Why I’m done setting goals. Instead of changing the channel, I’m tuning in.

A vintage radio sits on a table with a plate of pretzels, a fancy tea cup, and a flower in a vase.

Can you feel it? The euphoria of the new year. The beginning of January always comes with so many dreams, intentions, and aspirations. This is going to be THE year for me. The year I will get everything I dream of – and finally become the person I want to be. I don’t know about you, but as I’ve gotten older, my perception of January has shifted. Despite the shiny promises I see every time I open an app or a browser, I’m not buying in. Instead of setting SMART goals, building a detailed plan to crush them, and being disciplined about the hustle it will take to accomplish said crushing, I plan to crush nothing this year – except maybe a few societal expectations. Instead, I’m re-entering my first week back at work gently. After a restful holiday break, I am recalibrating. I’m finely tuning in to myself like I would a radio – tentatively rolling my dial with precision and care, to reduce static and improve clarity. What about you? Are you setting big goals and changing the channel entirely this year? Or would it be more useful to spend some time tuning in your connection to you?

As I’m sure you know, January means big business for many industries – especially those that can help you to become a new you. Whether it’s the obvious ones like joining a gym or starting a nutrition challenge or the push to organize your home, learn a new skill, or discover a new hobby, please know that there are big systems mobilizing you to change your life right now. No, I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Just have a look at the latest flyers from your local big box store. It’s no coincidence that there are all sorts of great sales on exercise equipment, home organization, and cooking gadgets. And if now is the right time for you to invest in those items, fantastic. I’m not here to discourage you. Change that channel! But I am here to encourage you to think beyond what you’re going to DO differently and toward the concept of how you are going to BE this year. In other words, whether or not you’re changing the channel, you can use this time to tune out the static and tune in some clarity.

Changing the channel isn’t enough

This is why I spent a lot of my holiday time resting and recalibrating. We spend so much of our lives planning how we can do things differently, assuming that doing will lead to us finally having those experiences, assets, and states that we value. And only then can we be those people that we strive toward. For example, if I exercise every day, then I’ll have a strong and fit body and a sculpted set of six-pack abs (as distinct from my current single ab). And if my body looks perfect, then I will feel confident, sexy, strong and worthy.

Except I won’t. And I know that because I’ve been there. I spent some time cleaning out old emails recently – and found a cache of photos from when Mike and I were on a health kick about 10 years ago. I was running 15-20 miles a week, lifting heavy weights, eating clean, and largely living my life around my kitchen and the gym. I was buff. Tight biceps, slender thighs, a tiny waist, and a smooth tummy. Incidentally, I never did find those six pack abs. But I weighed every gram of food that went into my body. I portioned out the popcorn at the movie theatre so I wouldn’t go over my calorie limit. We planned our date night meals days in advance. And on days when I knew I would indulge, I would do a double workout so that I could earn some extra calories and not feel guilty for letting loose. Because if I could just lose a few more pounds, I’d hit my goal. And then, what? I guess life was going to magically transform and I’d finally feel good about myself. Except that never happened.

The false hope of Do > Have > Be

That’s the illusion that we buy into. That if we just did more things, we would have what we want, and we would finally feel good about ourselves. But the doing and having takes time. The work requires discipline and it progresses incrementally on a continuum. But when we hold our being as the reward and don’t experience it on that same continuum, then it will always disappoint us. To put this another way, each week, as I lost 1% of my total weight loss goal, I wasn’t also becoming 1% more confident and worthy. I saw my confidence and worthiness as the reward for hitting my 50lb goal. I’m not sure how, but in my mind, I expected it to just change once I hit that number on the scale. But it was never going to turn on a dime. I couldn’t spend months restricting and controlling myself, and beating myself up if I cheated and then turn around the following day and suddenly be everything I was striving for just because I finally weighed the right amount. That would have been impossible. And that’s because, I approached the process of personal transformation from the wrong direction.

The power of Be > Do > Have

Now, I am not the first person to talk about the shift from Do > Have > Be toward Be > Do > Have.  It is the foundation of most coaching programs and a lot of contemporary marketing. But it’s something that I think we forget during the time of reflection as the pages on the calendar shift from December to January.

The mindset of Be > Do > Have is the idea that if we choose who we are (or who we be), that prompts us to act differently, which leads us to have certain outcomes or achievements. By being who we want to be every day, we give ourselves the grace necessary to act with intention, self-love, and alignment. And then we have the opportunity to celebrate our achievements as the result of our embodied actions.

So using the example of physical fitness, if I instead focus on being confident and worthy, that shifts how I act in many areas of my life. Maybe it means I add more vegetables into my diet. Maybe it means I prioritize movement every day. It might also mean I prioritize surrounding myself with people who elevate my spirits and volunteer my time to contribute to causes that are meaningful to me. When I operate from the position of who I want to be, my actions are different. They’re more well-rounded. They’re aligned. And that means I can celebrate them and experience joy in them every day.

The Earth takes a year to revolve around the sun. You’re not the Earth.

Our planetary season may be 365 days in length. But that doesn’t mean the year is like the circles on your smart watch. Nothing resets on January 1. You still have the same body, the same family, the same job, the same life as you did on December 31. So why do we treat every new calendar year as a finite period of time within which we need to accomplish a set number of tasks? Do we love our lists that much?

I have to be honest, I do love a good checklist of items to cross off. It feels good. And I promise you, I will be making lists and checking off items well after my kids put me into a nursing home. But there’s a difference between itemizing key tasks and turning your life into a task list. Where’s the joy in that?

Last year, I tried to compromise. I had my typical goals for the year: walk 500 miles, lose 20 lb,  read 18 books. But I also tried to quantify things like freedom and creativity. As if by recording the number of hours spent painting or sitting in the forest or staring at the lake, I might attach some quantifiable value to them. The irony is that, by counting the hours that I spent in creative flow or the minutes I spent in meditative silence, I cheapened the immense impact those activities had on my spirit – and by nature, on the way I lived my life. I’m glad to say I stopped tracking those activities early in the year.

Tuning in

If you’ve been following my blogs for a while now, you’ll know that last year was one where I stepped bravely into the waters of my life, to uncover and recover an understanding of who I am and what brings me joy. I credit the Great Big Journey as the safe, guiding container in which I explored me – and my insightful and divine coach Geraldine for helping me navigate the rapids. During this past year, I learned the importance of rest and its value in my own creative process. Taking some long overdue time off this summer led to a month of ease at our summer cottage – and a groundswell of inspiration and flow that evolved into a weekly blog and the creation of my first negotiation program.

So this week, as I ease back into daily work, I am not changing the channel. I’m not setting ambitious goals against which I plan to measure my life. Instead, I’m recalibrating – tuning the dial. A bit more movement, a few more vegetables every day. More naps. Fewer shoulds. More writing. Less structure. More love – for me and others. Less control. More joy.

That’s because who I want to be is more important than what I want to accomplish. I want to be a compassionate and loving person, someone who lives with integrity, someone who honours with gratitude and grace the talents and privileges I am fortunate to hold. I want to be a person who has time for myself and others, and someone who treats myself with the same love and compassion I give others.

But how will I measure success? How will I know if I’ve achieved what’s important to me? I know one thing for sure – what’s important to me can’t be quantified on a checklist of to do items.

For me, these days, my answer lies not in the achievement of goals, but the absence of regret.

Keep learning!

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