Confessions of a failed goal-getter
It’s that time of year again: twinkling holiday displays, commercials trying to convince you a brand new leased Toyota makes a sensible gift, and (in my corner of the internet) an incoming tidal wave of “HOW TO HIT YOUR 2019 GOALS” emails.
I don’t know about y’all — but that final internet holiday tradition usually sends a surge of panic through my bloodstream.
“Oh shit. 2018 is over?!?!”
*Takes a fearful sip of seltzer*
“I never wrote my book/launched my signature product/lost those 30 pounds/finished my rebrand. Damnit.”
*Looks out over the expanse of her desk littered with post-it notes and soy sauce packets*
“OK. Maybe this year?”
And the answer is: well, probably not.
Most years I picture myself becoming this wholesome, slim, organized, clear-skinned goddess of Doing Things by the following December. (Don’t forget to schedule in time for fun, ladies!)
But let’s face it: between the Say Yes to the Dress marathons and the varying forms of fried potatoes and cheap beer I consume, I’m basically a sentient trash receptacle beyond redemption.
That’s not to say I’m not an achiever… I’m just more Shrek than Prima Ballerina when it comes to my journey to my goals.
The good news is, the internet’s legions of coaches, productivity experts, and advisors have lined up a laundry lists of “# steps” and productivity hacks to heal my sorry affliction.
And you know what? That’s pretty awesome of them.
There are folks out there who get a ton of value from these varying strategies. People who actually use them for the entire year.
… Buuuuut then there are people like me:
People who spend $50 on an ultra fancy planner they’re convinced is The Cure for All Ills… only to use it for exactly 3 weeks and forget about. #toalltheplannersI’velovedbefore (Thanks brain, you’re the best).
People who write affirmations on post it notes, and reminders to “systematize’ and “delegate!”… and do neither.
And people who tend to throw their entire bodies after their goals, instead of spacing them out into “easy daily action steps”… so we flame out in spectacular fashion, despite the fact we actually got The Thing done.
Intellectually, we know what to do.
It’s reality we struggle with.
If this was a few years ago I’d find a way to frame this with a cool word like “goal rebel”, but deep down was this burning fear I was pursuing my dreams incorrectly.
Nothing gets my imposter syndrome throbbing like the sound of other people’s perfect systems and processes and color-coded calendars.
It’s like high school — but instead of being envious of the tan, tall, skinny girls whose mothers let them hem their uniform skirts to a flattering short length, I’m jealous of people’s fit, orderly-looking brains.
Which is probably why, back in 2017, I went to war against… myself.
I’d been floundering for 2–3 years to create my course between client work.
Clearly, I was failing and I needed to be fixed.
So, feeling enormous levels of guilt at my own inability to finish the job (and also a genuinely healthy desire to create something that was truly mine) I decided that year that I would be that Ruthless Goal Getter I always wanted, and achieve This Thing.
I tried to follow the “daily small steps” advice I’d always heard about, and made it as simple as I could.
1 hour a day until it was done. That was the rule.
And it worked! I tested the course, got it through production, launched it, and sold the crap out of it.
But while I was able to achieve my goal, I forgot about, uh, everything else that was important in my life.
My health, my loved ones, my non-work related pathways to satisfaction, and going outside to remember birds are real things and not just sound effects in movies all took a backseat for the entire year.
Worse, when people raised concerns about it, I hit ’em right back.
I had a colleague tell me it was possible to make the things I wanted to make without frying myself in the process and I looked at her like she had three heads.
Nope. Uh uh. You’re not going to distract me — I won’t be dragged down to “lazy level”.
Couldn’t people see I was trying to be A Good Entrepreneur? Didn’t they know that this was what it takes?
Why weren’t they proud of me? Look, I’m one of THEM . A sacred doer. I’m basically the Oracle of Delphi now . Who needs advice on crushing their goal while I struggle to keep my eyes open???
I am DOING THE THING. Anoint me, internet! What can I achieve next year??
Then, one sleep walking episode and months of miserable dry-mouthed burnout later, by December 2017 I knew it couldn’t continue.
As I dragged my limp body into 2018, for the first time ever, I had no “real” goals to speak of.
I attended no free goal-setting workshops. I attempted no productivity hacks. I just wanted to rest.
(Which, ironically, I am also bad enough at that it required practice.
My initial idea of “resting” was stopping outside projects but keeping my crazy client workload, and buying Beach Body’s TurboFire HIIT workout videos. It took me months to really scale back.)
So, for the first time in years, instead of setting work goals for the year — that I would either fail at, or hurt myself achieving — I decided on a few gentle ideas that had little to do with “crushing”, “slaying”, or “grinding”.
I decided to get support and stop doing this stuff all by myself. At one point this year I had no less than 3 coaches behind me.
I decided to take every weekend and government holiday off — a first for me in 7 years.
I decided I was going to travel more — and go far, far away for more than 3 days at a time.
I decided I was going to clear the space it took to work on my physical and mental game, even if that meant parting ways with clients I genuinely loved.
I decided I wasn’t going to commit to any big promises, launches, or products. I’d only do what was easy and fun, and what I could complete within a week or so if I felt inspired. If I didn’t have the energy to do it, I wasn’t gonna force it.
I wish I could nobly say this was a conscious effort to Live My Best Life, but it was a genuine Hail Mary toss.
I’d spent years weighing my value against the sum of my achievements, and while it had brought me success, it had also turned me into a tight little knot of self-comparing raw nerves.
I wanted to test the theory my friend had posed to me — to see what happens when I don’t push and shove myself or let my teeth chatter with guilt about the things I have yet to do, and instead lean back and say que sera sera in the face of #girlboss and #hustle culture.
And guys. Guys. It worked just fine.
While I didn’t design a course, write a book, or create a signature program this year, I did about 100 other Damn Interesting Things.
I was somehow able to convince my favorite person in the world to spend the rest of his awesome life with me.
I wandered the streets of Tokyo, Barcelona, Paris, and (randomly enough) Winnipeg, Canada with some of my favorite people.
I went out to long dinners with friends, which eventually turned into an incredibly silly “talk show”.
I leisurely shaped my rebrand into Statement Piece Studio with a casual 2019 launch date.
I sat down in a whirlwind of inspiration and created The Statement Piece Framework, and later The Lightning Rounds coaching hot seats.
I wound up speaking on stages in New York City, Indiana, Florida, and Colorado.
I launched consulting services and sold out spots without so much as a landing page.
All this without a planner or color-coded calendar to speak of.
It wasn’t all perfect. I had to let some projects pass me by. I didn’t end up losing the 30 pounds I wanted to. Some days I lost the battle against my workaholism and still wound up at my laptop ’til 10 PM.
But by treating these priorities as gentle ideas instead of set-in-stone commitments, I could allow all of that to be OK, too.
So what I’m getting at is this: If the yearly onslaught of “HOW TO HIT YOUR GOALS” advice hasn’t worked for you yet?
Maybe it’s time to let it go.
What if instead of guiltily trying to whip yourself into shape, you took a break this year just to see what happens when you do?
What if you asked yourself:
How can I have more fun?
How can I relax more?
How can I make more space?
How can I put these big, heavy projects on hold, and travel lightly toward my dreams instead?
What’s gonna feel good?
Then, go try that out. You don’t have to make a single promise to me, or to yourself — just keep your eyes open and see what unfolds.
Success can be overrated in so many ways.
But you know what always lives up to the hype?
So why not pursue more of that in 2019?