Happy New Year! Not to be nosy, but how are you feeling about it so far?
I hope your answer isn’t “overwhelmed,” “frustrated,” and/or “exhausted.” In case it is, however, I have a bit of been-there-done-that perspective to offer.
With my clients, I often hesitate to broach the topic of elevated expectations, lofty resolutions, and amplified ambitions right at the beginning of January because sometimes even hinting at such things can add to their inherent pressure — and going into a new year, that pressure tends to be pretty intense. At root, there’s nothing wrong with having big dreams or setting sizable goals or shooting for the stars. All of these things can, in fact, be positive, healthy, and enjoyable. It’s when we start wrapping our personal objectives in trappings not our own that we run into trouble.
Let me give you a for-instance. When I was a young mother, I had this image in my head of what a family should be — specifically, what it should look like on the outside — and I managed to achieve that image. I had a husband and two beautiful kids, and we had a comfortable home filled with photos of us smiling together. Yet all was not exactly well. My marriage had begun to fray around the edges soon after I had my first child, while I was pregnant with the second. The relationship ended in a not-so-amicable divorce about five years later, and less than a decade after that, my youngest began to show signs of the mental unrest that would eventually lead to his suicide.
That’s an ultra-abridged summary of a complex personal history, but it will suffice to give you an idea of why I spent much of that period — and quite a lot of time following my son’s death — feeling guilty, ashamed, and like the absolute worst person on earth. My inner narrative was not nice. I had, I believed, failed as a wife, as a mother, as a role model… Essentially, I had failed in constructing the idealized existence that my mind had likely started to design when I was a child coping with a heap of early traumas.
And on what had I based that perfect picture? On both the classic American husband-wife-kids-house-happiness cultural norm and on my residual little-girl longing for a home life that was the polar opposite of what I had experienced in my youth. In retrospect, I can see just how toxic that recipe was. A reality cooked up by combining unresolved emotional pain with glossy societal expectations was never going to have a long shelf life.
Now, that’s a pretty macro-level example of dream weaving and goal setting gone awry. The concept can be applied to aspirations of all shapes and sizes, however — and that’s just what I’m about to guide you to do.
Each one of us has hopes and dreams, goals and grand plans. Today, I invite you to explore where yours began, and then to consider whether they are pointing you down a path that you truly wish to follow.
If you made any resolutions at the turn of the year, you might want to start with those. Or you can do a deeper dive, looking at long-term objectives that you’ve been harboring for months or ages. Wherever you choose to begin, your process of investigation will be the same:
- First, grab a pen and paper, and write out the goal, dream, ambition, etc. with which you’ve decided to start. Depending on how long the idea has been brewing in your mind, you could end up with a simple one-sentence statement or a detailed paragraph. There are no length requirements on this homework assignment.
- Next, ask yourself questions about the origins of and feelings surrounding your chosen goal/dream/ambition. Is it based on your personal interests and genuine passions, or does it seem like it could actually belong to someone else? When you think about pursuing it, does it stress you out in a major way or does it motivate you to keep moving? And when you imagine the aftermath of having accomplished said goal, do you see yourself basking in external praise or brimming with internal fulfillment?
- Finally, based on the results of your internal Q&A session, decide if the objective on which you’ve set your sights needs to go or if you’re meant to keep going for it. Though there are no exact right or wrong answers to the suggested questions above — nor is there a “right” or “wrong” to your ultimate choice of nixing or nurturing a particular goal, dream, or ambition — I would suggest the following general interpretation: If your objective could actually belong to someone else, if it stresses you out in a major way, and/or if it offers little promise of internal fulfillment, you may want to give it the boot.
One of the most important things that you can do as you move through 2022, and as you move along the indefinite timeline of your life as a whole, is to choose your path forward based on the dreams that are nearest and dearest to your heart. Everything else — all the external expectations, pressures, and assumptions, whether real or imagined — can be let go, for they are not your burden to bear.
If you’re looking for additional guidance in the process of uncovering your heart’s calling and pursuing your true purpose, please feel free to reach out to me personally. And be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to experience my regular meditations, channeled inspirations, and other wellness offerings.