assess yourself: where are you headed in 2018?
For me, 2017 was riddled with more problems than solutions. The year started off on a high-note. Early in the year I was in a new position and was learning and thriving each day. My relationships with friends and family were sound and I was gearing up to accomplish my goal of moving across the country, into my first apartment, completely alone. It was the beginning of a new chapter of my life that I was excited for.
Only – 2017 became a lot harder than I expected. It took me several months to settle into a routine that worked for me – in the meantime I didn’t feel productive. I procrastinated more than I wanted to. I felt stressed all the time and was pushing back on my obligations or trying to cram everything into 7am – 3pm day to beat traffic, gym crowds or have time to do the things I wanted to do during the week that had nothing to do with my career. I couldn’t find a proper balance between my work and life – for a moment I was prioritizing my flexibility and my relationship with a friend over my own business. I questioned my passion, which seemed to be gone. I questioned whether I really wanted to be a business owner anymore and if I really enjoyed what I was doing for my clients. I thought about bailing out on myself for a better sense of security. I thought about changing careers and chasing my childhood dream of being a doctor – because I missed studying and learning and working toward something – the way school designs you to work. My priorities were out of line. Personal life affected my work more than ever – because my motivation and drive to constantly grow was so tied to one relationship that was no longer a piece of my life anymore. I wasn’t working toward anything and my days and weeks seemed to lack meaning without understanding how they fit into the big picture of my life.
I don’t want 2018 to be the same. I want things to accomplish in 2018, personally and professionally. They are connected. Action has to be meaningful in that it reinforces some element of your core character. Action has to be meaningful in that it solves problems. My life structured the way it was now – wasn’t working for me. To figure out where I need to be headed in 2018, I had to revisit a time in my life where I felt the most momentum, peace, happiness and meaning in my life (according to my personal Instagram captions….) and I had to figure out what was standing in my way of feeling that again.
In the Fall of 2014, over three years ago, I took a day trip to New York City after being invited to have lunch with a client. A series of mistakes had landed me with some eyes on me that I know, from a distance, may have reflected poorly on my image as a professional and consequently on the company that I was working for. This was my opportunity to have an honest and open conversation about my situation that would at least disconnect my company from the decisions that I was making as an individual.
The client surprised me by taking me to a little taco shop in SoHo for burritos and guac – something unexpected, as I didn’t realize she had remembered such personal details about me (I always went to Chipotle when I visited). Instead of the typical “professional” lunch meeting, things got extremely personal. I had explained that what started out as a professional “mistake” for me, grew into one of the best things that could happen to me. I could feel myself start to change personally and become a happier, lighter, more positive individual all because someone came into my life that changed the way I viewed the world. My work was better, the way I related to everyone in my life was better. I was less cynical and less resistant to change, unpredictability – those things that really scared me I was completely open to. It was the first time I had vocalized that something inside of me was changing, to someone I never expected to have told. I didn’t realize that part of her reaching out to me was part of changes happening inside of her too – I could see it during our lunch. We were two people who could have professionally given each other the stink eye for the rest of our relationship, but both having been inspired to be better people, we found a way to relate. That day made her one of the people in my life I will forever be grateful for.
To piggyback on the life changes I was experiencing – she suggested I take a popular personal development course. Though I was hesitant, I decided to take the course. Though there were many lessons I took away from the course – but I try to remember this one everyday….
Imagine a blank sheet of paper. That is your character. The only person who can write on that blank piece of paper is you. What to write? Whatever you want. Whoever you dream of being. You just write. Your past doesn’t define your character. Your mistakes don’t define your character. What someone thinks of you, doesn’t define your character. YOU define your character. You can literally be anything you want to be – and the only difference between it being written on a piece of paper and it being YOU in real-life is the decisions you make on a daily basis to support it. I wrote down the following:
Self aware, Growing, Honest, Loving, Thoughtful and Selfless
To bring those traits to life, you simply have to reinforce your character through your decisions. Prior to deciding which route to take, you consider “what would an honest person do?”, “what would a selfless person do?” and you work on it. Everyday. In every part of your life. You don’t let fear of what will happen deter you from making sound decisions based on your character. You make them anyway – because a decision in line with who you want to be, and being the person you dream of being – that is what will bring happiness to your live. Happiness that no amount of money can ever bring you. Happiness that does not come from the presence of another person in your life. Happiness and peace that is self-made by being the person you dream you are capable of being. You build your character.
It was the surge of confidence that I received at that time that gave me the courage to start my own business in the Spring of 2015.
But in 2017? Almost all of what it means to be me, almost every piece of my character had hit a roadblock. I didn’t know how to grow Blend anymore without giving it up. I was blocked by the little time I had left at the end of the day after my core job was finished and then a lack of passion and motivation to set aside other things in my life to work on my own business. Telling myself, “it’s my character to grow” only brought more stress as I failed to make those decisions that supported my character in times where I was just plain tired and needed a break.
I wasn’t honest. Not with others and not with myself. I was choosing to invest my time in someone that meant a lot to me, but not recognizing the impact that it had on my stress to try and accomplish everything all at once in relationships, social life, business– there wasn’t a proper balance.
My heart wasn’t in what I was doing. At all. I was really feeling the disconnect between offering just my services and offering true value to my clients – and that guilted me. I missed opportunities to be thoughtful – both from a budget perspective and time perspective. I want the ability to give each client and each person in my life everything that I have and failure to do so, mostly because of time constraints, was killing me.
And worst of all – I was being incredibly selfish with my time. Hoarding it from both my core work and my own business and therefore my own success – to give it to support someone else’s success.Though by giving it to someone else, I was still being “selfless” for a friend that meant a lot – it still didn’t have the right balance. I wasn’t able to see what it was doing to my ability to grow. I was not seeing how it was preventing me from doing all of the things I wanted my business to be able to do for it’s clients. In giving you always have to take from somewhere and I was taking from my ability to give what was much needed to myself.
I tried to address this by redefining what success meant to me. However, redefining success simply gave me an excuse not to set lofty goals for myself and my business. In business and in life, to grow you must be working toward something. It means taking steps forward, not just maintaining the status quo.
No, this was about character. The problem I needed to solve and goals I needed to set in 2018 had to solve the issues blocking me from fulfilling what it means to be me – my essential character. To feel like I am the person I always dreamed of being. Those are the things that lead to an incredible happiness, a person who was growing, light and confident in her journey back in 2015; to find that again, I had to solve:
- How do I grow Blend within 1-2 hours per day? How can I take something on without overextended myself to the point of stress and inability to focus on the things and people who matter to me?
- How do I give selflessly to people, everything I have experienced and all the knowledge that I have gained in my 10 years into my career?
- How can I make sure that I am giving something of value at each step in my relationship with clients?
And then it hit me. I came up with a solution that will allow me to give all of me, within a minimal time frame. I came up with a structure that will allow me to grow Blend’s services and client base and allow me more breathing room to take risks. While I’m excited about what is to come in 2018, it will remain a secret until we are ready to launch in about 4-6 months. (If you want to be one of the first to know – drop your email on our homepage.)
If you are looking to figure out where you are headed in 2018, here’s the steps I took to help me define my goals, create a series of projects and create a plan to help me grow professionally and personally. Consider trying the reflective exercises for yourself and go out and KILL 2018.
- Look back at 2017 – what kind of year did you have? Are there things you learned to capitalize on that you want to continue? Or are there areas in which you feel you can improve?
- If you are “off” (like I was) think about what’s missing. Was there something that was there at a time you were thriving, that no longer exists?
- Try the blank slate “character” idea from my self-improvement class. Who do you want to be in 2018? Our careers are closely tied to what personally fulfills us, and personal fulfillment is closely tied to our character. Assess if you are making decisions reflective of who you want to be. Assess whether something (within your control to change) is blocking your ability to be the person you want to be. If so, focus on finding solutions to some of the roadblocks.
- Once you have ideas of what to focus on in 2018 – make sure you put in the time to figure out how to make them real. If they are habits that must change – set a reminder in your phone or calendar. If they are projects – break them down into a to-do list and make sure you schedule time to work on them. If may even be helpful to set deadlines to keep the project on track.
- Write out, in a visible area – what the completion of this project is important to you. It helps garner the momentum to beat the burn-out. My daily paper planner has a space for me to write down why this project is so important to me – that it relieves some of my issues blocking me from giving what I want to give to my clients and career – and that itself will help move you forward.