Before we can talk about intentions for the year or work on a vision board we have to know what we're after in 2020. I know that sounds weird but it can be a daunting task in a world of endless choices to pick the one or even the few things you want to focus on for the next 12 months.
You aren't just going to be whatever your father was or take one of the few jobs available, we live in a time when people create jobs that never existed before! In his book, The Paradox of Choice Barry Schwartz points out that all these infinite choices are causing us a new kind of modern anxiety.
“The existence of multiple alternatives makes it easy for us to imagine alternatives that don’t exist—alternatives that combine the attractive features of the ones that do exist. And to the extent that we engage our imaginations in this way, we will be even less satisfied with the alternative we end up choosing. So, once again, a greater variety of choices actually makes us feel worse.”
Is it any reason that many of us feel overwhelmed, fractured, confused?
I know because I struggled with this feeling of not being able to choose, or focus, or dedicate to one thing for years. But I also had another problem.
My goals seemed small. Wasn't I supposed to want to own my own business or to be an executive or something? Was I living out my best life if my goal was not to leave my house for several days and just to dig in the garden or plug away at my blog in obscurity? Was it enough? And if it was then would I be sorry later?
It took me some time to realize that yes, there is such a thing as quiet success. When I think about the things that accompany our culture's idea of getting ahead; small talk, networking, long hours away from home, committees, meetings, and phone calls and imagine myself living a life like that there is only a feeling of anxiety. There isn't a single aspect of that kind of life that I find appealing.
Also, I do not thrive in fluorescent lighting.
My dream life doesn't involve fancy cars or corner offices. It involves being outside, staying home, watching the sunrise, making things, working in the garden, tending bees, and writing.
What we forget is that like happiness, feeling as if you are living a worthwhile life is an inside job. I'm telling you all this because it's important for us to know what we want our life to look like. Our culture has one clear concept of what defines success, but we can construct our own based on what makes us feel joy.
One exercise that can help you figure this out is to think about people you know, for this, we are going to consider your favorite author or celebrity as someone you know. For me, two people come to mind.
The first one is the late Michael Crichton, a brilliant and innovative thinker and author of a few little books you have probably heard of, The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, and West World just to name a few. His books were page-turners that were hard to put down but I also always felt like I learned something while reading them. I admire him because while he was living at the pinnacle of the publishing world seeing an interview with him was like spotting a sparkly unicorn. He was famous for his work and he was living in relative obscurity.
What I learn from my respect for him is that fame doesn't appeal to me.
The other person is Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project along with several other books, who has appeared on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday and has a podcast called Happier. Her life speaks to me because she's putting out positive information that's practical and helpful and inspiring and entertaining people with her message. Also, if you passed her on the street you most likely wouldn't know her.
Again, manageable recognition and putting something helpful out into the world is appealing.
I see that I have chosen two writers. One who entertains and one who both entertains and helps people improve their lives. Maybe your list includes Mother Theresa, Beyonce, or Bill Gates. Whoever it is there's a reason you're drawn to them. Sit down a do a little thinking about which parts of their lives you are attracted to. This will give you some clues to where you'd like to go if you don't already have a clear vision of what you want.