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.
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?
“Looking over the ledge of the wave meant horrible things could happen, like falling on coral or hitting your head or going over the falls. But if you don’t drop in, you never know. You could have the ride of your life — just like pursuing what you want in life takes a risk. You most likely will not fall on the coral reef, but that decision to drop in, it’s always scary.” — Shelby Stanger
Dropping in is scary. Deciding to drop in is scary. At times, terrifying. Both in surfing and in life, I’ve sat on the edge of many waves. I’ve dropped in on plenty; I’ve held back on others.
For the past few years, as I’ve read, watched and listened to writers and storytellers I admire, when talking about writing and storytelling, they often say that the only way to get better is to sit down; roll up our sleeves; and write and tell stories as much as we can as often as we can.
When it comes to writing and storytelling — as is the case with so many things in life — there are no shortcuts. In order to get better, you have to practice. You have to put in the time and do the work. No one else can do it for you.
I’ve definitely seen the truth of this in my own life.
Last year around this time, prompted by a Medium post by Chris Castiglione, I took a closer look at what I wanted to accomplish in my 26th year, my year as a 25-year-old. At the end of the year, what would I be proud of? What did I want to do more of? Less of? How did I want to learn and grow?
I swam competitively for 18 years and, as a result, am no stranger to setting goals — some quite lofty — and writing down what it’ll take to accomplish those goals. But I’d never thought through and written down goals for my life before. Why not give it a try?
I used Chris’ post as a guide for picturing my 26th year. It took me several weeks to nail down exactly what I wanted to focus on, but I honed in on some key areas, wrote everything down and printed a copy to keep on hand in my apartment, a road map of sorts for the year ahead.
The goal wasn’t to plan my life but rather to make sure it didn’t pass me by, to make sure I was actively engaged in making the most of my next 365 days.