We are past the half-way mark for January and I’m just starting to see a drop off in the number of articles I have been receiving several times a day about how to make this year a super successful one. In the past couple of weeks I have been inundated with every top 10 – 50 list imaginable full of advice-lite and quick tips on how to make 2016 my best year ever. And in case I miss (or avoid) those messages, there is also the deluge of commercials for weight loss products and dating sites that serve as a constant reminder that achieving your ideal weight and acquiring a new life partner is your ticket to a successful year and life. If I sound a little cynical, it isn’t by accident.
Clearly January is the time of year when many of us are engaging in a ritual of reflection and planning, making resolutions and goals for what we want from our lives. Career, relationships, health, and other aspects of our existence are examined for improvement or change.
While the calendar year serves as a decent enough arbitrary time line for achieving whatever goals we set, we are often reminded that life doesn’t always conform to our plans and schedule. Personal and professional growth, for example, is an ongoing journey and can take longer than the days that fit in a calendar year. Sometimes real life changes happen in an instance and often mess with the very plans and goals we have set for ourselves.
I have no intention of piling on yet another list of to do’s for 2016 in order to be successful. There is plenty of that around already and frankly, I just wouldn’t do that to you. I have only one piece of advice for the year and beyond and it comes from a very personal place, so here it is:
Let go of regret. Be good with who you are, where you are. Right now.
We plan and strategize, set goals and intentions, visualize and dream and then take action to accomplish what we want. This can be a good thing in our lives, giving us focus, direction and some discipline for growth and achievement.
Life, however doesn’t always work out the way we plan. When our decisions and actions don’t result in the outcome we had wanted we can sometimes get caught up in a cycle of self-blame, guilt and regret. When we carry that with us over time the weight of our cumulative guilt and regret can bring us down. Then, when we try to move forward toward our goals, carrying all that heavy baggage with us makes it a struggle. We struggle because we loose confidence in ourselves and it takes more mental and emotional effort to take on our goals. We can then get caught in a spiral of repeating old patterns and getting more down on ourselves as we keep repeating mistakes and not achieving what we want.
So what’s the answer?
Acceptance. Accept who you are, accept where your life is right now. Easier said than done, but the truth is, it’s the only way to start to find any piece of mind and it’s your best chance for moving forward with your life, getting what you want, and getting any enjoyment out of it.
Be mindful of negative self talk – that voice inside us that seems to be on autopilot criticizing, demanding perfection, telling us how we were stupid to do or say that thing or not do that thing, to have made that decision….if only we had just done x instead of y. And speaking of why, why did I say that, do that, why didn’t I just listen…
How many times have you said or heard someone say “if I had known then what I know now…” No one has that ability. Hindsight is always 20/20 and unfortunately none of us has mastered the art of time travel – yet. It doesn’t serve you or help you be successful to beat yourself up for a decision you made or something you did in the past. It only erodes your confidence and self esteem.
If you feel the tinges of remorse, guilt, or blame coming up, remind yourself that you made the best decision, the best choice you could with information and awareness that you had at the time. It’s easy to judge a decision or action after you’ve made it and know the outcome but life doesn’t work like that. As John Maxwell said, sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. When things don’t work out, be compassion with yourself, reflect on what you have learned and move on. Not easy work, but if you do it consciously, over time it becomes easier as you re-wire your default response.
If you find yourself repeating the same patterns over and over, leading to the same results you don’t want, or making decisions that are harmful to you or those you love, It’s time to dig deeper to find out why you keep doing the same things that result in an outcome you don’t want. Talk to someone you trust – family, a friend, a coach or therapist, to help shed some light on why you keep going there. And remember that these situations that you keep finding yourself in are opportunities for learning, healing, and growth, if you let them.
Sometimes we learn from mistakes and never repeat them again. The lesson is that powerful. Sometimes we have behaviors that are so ingrained that it takes several times or a lifetime to learn and evolve. The key is to own our decisions and their outcomes and make changes where we can. There is a big difference between taking responsibility and blaming yourself. One empowers, the other takes your power away.
So for 2016, give yourself a break. Let yourself be a flawed beautiful human. Your story is much more interesting that way. Think of all the great stories you know from novels and plays and movies. One-dimensional perfect characters are frankly boring. The more flawed the characters, the more interesting they and their story become. It may take time and conscious practice, but learn to love and laugh at your perceived flaws. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Perfection is a lousy goal and makes it more challenging for you to take the worthy risks that will make your life rich with experiences and give you wonderful messy stories to tell.
Join me and 17 other highly-sought-after guest speakers and career experts for the 2016 Catapult Your Career Success Summit on now through to February 1st. This is a complementary series of tele-sessions to help you kick start your 2016. Take the time for yourself and your own growth – check it out here: www.resultscatalyst.ca/catapult.html