; I would have gone crazy there. The job and the guy went absolutely nowhere, but they didn’t need to – they had already served their purpose by being major factors in my decision to stay.
I share this story because it’s riddled with goals and dreams and possibilities that all gave me comfort enough to take a step forward, and they all went nowhere.
So this is what I mean by the goal becoming bigger than you. Had I been stubborn and inflexible about my plan to stay at Mom’s, well, I would have missed out on building a lifestyle I absolutely love in NYC. And had I not had incentives to stay, I simply wouldn’t have. The goal gets bigger than you when it becomes about just reaching that goal, and less about, well, you. Sometimes we need that goal to drive us in a direction, but it’s stopping to re-evaluate what we actually want in the moment that gives us flexibility to shift gears and pursue a different, more suitable goal.
And thus, reflection. This is my last blog post of 2016. A year that’s been getting a ton of [well-deserved] shit and we’re all super eager to move on. Next week we’ll talk about resolutions: how to make an intentional change and map it out so it will actually stick. It’s a tried and true method that involves strategy and planning, two of my favorite things.
But first, let’s take that step back to look at the big picture, to make sure we didn’t lose sight of our values on our way to a particular goal, and to give ourselves room to shift gears and help inform our resolutions for 2017. It’s one of my go-to exercises, and it has many names, yet I’ve decided to name my version the Slice of Life, which is not only a reference to Dexter (bonus points if you knew that), but pays homage to the best food there is: pizza. Obviously.
Simply follow the images and instructions below.
1. Get out your notebook and draw the image below. You'll number just one of the lines, but imagine that those numbers are on all of the lines. It doesn't need to be perfect.
2. Label each slice with a life category: career, family, health, relationships, play, spirituality, finances, and the final category can be anything you want to take into consideration, I've included some suggestions in the image.
3. Go around the circle and place a dot on each line, approximating where the numbers would be, and rating your current status in that category. For example, a high score in career, means you are pretty satisfied with your career at the moment. Connect your dots when done; it will most likely not look like a circle.
4. Grab a different color pen, and do the same exercise, only this time place the dots where you want your rating to be by the end of 2017. Obviously we could all go around and pick 10's, but try to keep it realistic in what you can achieve in a year's time, given where you are now. Connect the dots.
5. Take a step back. Look at your circle and examine any large gaps between the two lines, notice if you're lower or higher in any categories than you would have thought, and note any observations that come up.
Congratulations, you've taken a big step back and created a snapshot of your life to identify the areas you want to focus on the most. Typically, areas with large gaps between then current and future lines deserve the most attention, but you might find that some categories carry more weight for you than others. Again, jot down any thoughts you have on which areas you want to work on and initial ideas on how to do so.
A final step here is to ask yourself why you're lower in some categories than you'd like to be. What happened or didn't happen this year? Why? What is really true about what's held you back in that area? Keep asking why, and identify any limiting beliefs that come up.
Let this soak in for the week, continue to jot down any ideas or insights that come to mind, and by this time next week, you'll have some understanding of what resolutions, or intentional changes, you most want to make, regardless of any other goals you might have thought you were working towards.
Til then my friends...
Have a fantastic New Year's :)