As a tamed creative, artist, spiritual-type, I used to run away screaming from words like obligation, responsibility, discipline, and ….GOALs.
Because the old way of achieving goals was no fun! I didn’t want to fit into a box, I didn’t want to be told what to do, and I didn’t want other people’s rules running my life.
Creating plans and following rules felt constraining.
Goal setting felt hard, judgey, and it didn’t feel good.
And yet, I wanted things. I wanted to achieve things, I wanted to become more than just settling for mediocre things as they come.
At first, I just wanted to pay my rent in my 20’s. But deeper down I wanted to experience certain levels of mastery and express my potential.
At the same time, not having goals felt unnerving, like I’d never “get there.”
Time would pass and I’d feel like I was running out of time and always behind. Even though there was no measurable goal I was behind on. I felt anxious and unsatisfied because I had no structure.
I Had to Find my Way
Goldilocks is my girl! She kept trying things until it was “just right.” From oats to beds, she found the one that was just right for her. Regardless of breaking and entering into a nice bear family home disregarding their boundaries, but we won’t worry about that part right now.
JUST RIGHT, is also a Buddhist expression called the middle way.
“middle way” refers to the Buddhist understanding of practical life, avoiding the extremes of self-denial and self-indulgence.
Maybe Goldilocks was a misguided Buddhist, who knows, but what I learned was to craft rules and systems to serve my essential nature, not an ideal I had to live up to for other people to accept me, validate me, or celebrate me.
I found systems and goal setting methods that helped me be more me, and a better expression of my potential.
1. Become your own Self Anthropologist.
I recommend this to everyone. You need to study yourself in order to figure yourself out. But leave out the judgment and expectations!
An anthropologist studies humans to determine key factors about their behaviour and how humans evolve. When you apply this to yourself, you watch yourself with neutral curiosity to determine what works for you, and what does not. You study you, and notice what works and what does not. That’s it. Don’t make it complicated.
You try things on, see if they fit, and choose from there.
You neutrally look at the data of your life and how you respond to certain systems or habits to figure out your best methods for you.
The goal is to weave in more and more of the things that work specifically for you. A great side-effect of doing this is that you cease to look over at the person beside you to figure out if you are winning in life, you simply know, because winning in life is only winning if it’s a game you created yourself. You create the metrics for your success, no one else can.
2. “Stay in your Lane.”
I was at an event in Toronto where Gary Vaynerchuk was speaking. I did not know who this dude was, but the crowd of other entrepreneurs sure did! The crowd went nuts when this guy wearing jeans and a crumpled T-shirt walked on stage. I’m not saying this as a judgment, I’m sharing that he just walked on stage being him, not overly subscribing to a preconceived notion of how speakers should dress. This was a plus for me, it wasn’t ripped or dirty, just worn and obviously what he likes to wear and feels comfy in. Being himself has paid off.
Through e-commerce he grew his family wine business from $3 million a year to $60 million a year in 2003.
Well it turns out he knows a thing or two about making your success match your nature. Paired with lots of work and action Gary shared his tips on stage about how other’s can learn from what worked for him.
“Stay in your lane.” He yelled to the crowd of seeking entrepreneurs asking questions about how they can be successful like him. He kept turning it back on them, “What lights you up?What’s your thing? Go do that thing and don’t waver. Don’t care about others or compare…Just do you, and go for it…Stay in your lane.”
Some people use “stay in your lane” in a condescending limiting way, that is not what he meant. He meant, focus on you. Focus on what you can control.
I paid attention to him after this talk. I was impressed by his frank, direct, no “f’s” given approach. He was being him, he didn’t leak energy caring about other’s and what people think and that made him compelling and powerful on stage, and obviously in business.
You need to know more about you and how you tick than wasting futile energy comparing or trying to become someone or something else. Otherwise, your goals will not be your real goals. They are someone else’s goals. You need to find your lane so your goals are your goals. Then you will actually feel accomplished on each milestone because you aren’t betraying yourself to be successful in the eyes of others or society.
Success isn’t really success if it is not aligned with who you are.
3. Find your Rhythm
I have a university degree in vocal performance, which not a lot of people know. And why I share this is because music and life have a lot in common. Music is not a bunch of notes, it requires the space between the notes or it’s just noise. We need rhythm, in fact we are rhythm. Heartbeats, night and day, seasons, breath…we thrive with rhythm. You know what is not natural? Having to be “on” all the time, busy all the time, doing things all the time, bigger, better, smarter, faster, younger….blah.
Rhythm is ebb and flow. On and off. Incubation and generation.
There is a time to become your fullest potential, get the gold star or the gold medal, and achieve a grand accomplishment. But, there is also this thing called your life. And it is right now. Are you here? Are you being while doing? Are you able to enjoy the little accomplishments as they come? Do you feel good enough whether you win or fail?
I have come to find that my rhythm has its benefits. When I am on, I am on, when I am off, I am OFF. I call is “Cheetah Productivity” You don’t judge a Cheetah as lazy if its napping. It is still badass. When it’s time to run, that cat runs! As a human, I don’t need to wake up at 5am to be my most successful self, at least that has not been the case so far, if that changes I will adapt. I don’t have to work, work, work and over schedule myself to prove anything. Just like a Cheetah doesn’t have to prove anything.
The more I found my own flow, the more successful I have become. And when I say success, I mean success because it is in alignment with who I am while, yes, also making a profit in business. I realized success in spite of myself was no longer something I wanted to feed into.
It simply costs me too much in energy to put money first above my own satisfaction. This might not be the same for another person. Another person might think money is fun and get a lot of energy the harder they work. Everyone is entitled to their own authentic rhythm.
What you need to do is find yours.
Find the systems that support your rhythm.
There is no river without the riverbank. – Jenna
Nature has natural containers for flow that are not restrictive. Structure actually creates the conditions for flow and freedom.
How I found a balance was by getting more curious about how I operate, rather than trying to impose a bunch of systems onto myself, set high expectations, and then judge myself as somehow less than because I “quit” or “didn’t follow through.”
Don’t judge yourself.
Notice what works.
And work towards goals that are truly your own goals in ways that support your highest flow.
And, Don’t forget to be present and celebrate the little and big wins.
Life’s too short to always be striving to the next thing, without being here, being present, to live in the process.
References from Article
Image by Tumisu
Middle Way https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-94-024-0852-2_280#:~:text=The%20expression%20%E2%80%9Cmiddle%20way%E2%80%9D%20refers,positions%20of%20eternalism%20and%20annihilationism.