Here's the thing about focusing on a few goals that profoundly matter to you:
If you go after them earnestly, you will change.
I mean, there's no other way around that, right?
If you've picked goals that will stretch you, you will stretch.
If you've chosen goals that represent a place that you aren't at right now, then you'll grow to get to that place.
You will end up changed.
Personal growth is kind of like the goal under the goals: To level up in every way. To upgrade our courage and our vulnerability. To gain stamina and broaden the reach of imagination.
To see ourselves differently: more capable, dreaming bigger dreams, and working consistently toward what we want.
That kind of growth is a pretty incredible process, but also just as challenging (or maybe more so!) as the goals themselves.
To help us all out with that, here are two powerful tools that I'm leaning on big time as I reach for my goals this year.
1) Let's recharacterize our old buddy Fear.
When you aim for a big goal, Fear shows up.
It's a guarantee.
Maybe you've already felt this happening? Because I definitely have!!
Like . . . okay. Seriously. Early last week, I had a little meltdown. Without even realizing it, I was slipping back into old, fear-based ways of working.
I started treating my work habits with deep suspicion. Cutting the time I usually spend nurturing creativity. Rushing myself through each day, and then beating myself up for not accomplishing 50 hours of work in a single work day.
Yeah. Those old habits.
But here's the lovely, encouraging sign of growth (thanks to ALL the hard work and emotional heavy-lifting we did together last year!): I realized that I was running scared after only a day and a half in that crazy-making mindset.
It used to take me weeks to pull out of this (or to crash-land out of it), but last Tuesday afternoon I realized what was going on and I had a good laugh. Then I asked myself: Do you really want to spend the rest of the year working like this, even if it means achieving those goals perfectly?
I heard a resounding HECK NO. I tore up my manic scheduling efforts and my hyper-controlling time sheets, took some deep breaths, and reset my course:
Steady action toward my goal. Building momentum, one day at a time. And honoring the power of systems over the power of daily goals.
And when Fear shows up—because it will—I'm taking a new tactic. I'm not gonna let fear push me into scheduling every single minute in my day. (Fear pretends it's to optimize productivity levels ... but it never works.)
Instead I'm recharacterizing my fear.
And I'm calling it a lane departure warning.
You know, those fancy systems that tell drivers (through beeping or buzzing or, I don't know, maybe a Dr. Seuss-esque gloved hand that pops out of the ceiling and smacks them) that they are leaving the lane that they're in.
That they are drifting unintentionally. That maybe they aren't safe.
Because usually, that's what Fear means when it shows up for me.
It's crying, GAAAAA, Lucy!! You're leaving the lane you were in!
That lane was cozy and safe, and yeah, maybe you didn't always like it, but you knew it, and now you're talking about doing really big things!
That's a WHOLE DIFFERENT LANE, girl, and I don't know, it's pretty freaky! So you need to stay put!
Here, I'll run around screaming, I'll put you on a ridiculous kind of time schedule, I'll make you shut down or burn out, because I'll do whatever it takes to keep you from leaving this lane.
Because who knows what will happen if you leave it?! Who knows what's out there?!
Get what I'm saying?
It REALLY helps me to think of fear in lane departure terms, because then I understand it. I know to expect it.
And I can say, Look, Fear. This year I am publishing my novel.
Yup. I know. HUGE lane departure. I haven't published a novel yet, so I know you're going to be blinking and honking and shrieking at me.
So here's the deal, Fear:
You do what you do. And I will take your voice and your presence to mean two things:
1) That I'm doing what I intended to do: switch lanes.
2) That I have a chance to check in and reaffirm my commitment. You are essentially asking, Am I sure this is what I'm intending to do? Am I committed? Do I really want this?
And in that way, your voice and your jumping up and down are going to be really, really helpful to me in this upcoming year.
... But you'll need to sit down and strap yourself in, because we are DEFINITELY changing lanes.
I can't tell you how helpful this metaphor has been for me. It keeps me from fighting fear (which is exhausting). It keeps me from seeing it as a 100% enemy. It's just an over-active safety device.
So I don't have to freak out and react and slam on the brakes when it shows up. Instead I can keep my eyes on the road, and keep moving toward my goal.
How about you? Is there a lane departure warning going off in your life as you look at your new goals?
How does it show up for you? (And am I the only one who turns into a manic time keeper when fear's around??)
Try seeing it as an indicator that you are doing what you meant to do: creating change, striving for new things, and growing.
And all Fear is saying is that, you're heading for a new lane.
... I know. That can be easier said that done. And it takes a lot of practice. Which brings us to the other tool that can HUGELY help when approaching these new goals:
2) Let's change what we believe about ourselves and our work.
In order to reach my three goals for 2017, I've started this one amazing habit: Every morning, I spend thirty minutes practicing what I believe about myself.
Sounds weird? Yeah. It does.
But it's been the most essential habit of my new year.
I discovered this kind of belief work because I was reading Book Launch Blueprint, by Tim Grahl. (I'm relying on it and on Grahl's Your First 1000 Copies to shape my whole process for selling my book this year. Aka, #2 of my Big 3 goals. Woo hoo!)
Right near the start of Book Launch Blueprint, Grahl says this amazing, insightful, and totally petrifying thing. He writes:
The one component that separates the successful launches from all the others is this:
In a successful launch, the author believes that buying their book is actually a good thing for people to do. ...
You have to believe, in the deepest part of your soul, that it is a good thing for readers to buy and read your book.
So: What I believe about my book is going to dramatically impact my sales.
What I believe about my story
is going to affect how many people
get to read it.
That is a very, very big deal, my friends, for all of us who are hoping to publish and sell our writing.
To be honest, my first instinct was to kind of freak out about that, pretend I didn't believe him, and then skip to the next section. "Great, yeah, solid advice, thanks. Now where are the charts and graphs and practical stuff?"
The trouble is, I've been listening to enough of Brooke Castillo's work that I'm realizing: Looking hard at what I believe is incredibly practical.
She has me convinced that our beliefs drive everything else in our lives. They're at the root of what we think, feel, do, and achieve.
Pretty dang practical.
So when Tim Grahl pointed out that believing in your book is essential for a successful launch, I had to dig into my beliefs about my own story.
Do I believe that buying my novel is one of the best things someone can do?
Oooh. Kinda yes. Kinda no. And those kindas are gonna trip me up in a really big way if I don't deal with them.
So—how to do that?
I know that I keep going on about this podcast, but ... you guys. You have to listen to this one. (Your future book sales just might depend on it!)
So I took notes. And then I did what Brooke Castillo recommends:
- I listed (brain-dump style) everything I believe about myself in regard to all three of my goals. You know. Those seemingly random, nasty little thoughts that dart by when I'm working.
- Then I took a closer look at a few of them and what they set loose in my life, just to see them in action. How did those crappy little beliefs make me feel? What did I do when I felt that way? And how did that end up? (Usually, not well.) Proving that yes, beliefs impact results.
- Okay. So then I listed the things I wanted to believe about myself and these new goals. Not gushy, goofy, impossible things, like "I'm the best writer ev-ah!!" Instead, I worked on coming up with things that I did, at base, believe about myself. Or that I could believe about myself.
- And now I practice them. Every morning.
As in: I sit at my desk, and I look at the belief typed out in a super-big font so it takes up my whole screen. I say each belief out loud, and I work on actually believing what I am saying.
I remember when I've proven it in the past, I affirm all the parts of my character and habits that line up with it, and I just believe that it's true.
And on to the next, and the next.
Does it seem a little hokey? Maybe.
But does it work? ABSOLUTELY YES.
I can practically feel my courage rallying, my spine getting stronger. I've been feeling less panicked, less doubtful.
My friends, you've gotta try this! It is absolutely worth the time and the effort.
And if you've ever been interested in practicing affirmations, Brooke's podcast episode explains them beautifully. Her version of creating beliefs has been even more helpful than the written affirmations I'd been doing—it kinda picks up the same concept, but then turns it into a superpower tonic.
Which is just what we want for 2017, right? ;)
Not sure where to start? Here, these are my four favorite all-purpose beliefs to practice so far:
- I am capable of immense courage.
- I know the very next step I should take, and that's enough to go on for now.
- I will do whatever it takes.
- No matter how this turns out, I will have my own back.
Those are four that I've been working on to get ready for all the work of this year. They kind of throw a switch on in me, activating all my best traits.
And, I promise you, when I'm believing all that, I can face my somewhat daunting day with a lot more courage and conviction.
From that place, I have compassion on myself when Fear shows up. I remember how to redefine it, and how to move ahead anyway.
That is the kind of work that's going to make me—and you!—a stronger and more courageous person by the end of the year.
How does that sound to you?
Honestly, when I think about sticking with these goals, and these beliefs, and this practice of moving forward in the face of fear—that's the kind of stuff that gets me very excited to see who I'll be by the end of 2017.
And who will you be, my amazing lionhearted friend? Where will your writing be, if you've been believing the best about yourself and your work, all through the year? And departing your old lanes like crazy, aiming at new and wonderful directions?
Ooooh. I can't wait to find out.
PS: February, aka the month of all things love-related, is coming up in a few weeks! Which means now is the time to start planning a big date with one of the main loves of your life...
Yep. It sounds cheesy when I read it too. But that's okay. It's February. Valentine's Month. Cheesy is totally allowed.
... But I'm also kinda serious, and if you want to add a big dose of love and commitment to your writing days, I've got you covered!
Last February I did a series of daily prompts, all to help you fall deeper in love with your writing life.
YES! Yes, you. Yes, your writing life.
Wanna check it out? Here's your link buffet:
Happy writing, and happy loving how you write!