Are You On Achievement Autopilot?
I want to pay off my MasterCard
I want to lose ten pounds
I want to be in a passionate, connected relationship
I want to be successful in my career and land the promotion
We all have goals. We all have things we want that we don’t currently have. But too often, we set goals – or especially this time of year, we get caught in resolution overload – only to find ourselves on what’s known as achievement autopilot.
We check the boxes. We declare we want the things. We think the things we want will allow us to feel the way we want to feel.
But then a month passes. Several months pass. Maybe we hit the mark. Maybe we don’t. But almost always, we’re left feeling unfulfilled.
The thing about constantly striving for more is that we never end up fulfilled or feeling the way we thought we would.
We’re not fulfilled because we set a goal, take steps toward it and don’t get there, leaving us to feel like a failure.
We’re not fulfilled because we set a goal, go after the goal and reach the goal…but we get there three months or a year later than we projected we would. We still feel like a failure.
We’re not fulfilled because we set a goal, only to see a shiny, far better goal along the way. We decide to course correct toward the new, shiny goal and achieve it, but still feel like a failure because we changed our mind along the way.
We’re not fulfilled because we set a goal and exceed the goal – I’m talking by leaps and bounds we exceed what we wanted – but still feel like a failure because we didn’t dream big enough.
There’s always going to be goals – things you desire, things you want to achieve. It’s not about you not having dreams, big goals or aspirations. The crux of the whole equation is the relationship you have with your goals.
The balance between presence – accepting what is – and striving – working toward something more – is your relationship to the goal. Are you being pushy about it?
I thought back to the goals – big and small – I’ve had in my life: becoming an intenSati Master Trainer; being in a relationship where I was deeply connected physically, mentally and emotionally; winning my high school track championship; being able to financially support myself; writing my book; being a present and mindful parent – in each of these situations, the more I focused on the goal itself, the boxes I should check to “get there” – the more I pushed and tried to force the outcome, the specific outcome I wanted – the further my goal became.
With every push on my end, I was greeted with challenges on the other. I was caught in a constant cycle of achievement autopilot where I truly believed having the thing, whatever that thing was, would bring me the happiness, love and fulfillment I was after.
In 2012, I stumbled upon Danielle LaPorte’s book, The Desire Map, a book that literally changed my life and how I approached my goals. It was the lightbulb moment where I got connected beyond the goal to a goal with soul – to the feeling I was after. It was the first time I ever thought about my goals this way. It was the first time I asked myself, How do you want to feel? instead of asking myself, What is it you want?
Knowing how you want to feel is the most potent form of clarity you can have and generating those feelings is the most powerfully creative thing you can do with your life.Danielle LaPorte
And so, in 2012 and every year since, instead of setting resolutions or outlying goals for my year, I began asking myself,
How do you want to feel?
Choosing one word of how I want to feel for the last eight years has allowed me to anchor myself to the feeling itself, rather than a specific outcome that may or will likely not, give me the feeling I’m ultimately after. This shift to “feelings-first” has allowed greater opportunities to present themselves – things I would have otherwise not considered or been open to if I was dead set on a specific goal.
I chose fearless because I wanted to confront my big fears – I wanted to step into fully living my life. This word allowed me to begin work with a life coach, become an intenSati leader and start a blog.
After years of being curious about my sexuality, it was in 2013 that I made the hardest decision of my life: I signed divorce papers and began my coming out process.
Open was a year of peeling back layers and delving deeper into self-growth. 2014 was the year I fully embraced being gay and while writing out my vision for relationships at a life coaching weekend, it was the first time I used the pronoun “her”.
After a year of inward growth, 2015 was about outward power. Fully aligning with the power of my word required me to ask for what I wanted and to own my voice in difficult conversations. In my career and relationships, it required me asking for what I needed with a delicate balance of grace and authority. But the word truth was also about living my truth and it required me to cultivate vulnerability and to live authentically. It was the first time I took my students “along for the ride,” sharing my challenges, struggles and successes openly.
I thought that by “having” this word, by possessing confidence, the rest of my life would fall into place. On the contrary, this word brought up everything unlike itself so that I could learn some major lessons. During this year I learned the power of staying in my own lane. I learned how collaboration, not competition, is how I feel successful – that we both can win. And I learned I became more confident when I could support others, when I could genuinely celebrate their success, when I could simply celebrate what I was doing without it taking something away from someone else.
In December 2016, I was ending my Yoga Teacher Training at LifeTime and I wanted my word for 2017 to remind me to be the light for others, to see the light in others no matter how challenging it might be, and to remember that I was light. This year was really about letting my light shine and honoring my talents and gifts. It was about finally letting go of not feeling good enough.
I wanted 2018 to be a year where I only did things that aligned with my core values and the person I wanted to be. 2018 was a year that really tested me in both my relationships and my career and in aligning with my higher self, I found myself leaving toxic relationships – on both the home front and at work. While there was deep heartbreak and disappointment in these tough decisions, they were the choices I needed to make to stay on my true path.
Trust was something I needed as I left behind 2018. I needed to believe I could trust others again, that I could build a community and home in my new work environment, and that ultimately, I could trust myself and my heart. I wanted to believe that no matter what happened, I’d be OK.
Perhaps the most amazing thing that happens when you land on a word is the clarity it affords you. When you get connected to how you want to feel – when you can identify that feeling – when you seek the actions that allow you to feel that way – you find a pot of gold even bigger than any goal or resolution you were seeking in the first place.
I thought I was simply looking to find trust – as if a single moment or collection of moments would afford me that certainty. Quite the reverse. I was being asked TO trust and only when I chose to trust did I find what I was seeking.
Trust is a decision you make knowing there are no guarantees. It’s about signing up to do the work, take the risk or be with the person regardless of the outcome. It’s trusting we will be OK in the end, remembering nothing in life is permanent and everything is imperfect.
This year has taught me real trust starts with ourselves.
When I started trusting myself and my talents and gifts, my work spoke for itself. I no longer needed to prove anything to myself or others. The game changed and it came with greater ease.
When I trusted my message and my purpose, I allowed myself to be connected to others, something that allowed me to feel at home in my work environment and to establish a new community.
When I trusted in things working out…they eventually worked out. Not right away and certainly not as I expected, but things worked out in their own due time. I may not have led Yoga Teacher Training at Fort Washington – and the first attempt to run it at Ardmore didn’t work either. The reasons it didn’t work the first two times are irrelevant. The important thing I had to learn was to let of how and when it would happen and to simply trust that it would. And it did. The very first group I’ve led through Yoga Teacher Training just graduated last week and I couldn’t be more proud.
But, perhaps the biggest thing trust has taught me this year is to listen to my heart – in all matters and in all ways.
Earlier this year, a guy came to my Saturday Gluteus MAXout class and after class he came up to me. After laying out his resume (with I’m sure a ton of eye rolls from me), he complimented me on my class, how I was the best instructor he’d ever taken class with. I was taken back and flattered, but to be honest, I was still working on trusting the work I was doing. But I accepted his compliment and didn’t really think much of it.
Well, this guy proceeds to come back to one of my classes each week and right before I’m getting ready to teach my yoga class, he walks over, asks me out, tells me I should think about it and then simply walks back to his mat. It was a legit mic drop moment that had me go, “Really? Who the F does this guy think he is?” I was annoyed but intrigued. Suffice it to say, he continued to come back to classes each week and I eventually accept his offer to go out to eat. One date turned into two turned into finding the person I consider to be my forever person (PS: should you want the extended story, he tells it much better 🙂 )
If I hadn’t made a choice to trust a feeling, to simply trust my heart, I wouldn’t be in the most amazing and fulfilling relationship. At the time he came into my class and my life, I wasn’t interested in seeing anyone; I was consumed with work and my goals – and I sure as hell wasn’t looking for a guy, of all things. But there was a little voice inside that whispered, give it a try, and I’m so very glad I trusted in that.
As 2019 comes to a close, I find myself feeling out words like vision, legacy, elevate, and purpose. And while I don’t have my word for 2020 yet, I know and trust that I’ll find the very one I need.
This week, I invite you to get curious about how you want to feel. If you were to fast forward to a year from now, December 2020, looking back, what would you want 2020 to feel like?
A bunch of words might come up, all clamoring for your attention – it’s OK. Write them all down. Try them all on. Say them out loud. Envision what it would look like to embody confidence. Imagine what you’d be doing if you felt inspired. Do this with all of your words without worrying if it’s an adjective, verb or noun. None of those details matter. What matters is how you want to feel.
When you find stillness, when you tune into your inner guidance, when you listen deeply to the answer, your word will always find you.
I’d love to hear about your word for 2020! Leave it in the comments for others (and The Universe) to hear!