The Thing We’re After, Isn’t The Thing Itself
I don’t know about you, but for me, the end of the year can sometimes feel like a pressure cooker. There’s this sense of urgency of finishing things before the year is done. There’s the insistence of declaring the year ahead — what it looks like, what we’ll do and what we plan to accomplish.
When it comes to new beginnings and setting intentions, the options are endless, and if you’re anything like me, you just want to get it right. And so you mull over the options, the words, the intentions until you’re overwhelmed and the new year comes and goes and with that your resolve to do or declare anything.
Or, even if you’re set on doing all the things before the end of the year, it can also feel pointless to set anything — be it a word or resolution — given the collective grief and uncertainty the last two years have afforded us.
More often than not, we find ourselves in this limbo where we want to take steps forward, to have something to look forward to and work towards; but we also worry about leaving the “comfort” of the proverbial grief sink hole we’ve been living in for the last year and a half…I mean what if 2022 is just 2020, too?
It wasn’t always this feeling of anticipation for me. In fact, as a little girl I was excited about the start of the year. I’d break out the new journal I had just received for Christmas and on the first sheet of freshly lined paper, I’d write out my goals and dreams for the year ahead while watching the New Year’s Day parade on TV. It was a tradition I carried well into adulthood.
Even though the New Year is an arbitrary marker in time, for many of us it symbolically represents new beginnings and clean states. It offers us the opportunity to reflect on the previous year and it allows for a mental reset, a real invitation to alter our mindset — to believe that we can change, that we can become better versions of ourselves.
Crossing over the threshold from December 31st to January 1st won’t automatically change us or our outlook on life, but it can serve as a natural starting line for changing both the way we think and the things we do.
While January was full of excitement, by February I had long forgotten about the goals I’d written out and by the next New Year, I was pulling out a new journal repeating the same process.
My problem wasn’t that I didn’t want to set goals or achieve them — I did — I just never ended up feeling fulfilled in the process of setting goals and chasing after them.
When I set resolutions at the start of the year, one of two things would happen: I’d either set the goal and get no where close to achieving it or I’d hit the goal I set, but I didn’t feel the way I thought I’d feel when I got “there”. In each of these scenarios, I left feeling unaccomplished and disappointed…the exact opposite of how I wanted to feel.
You see, that’s the thing with goals and resolutions. We think having the thing — whatever that thing is — will allow us to feel a certain way once we achieve said goal; but it rarely ever leaves us feeling accomplished and how it is we want to feel. And that’s because the thing we’re after isn’t the thing itself — it’s not losing the weight, or finding the relationship or landing the job — that will make us feel happy, successful or fulfilled. Rather, it’s when we pursue the feeling of happiness, success or fulfillment that we find ourselves led to greater possibilities, things we could have never anticipated. My friends, we’ve got the equation backwards.
The game of setting resolutions and perpetually finding disappointment ended for me a decade ago. Ten years ago I was reading Danielle LaPorte’s book, “The Desire Map” and stopped dead in my tracks when I read,
“You’re not chasing the goal itself, you’re actually chasing the feeling that you hope achieving that goal will give you.
Which means we have the procedures of achievement upside down. We go after the stuff we want to have, get, or accomplish, and we hope that we’ll be fulfilled when we get there. It’s backwards. And it’s burning us out.
So what if you first got clear on how you actually wanted to feel in your life, and then created some ‘Goals with Soul’?”The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte
From the depths of my soul, I knew what she was talking about. At my core, I understood. Every fiber of my being yearned for this kind of clarity.
This is the piece that’s been missing, I thought, and I reread those lines over and over again, like hands feeling out braille.
I thought back to all the goals I set, even the ones I achieved, and I never left feeling the way I thought I’d feel when I got “there”.
I thought back to all the goals my eating disorder created, the weight loss goals I set, how I’d tell myself if I just lost five more pounds, I’d be happier. I lost five. I lost ten. I vividly remember standing on a scale, looking down and seeing it read eighty-seven pounds and thinking, it’s just not enough.
My point is, I hit my goal, then I surpassed it, butI wasn’t any happier. Actually, I was more miserable, still telling myself just five more pounds….
And so I started to think, What if I actually got clear on how I wanted to feel? …How did I want to feel?
With those two simple questions words flooded from all corners of my mind: confident, happy, free, abundant, radiant, successful, fearless.
It was as if I had found my center and from that moment, I changed my approach to the start of the New Year. I began seeking a feeling rather than an extrinsic set of goals.
Choosing just one word to anchor my year for the last decade has afforded me growth, possibilities and lessons that I would not have otherwise found and it started with one simple question,
How do you want to feel?
Over the last decade, I’ve chosen words like: Fearless, Free, Open, Truth, Confident, Light, Aligned, Trust and Growth.
Choosing a single word to anchor my year and seeking out the feeling has led me to:
- work with a life coach
- begin this blog and build a website
- start teaching fitness
- leave toxic relationships and work environments
- explore and define my sexuality
- become a yoga teacher
- find the love of my life
But perhaps the most interesting word I’ve ever picked, which ironically was the last word I chose back in 2020, was Growth.
At the end of 2019, right on the heels of Trust, a year that allowed me to trust myself and life again — that led me to find the love of my life — I chose the word, Growth.
I really felt like the pervious few years I was planting some big seeds and that 2020 was going to be a big year, my year to make it all happen.
Three months into 2020, I found myself with the rest of the world… in a global pandemic. I was out of work, anxious and afraid, relying on the destructive habits of my eating disorder just to survive — literally the furthest thing (or so I thought) from growth.
I spent most of the last year and a half like so many people I know: tucked away in my grief sinkhole, overwhelmed and exhausted. I had so much growth and spiritual lessons being thrust upon me that I quite literally shut down.
All I could think was, This wasn’t what I asked for. Why couldn’t I have just chosen a word like “Happy” or “Abundant”? F*ck Growth. I don’t want to grow anymore.
The funny thing about choosing a word for your year is you have this idea in your head about why it is you chose the word and where you think it will lead you (sneakily we try to go back to our goal-setting ways); but when you really open up to your word and you chase that feeling, when you allow your word to guide you towards the experiences themselves, your life expands exponentially.
Looking back, 2020 was indeed a year of growth. Every aspect of my life was calling me to grow. But, in order to do that, I had to confront old stories. I had to break through some really limiting beliefs. I was being called forth to break cycles of behavior that I didn’t want to live with anymore. None of that was pretty. No part of that was easy. Some of it I’m still healing and working through. When you’re in the thick of it…growth sucks.
We tend to think of growth as the finished product. We think of the beautiful flower that sits above the soil. We forget the hardship the seed had to endure below ground so that the flower itself could weather the storms above ground. We forget that growth itself happens in the dark.
Growth happens in the dark.
Sitting here almost two years later, I can look back and appreciate the lessons I’ve learned. I can see how far I’ve come. But this time last year, at the end of 2020, when people started reaching out with, “Have you chosen your word for 2021?” It was a hell-to-the-no.
In the last decade, 2021 was the only year I never picked a word for my year. Honestly, I was too afraid to choose a word last year. And in some ways, I was still processing and doing the work from the previous year for Growth.
As I sit with the few remaining days of this year and I look back and reflect on the last year and a half, I can do so with a bit more ease and trust. I can ask myself, “How do you want to feel?” and I can feel myself leaning into that question in a way I haven’t in quite some time.
“How do you want to feel?” I ask myself again. And then I close my eyes and listen with my heart.
Badass. Bold. Expansive. Vibrant.
Driven. Intentional. Anchored.
I lean in a bit more…
Centered. Attuned. Impactful. Magic.
Purposeful. Shakti. Visionary. Innovative.
And there it is. The way Innovative hits, strikes a chord. Innovative, I say, letting the word roll about my mouth. I like the way it feels. I like the way it sounds. I like how connected it makes me feel to my work and the bigger projects like Teaching Beyond the Physical that I’m working on, the bigger work I believe I’m meant to do. (Psst — Teaching Beyond the Physical launches Monday. Sign up to get on the waitlist)
Innovative, I say over and over again, making the word part of me.
And just like that, I find my word for 2022.
This week, as you close out 2021 and look to 2022, I invite you to ask yourself, “How do I want to feel?”
And then just listen. Sit with the question. Come back to it again and again, as many times as you need to. Know that you might not find the answer right away. You might have to dig deep, explore and expand into it. Or, it might burst out from the pages of the book when you least expect it.
So, how do you want to feel? If you were to look back a year from now, what would you want 2022 to feel like?
If you don’t know where to start, you can find a huge list of feeling words HERE. Note: it’s a big list and it’s grouped both by Core Desired Feeling Themes as well as alphabetically.
The best thing to do when you’re word-hunting, is write down every word that speaks to you. Then comb back over your list until you can narrow it down to two or three words and once you have two or three words, spend a few days “trying” them on: What would your day look like if you chased the feeling of Joy? How would your day look if you embodied Confidence?
Think of “trying” on words like trying on clothes in the dressing room of your favorite store. You don’t really know how it looks or feels until you try it on.
And give yourself some grace throughout this process. If you’re not feeling it and it feels like you’re forcing, ease into your New Year with no expectations. Sometimes releasing the pressure on finding the “right” or “perfect” word is what leads us to the very word we need.
Have a word for 2022? I’d love to hear what you’re intending for the year ahead and you can share it in the comments below.
To new beginnings and chasing the feeling,