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Stop 'Should-ing' Yourself!

In the movie Burn After Reading (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it), at the end of the movie Brad Pitt’s character is standing in front of his leader and the guy says to him… What did we learn from this Feldheimer? And he says… Not to do it again, sir!

I’d say for most of us, when we spend time reflecting on our lives, we do it in just that way. Where did I go wrong? I wish I’d done it differently. Geez that was dumb! Sound familiar?

Looking back with regret can lead to the habit of ‘should-ing’ ourselves and others. As we begin the new year, if you made any resolutions that you didn’t maintain last year, you may be “should-ing” yourself. I should get more exercise, I should spend more time working on this project, I should spend more time with my family. There’s lots of things we should do but frankly where does that get you? For me, nowhere but feeling worse about what I should be doing.

Instead I’m going to challenge you to look at things differently, create a some space for self-care, and create a vision for the short and long term based on where you’ve been, on what you’ve accomplished and build upon that. Here’s how;

  1. Create a list of things that you accomplished this year. Maybe you learned something new or completed a tough class that you needed for school or work. Maybe you finally accomplished a project that you’ve been working on around the house, or even just took a few steps to make some progress. Maybe you celebrated a milestone anniversary with your partner. Maybe you adjusted to a pandemic! Spend 15 minutes and jot down the things that come up for you as wins. They don’t have to be huge and they can cover all areas of your life. Most importantly they are something you feel accomplished about.

  2. Next, celebrate! Often times we get to a transition period… the end of the year, a semester at school, a birthday, the end of a project at school, work or home, and we think whew! that’s done but we don’t spend even a minute enjoying the accomplishment before moving onto the next thing. Spend some time in the joy of these accomplishments. What did you value about the experiences? What made you successful? What gifts did you bring in these wins? What did you learn? How might you do things a bit differently next time?

  3. How are those accomplishments a step in your overall larger goals? What connections exists between them that serve a greater purpose? Keep in mind that these may be connections that you may not have recognized before. For example, you may have had a lesson in how to work better with others that you find you can now use while working as a volunteer at your church. This serves a larger goal of being of service to others. Celebrate the connections!

  4. Now that you’ve made the connections, and identified how your strengths and lessons created those opportunities, what opportunity exists to build upon them? What would that look like in the form of a new or next step goal? Consider creating a picture or map that allows you to tie ideas together. Spend some time here. As you work through this you create awareness that will allow you to recognize opportunities when they come up. As an example, you may have a goal to create space in your garden for a peaceful place to sit. You’ve taken some steps to begin the project and identified that as a celebrated win and you have a gift for choosing plants that complement each other. By spending time in creating an idea map, if an opportunity arises for you to gain plants you didn’t plan for, you’ll easily be able to see where they fit perfectly.

  5. Finally, chose one or more goals and establish SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) actions associated with them. Making goals achievable can be most difficult given that we human beings love to take on the world. Tie the actions back to your idea map to be sure they are relevant. Use SMART to size the actions, if things don’t go exactly as planned look back at the accomplishments and celebrate your wins along the way – you’ll find small wins there and then adjust and keep moving.

Life is a tapestry. Enjoy your part in weaving your accomplishments and lessons along the way. Best wishes for a wondrous 2021! If you’d like some support with your vision, schedule a half hour with me to see what's possible!

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