Since high school, I’ve set goals, created a plan, sought help, overcome obstacles, and achieved my goals. I have so many lists and journals (even as far back as Grade 10) with my goals written down. Dreaming up a future I want and then setting about to achieve it is fun. There is a feeling of accomplishment and often personal growth because I had to stretch, learn, and oftentimes unlearn limiting beliefs and habits. Looking back, I can see how synchronicity played a role as things unfolded just the right way. Most times, I do feel fear and anxiety because goals mean change, and change is stressful. Also, how crappy will I feel if I don’t achieve my goals? I’ve always just tamped that fear down to get on with achieving my end state (thanks Mom and Dad, for the can-do mindset.) However, this New Year was a bit different.
A Different Way of Goal Setting
What I haven’t done in the last four decades of goal setting is contemplate my goals while in a meditation practice. Usually, I’d be at a computer, with a pen and paper, at a whiteboard, or in conversation with my husband as we brainstormed what we wanted to achieve. This year was different, and I was surprised at just how much I felt a shift to inner peace — without any of my goals happening yet.
This year was different because I have a regular meditation practice which is something new in my life – really starting up during the pandemic and then becoming a daily routine. For the last couple of years, I had only one goal – to finish writing and publishing a book that literally pestered me to write it (I didn’t want to talk about the mental illness and toxic work that led me to inner peace, but I felt this story had to be shared because mental health is so important at work and we have few stories of first-hand experiences.)
But now the book is published, and during meditation last week, I thought ahead to what I would do with all these hundreds of hours that weren’t going to be consumed with the writing process. A list started popping into my mind as I sat on the cushion – everything from marketing the book to thinking of how I could be of service in the world now. Coaching, workshops, and consulting with workplaces for employee well-being all popped into my mind. Also, things like fixing the deck on the back of the house and maybe getting a hot tub. I wondered where we could travel to in the fall that would be fun and exciting.
A Red Flag
In mindfulness, I could feel the emotions these thoughts generated. Were they positive emotions like joy, excitement, and anticipation? No, they were not. I felt overwhelmed and unsure. I distinctly felt a sense of unease, but I couldn’t put a label on it. Still, I sat and allowed myself to feel the unpleasant waves of energy these thoughts were generating in my emotions. I knew one thing for sure: I didn’t like it. It didn’t feel like fun. It didn’t feel like freedom. It all felt like “shackles-on.”
Right away, I knew that anything shackles-on feeling was my red flag not to follow that path. I knew 2023 had to feel like “shackles-off” — that was the only way to inner peace. If it’s one thing I’ve learned is to follow the path to inner peace and course-correct if I find myself off that path. However, although I could feel that having all these intentions wasn’t feeling good — I had no idea what WOULD feel good. It’s frustrating – it’s like you know you don’t have the right answer (yay!), but you don’t know what the answer is (ughh!). Have you ever written a test and realized your answer was wrong, but you have no idea what is the right answer?
Allowing Inner Wisdom
This is how I felt, and again in mindfulness, I just allowed this feeling without trying to change it. (This is truly a skill strengthened in mindfulness because I think goal-oriented people want to fix and change things as soon as they sense a problem. However, spending so much time following the breath in and out has shown me that I don’t need to control things – I can just let them be as they are. I’ve learned the ability to track something without going into fix-it mode, which I believe is a transferable skill to many areas of life.)
In the absence of not doing anything about my problem, I started to give myself compassion. I sat with the unknowing and confusion. In that silent space, as I breathed, these words came up from my inner wisdom:
Instead of fear, choose faith. ** Instead of doubt, choose trust. ** Instead of hustle, choose peace.Tweet
That last statement really hit home. I didn’t have the words in my human mind to describe how my intentions for 2023 were throwing me off. However, my spiritual mind had the words. I felt like I had to hustle in 2023, and it disrupted my peace. My inner self wants to play and have fun – not hustle. Hustle energy does not feel good to my soul. And I had just heard the words of what the right path was: faith, trust, and peace.
Faith, Trust, and Peace
I do have goals for 2023 – travel, live joyfully, exercise more, eat more veggies, grow my presence as an author and coach, and meet financial goals to support my family. But because of the message I received in meditation, it’s like I can go forward without the drag of fear, doubt, and the tendency to hustle. These feelings still exist. I’m still human. But the difference is I am aware, and I can calm them with the quiet energy of faith, trust, and peace. Also, I feel a sense of play and fun with my goals which is shackles-off. I’ve stopped thinking, “this will be hard,” and replaced it instead with, “this will be fun!” As I finished the meditation, I felt so light, and a feeling of joy bubbled up through me. When I journaled this experience, I wrote:
Now, this felt right. I know if I keep that mission statement at the centre of everything I do in 2023 – from sweeping the floor (the vacuum broke, so I’m back to the old-school broom these days) to building a new business, I’ll have aligned my outer goals with my inner goals.
A Mindfulness Exercise: Aligning Outer Goals with Inner Goals
As you set your health, wealth, joy, and service goals for 2023, consider if any of them feel shackles-on.
- Take a few moments to write out your goals, but this time, pause in mindfulness for each one and ask what its highest intention is – will it grow more love, compassion, and joy for you and others? Can you serve others by achieving that goal?
- Take a few moments of stillness to listen to what comes up as you contemplate each goal. Listen for responses from the body – tightness or a feeling of freedom? Shackles-on or shackles-off? Maybe your mind thinks this is a goal you “should do” ( a classic hustle) while your soul doesn’t like it all. Listen carefully – the voice of the soul can be quiet because it tends to defer to the pushy survival-focused mind. Also, are your goals balanced between the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual sides of well-being? Perhaps one area is under-served?
- Allow space and time for this exercise – these are your goals, and you will invest time and energy into them. Aligning them to feel more peaceful at the start will give you the mindset to overcome obstacles and stay true to yourself. Perhaps a mission statement will arise for you – a personal vision under which all your goals fit.
After meditation, I used the words I heard to reframe my goals which shifted them out of a hustle mindset to a compassion and love mindset. I still have the same goals, but it’s like my heart and soul are connected to them and no longer just my head. A meditation session is a routine part of my day, but it’s like this one shifted my routine way of thinking — I have a fresher, lighter, more joyful approach at the onset. It’s like the feeling I hope to achieve with my 2023 goals is already in my heart, and that’s amazing.