Choosing What You Long For
“Life is just a blank slate; what matters most is what you write on it." ~Christine Frankland
Making resolutions seems the thing to do the first week of January. The most common ones focus on health/weight loss, financial improvements, and work-life balance. Research shows that 62% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions and, more importantly, over half give up on them within the first month. In the end, only 8% of us actually produce the results our resolution described.
I remember the guilt and shame I felt as I followed this ritual each year and fell into these statistics. The pressure of a New Year invited me to notice what I didn't like about myself or my life and come up with a drastic change that would take me in the opposite direction before the ball dropped again next year at midnight. Despite a lack of positive results produced by this cycle, I continued the same behavior year after year.
That is, until 2009, when I began living life from my heart, rather than my head. I started listening to the longings within me, and I got curious about what caused me to make certain choices. It completely shifted how I approached the New Year.
The reality is that we make the best choice we see available according to how life occurs to us.
I wasn’t intentionally working 70 hours a week and not spending the time I wanted with my family. Or, was I? It turns out I WAS doing it on purpose, based on what I believed to be true about where my value and worth came from. I believed I needed to earn people’s approval and love. When I worked really hard to make my clients happy, they offered me finances that would make my family happy, or so I told myself.
By slowing down and thinking about what was causing me to choose the things in my life that weren’t working, I started to see my own deceit. I became aware of new choices that were available to me, and the results they produced were much closer to what I actually wanted.
The key shifts I made were:
- Vision: What really matters most in my life? I thought about my life as a whole rather than a year at a time, and I realized that, in the end, my relationships were all that mattered to me. I longed to have intimate relationships with the people sharing my life's journey, people living in the ups-and-downs, trials and triumphs, while growing in character and intimacy through them.
- Current Reality: Have you ever noticed that what we say matters to us is contrary to how we live our daily lives? I faced the fact that the choices I'd been making didn’t line up with what I truly wanted. I said I wanted deep relationships, but, rather than fostering intimacy, I chose to avoid or abandon conversations when they got difficult, and that wasn’t taking me towards my desire of having meaningful relationships.
- Honesty: I got honest about what was under my choices. When I thought about why I wanted to run and hide when conversations grew heated, I realized I was allowing other people’s anger to define me as bad, broken, or wrong. As I shamed myself, it brought the desire to isolate myself from conversations and the people I thought must dislike me since they were angry with me.
- New Choices: I started making choices that carried me towards my vision. Once, I exposed my shaming beliefs, I could see that they weren't true. The other person’s anger wasn’t about who I am. It may have been about my behavior, but not who I am, as a person. By recognizing that, it allowed me to be in conversations and, if anger arose, I could notice the shame but not let it own me. I could shift my focus from myself to the other person and get curious about what was occurring for them. What was their anger really about if it wasn't about who I was?
As my focused shifted from me and my own doubts, fears, and insufficiency, I was able to be with the other person and offer generous listening, empathy, and love. The relationships I longed for began growing in the midst of the difficult conversations, once I started seeing the gift waiting for me in them.
Choosing to be honest about what matters most to me shifted me from making New Year’s Resolutions to creating a vision.
As I get clear about what I want to experience in my life, I can get clarity about what is wanted and needed to grow during this year. I then apply the four steps above to whatever isn’t working and begin experiencing different results.
This approach has been transforming my relationships, my work, and my life.
I invite you to consider what you truly want in your life. What could open up for you in 2017 if you shifted your focus from not liking your behavior to what is making that behavior the best choice you see available?