Each year lately, like many of you, I try to do a review of the year gone past and a goal-setting exercise for the year ahead.
A resource I have found that’s very helpful with this process is Jinny Ditzler’s Your Best Year Yet, because it not only casts your mind over the year gone by to acknowledge your accomplishments (and disappointments) and draw the lessons from these, but also reconnects you to your values and your roles, and helps you set goals for the year ahead that are infused with your values and that bring each of your roles to life. I’d highly recommend it.
However, what happens to me is a tendency to focus on achieving my goals – and, at worst, my perfectionist tendency kicks in, which is a hard taskmaster – so that my mind is constantly busy thinking about my goals and actions, what’s on my list, what I have to do next. It never lets up. I start feeling in the grip of a pressure and anxiety in the pit of my stomach as I find myself gritting my way towards my goals. I have to remind myself of some fundamental truths. Enjoy the process. That life is like a river in flow, and if I try to control it by building dams and forcing its direction, I am the one who’s likely to suffer and fall short of my own idealized version of myself. Before you can say ‘January resolutions’, I am desperately longing for calm and clarity in my life again rather than the relentless pursuit of lofty heights and aspiring perfection.
No doubt some of you may be reading this with some good advice in your minds (especially if you’re a coach) about how I could set better, more realistic and achievable goals, or how I need to grit my teeth and just get on with it. And you wouldn’t be wrong.
Nevertheless, If I step back from the process of crafting the 2023 version of me, I notice with awareness that I am sitting behind all these goals and aspirations. The ‘I’ that feels like me is watching the doer, that is me, striving, but getting a little frenetic in the process. The ‘I’ that sits behind all of this is nonplussed with my goals and my aspirations. It often chuckles at the earnestness of my efforts, but always lovingly, and is peaceful to just be, rather than feel a need to do. This awareness is who we really are, not the goals and aspirations and striving and perfectionism (or not) that we may paper on top of it.
Staying in touch with the awareness of who we are, the ‘I’ behind the doer’ infuses our goals with a new and fresh kind of intelligence. Suddenly, rather than coming from a sense of lack, a feeling that ‘I am not there yet’ and that I need to get ‘there’ to close a gap or to be complete, I find myself in touch with the feeling that I amcomplete already. Goals, then, become the playthings of the universe, the toys of my life, and I can start having a little fun with them, holding them all lightly rather than taking them all so seriously.
This morning I really felt the need to step off the treadmill of teeth-gritting goal focus, so I went to my favourite meditation, Adyashanti’s ‘Recognition’ series that is within Sam Harris’s Waking Up app. (If you’ve not tried this app yet, I’d highly recommend it). As Adyashanti’s words led me back into awareness of what is always and already present, I felt my shoulders drop and my frown relax, letting go of the striving that had been sitting in my stomach over the past few days. Suddenly, there was a lightness, a playfulness to it all, and an expansiveness. Stepping into the observer, rather than getting all too caught up in the action, brings us back to the fun of life as crafting and design, and 2023 looks all the brighter again.