The other night, I sat in bed reading through pages containing goals and thoughts I’d intentionally set and written down at the start of this year.
While I keep these dreams tucked into my computer sleeve, it had been awhile since I’d read through them. Since I wrote them over several days at the start of the year, I know them fairly well. However, in reading them anew, I was struck by the language tied to each goal — and the way I’d envisioned this year overall. There’s not one word or phrase that stands out. It’s more the combination of all of them together. In reading them with fresh eyes — and a fresh perspective of a me who’s lived six months since I wrote those goals — I saw a lot of naivety in the Emily I was at the start of the year.
My dreams still hold true. What’s changed is that I’m less focused on the outcome and perhaps more focused on the process. I know the process is part of tackling each dream. I knew that when I wrote those goals. In writing the goals, I wrote about why each was important and what it would take to see it through, and while I spent time answering those questions for each goal, I think I failed to see just how important those questions and their answers were.
In tackling your goals, you have to love the process — almost more than the end goal itself.
“you are a season of becoming” — Danielle Doby
With each passing day, between traditional media, social media and our hyper-connected world, I feel we’re becoming more apt to celebrate dreams realized, projects completed, “overnight” successes and the highlights of life. We’re more apt to share the milestones of any given time period than we are to share the process itself.
The reality is those moments are a fraction of our entire lives, and in sharing and celebrating those benchmarks, I feel as though we lose sight of the process.
In the days leading up to my 28th birthday, I wrote a letter from my future self to my current self. I stepped into my shoes at 29 and wrote a letter to myself at 28 — with the idea of capturing what I dreamt, and still dream, my reality will be as I turn 29 next year. (The exercise, which I’ve done for a few years now, is meant to help define my goals and actions for the year ahead.) Nine days after writing that letter, I was reminded that we don’t always get a choice in life.
A few weeks ago, I slid into a funk. I’m two months into full-time freelancing and contracting, and while I know I’m doing just fine, on a Sunday afternoon in March, feelings of fear and self-doubt started to sink in. I wasn’t surprised they turned up. To be honest, from the moment I made the decision to be my own boss, I was expecting them; I just didn’t know when they’d show up. But there they were, crashing the party.
I believe we all experience fear and self-doubt to varying degrees. I also believe that what sets us apart is how we choose to deal with those emotions. On this particular week, the silence of the in-between — a silence that came with wrapping stories and projects and waiting to receive feedback on other pitches, stories and projects — felt a bit paralyzing.
You see, life feels smoother when things are in motion. When there’s a lull in the action, we create time and space for fear and self-doubt to jump in, especially when rent, bills and overall living expenses are very real and present and we’re uncertain as to when our next paycheck will come.
So when those in-between moments come, what’s a dreamer to do to kick fear and self-doubt out of the picture?
She was never quite ready.
But she was brave.
And the universe listens to brave. – Rebecca Ray
Life is a series of steps. Some big, some small. Some light, some heavy. Some easy, some challenging. Each step certainly carries its own personality. But at the end of the day, steps are steps. Simple as that.
To move forward and make progress, we have to be willing to let our feet leave the ground. We have to choose to pick our feet up, take a step forward and move. Thoughtfully. Intentionally. Purposefully. We have to give up our old footing to find new footing. Finding that new footing isn’t always safe and secure; it’s not always a “sure thing.” But when it comes to moving forward, it’s necessary.
When I was in college, my swim coach often told me and my teammates to swim our own race. “You need to swim your race in your own lane,” he’d say. “You need to swim with blinders on.”
Back then, I didn’t understand the significance of those words beyond competitive swimming. I didn’t think of them as being applicable to life in general. But the metaphor is there — and I’m so grateful for it.
In swimming, it’s important to stick to your own race plan and pace. Looking from one lane to the next is an inefficient way to swim and an easy way to lose sight of your race and fall apart. There’s a time and place, usually toward the end of the race, for letting those around you motivate you and your race. There’s also a time and place, typically the majority of the race, for swimming with blinders on. For swimming your race in your lane. Yes, others can push you, but really, your pace and your push should come from within; they should come from you. It’s a strategic balance between swimming your own race and racing those in the lanes surrounding you.
To do that, you’ve got to be clear on your goals and how you’re going to pace your race — and train to be able to swim the race you want and need to swim — to achieve those goals.
This lesson and its relevance to life in general is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
During a recent layover in Atlanta, I walked into an airport restaurant in Terminal F. After I looked over a menu and decided to eat there, the hostess asked me if I wanted to sit at the bar or at a table.
“Table,” I said, wanting some space to relax and write before my overnight flight to Buenos Aires.
As the hostess walked me to a table, she asked me where I was headed.
“Argentina,” I said.
“What are you doing there?”