As a general rule, I resist rituals. I find that going through the motions of anything day-to-day, month-to-month, or year-to-year – be it eating a standard breakfast, maintaining a specific exercise practice, or closing out the year a particular way – does not serve my desire to cultivate presence and spontaneity…keys for bang-up communication. While I have no problem committing to people long-term, I prefer to commit to practices just until I’ve sucked all the juice out of them. Then, it’s time to reset and create a new paradigm for professional or personal mastery before I go on autopilot and or get disengaged.
As I muse on how to close out 2012 and dance delightfully into 2013, I hear myself asking for an opportunity NOT to add more ‘stuff’ to do. I don’t want to make more lists. Set more goals. Initiate more calls. Bleh. My recent cocooning in the aftermath of a busy November and early-December coupled with holidays spent enjoying my family reminded me that I don’t lack ambition in my work. And when I build in periods to go deep and silent as a part of it, I allow myself to contribute even more for I create opportunities for the next iteration of my work to reveal itself to me. But let me not get ahead of myself…more on what I’m cooking up in the weeks ahead.
I know that in this year’s transition, just as I don’t want to do more, I also don’t want to think about purging – stuff or habits. I have no yearning to cleanse. The idea of giving up solid foods, re-organizing files, or sorting through old clothes sounds about as appealing as filing my fingernails on a chalkboard.
Yet, I really do like the idea of doing something mindful to energetically commit to a new year. So I’ve decided I’m going to be playing with substitution. Overall I am pleased with the energy I generate and how I show up to my life to serve in the world, but I’m aware of a few places I’ve allowed myself to get enmeshed in my own web of habit. Therefore, I’ve identified those places. I’ve gone to the root of what is driving said hiccup, and I am trading out what I’m doing now with a practice that is going to more effectively honor and satiate the underlying driver and get me to where I seek to be.
No sacrifice. No extra effort. Just a re-organization of attention and re-sculpting of behavior.
Let me give you example, an area where I’m substituting. While it might sound super mundane or outright silly, when I get really honest with myself about where I can lapse into self-defeating self-talk, this is that spot.
What I’m doing now – Frequently checking Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
What I want- I hunger to use the influence I have to enrich lives…and to be viewed as a thought leader in effective communication with self and others.
Realization – The more that I check up on my social media activity, the more that I subconsciously define my success and measure my contribution by numbers of ‘likes’ or “retweets’ or ‘interactions.’ I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve started a sentence to myself, “When I reach 5000 Facebook fans, then…”
I first thought about giving myself a certain amount of times per day to pop onto these sites, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that tactic avoids the real problem, how I’m erroneously evaluating my impact. And it doesn’t move me toward the desire – to consistently use social media to share my ideas and engage members of my virtual community.
Substitution (or Solution)- Each time I post a message online, I now ask myself, “How am I contributing?” There is no reason to post just to post. Nobody goes on Twitter over the holidays and says, “I should stop following Alexia Vernon. She didn’t tweet for two days.” I am looking for substance over quantity.
Just as importantly, each time I check on something I’ve posted, I now ask myself, “Is this motivated by love or fear?” If it’s the latter, I will stop myself in my tracks and get to the source of where the insecurity is coming from. Going online will only loop me into an ugly spiral of self-doubt. And if it’s the former, then I can peek and engage.
It feels good to know that I’m not wasting precious time at the end of the year committing to ‘stuff’ just for the sake of being a good, self-reflective learning and development professional. Instead, I get to be snuggled up in bed with a book (rotating between How Remarkable Women Lead and Finding Your Way in a Wild New World), my cat in my lap, and focused on a few subtle and significant tweaks I’m making to free myself up to live and play with more purpose and pleasure.
I don’t want to prescribe my system for you, for I know that I’m guilty of skipping over 90%+ of the New Year’s emails, blog posts, cards, etc. I receive as they make me feel anxious…like I’m not doing enough. Even though I now only subscribe to just under two dozen lists, that’s a lot of systems I could be following.
And if you have made it this far, chances are I’m making you feel good. So no bait and switch.
What I would like to ask you to think about is how you can get to the source of what you want in the year ahead. And whether you use substitution or not, I invite you to be real with yourself about what you are doing now and exactly how it’s serving your desires. As you inevitably sniff some funkiness, be kind to yourself by not replaying what has been. Instead, prioritize your focus on what you can take responsibility for making be.