Your Business Is Not A Self-Improvement Project (How Letting Go Of Goals Can Help You Achieve Them)
I began the entry, Dear Diary, today I’m learning to become a better Christian.
The year was 1980, and I was 10.
I’m not sure I knew what it meant to be a ‘better Christian’, particularly at that age.
All I knew was that I needed to be a better human being.
That I was broken.
(Or at least flawed.)
And possibly even in need of a major overhaul.
Over the years following that diary entry, I poured myself into pursuing the dream of perfection. I worked on enhancing my physical appearance, intellectual prowess, and emotional skills.
(I won’t say how successful I was at any of that.)
And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve, in itself.
The problem was. . . well, the problem was that I thought there was a problem.
I wasn’t just improving for the sake of progress. I was doing it with the agenda that I needed to ‘fix’ myself and my life.
Fast forward 32 years, as 2012 wound to a close.
I’d long since discovered that there was nothing wrong with me, and that I was as perfectly imperfect as any other creature on this planet.
And, as I sat down to write out my goals for the coming year, I couldn’t get excited about any of them.
What’s wrong with me? I wondered. There are lots of things I’d love to achieve in 2013. I love my work, I’m excited about my future, I have a lot of dreams to live out.
But the exercise of putting everything on the calendar left me flat.
Suddenly, I realized something important.
I was approaching goal-setting as a means to improve my present circumstances (my business and my life).
And the only reason I wasn’t happy with everything already, was because I was living somewhere other than the present moment.
And y'know. . . if we’re living somewhere other than the present moment, it doesn’t matter how our lives change; we’ll always be dissatisfied.
I realize my little Yoda moment isn’t anything ‘new’. Spiritual leaders, philosophers, and poets have been saying this for centuries. Eckhart Tolle and others have been saying it for at least a decade. Hell, I’ve been saying it for almost a decade myself.
But here’s where something really interesting happened.
Until that moment, I’d been having a difficult time reconciling my very human need to set goals and work toward achievements with a deep spiritual knowing that everything is just right exactly the way it is.
But as I sat there with my calendar, I realized that I didn’t need to choose between my goals and the present moment.
What I needed to do was let go of the self-improvement project.
I thought I had let go of ‘fixing’ myself years ago, but I realized I had simply replaced one set of objectives with another.
Let me explain.
Prior to starting my business and moving toward the work I’m now doing, I had been in a cul-de-sac of confusion for nearly two decades about ‘what to do with my life.’
Once I began engaging in work that truly fulfilled me, the behaviors I’d engaged in previously— compulsive shopping, looking for love in all the wrong places, striving to make more money in a career that didn’t fulfill me— fell by the wayside.
But what I didn’t realize was that I had simply replaced one set of unhealthy behaviors for another.
The truth was, I’d spent FAR too much time comparing myself to other entrepreneurs— big, small, and everywhere in between— and deciding on a regular basis whether I was better, worse, or the same.
WOW. What an utter waste of energy. All under the guise of ‘research’ and constantly improving my business practices, of course.
(Can you relate to this at all?)
I consider myself to be a pretty self-aware human being (and by saying that, I know I’m taking myself down a couple notches. . .).
And it’s easy for me to coach others out of the sand trap of comparison-itis.
But maaaan… I was stuck deep myself, and I needed a serious Physician, heal thyself moment.
So, I made a New Year’s Decision:
I’m done with the self-improvement project.
I’m done renovating the bedroom of my psyche or the living room of my business. The house (temple?) is perfect as-is.
This year, I’m practicing truly embracing my utter imperfection, in EVERY area of my life— including my business.
I’m done comparing myself to what others are doing. If I fall short, I fall short. Let them decide.
My business is to enjoy my life.
Joseph Campbell said to Follow your bliss. And I’ve realized my bliss lies in showing up. That’s it.
So that’s my big goal this year: Show Up.
And the craziest thing?
As soon as I made that decision, I breathed a sigh of relief, opened up my calendar, and began planning my year.
Not because I have to. Not because others are doing it, or because my clients and customers expect me to. Not because it will make me a better person to have a ‘more successful’ business.
I’ve planned out my year because it brings me immense, indescribable joy to help women spread their own entrepreneurial wings and enjoy the businesses and the lifestyles they so deserve.
Imagine that: choosing goals because they bring you joy (and transform others’ lives)!
It’s not too late for you to do the same, if you’ve been putting off setting your own yearly goals.
(No matter what day of the year it is.)
Choose goals that bring you joy.
And let this be your best year yet.