I’m done with goals. At least for a year.
Goals are overrated. I still have things I want to see happen (namely upping the level of my clients), but I’m at a point where that’s going to have to happen as a natural outgrowth of how I live as a freelancer. After decades of forcing myself into random systems and jobs, my lifestyle comes first.
It’s a strange transition for sure — I come from an academic and career background where SMART goals were everywhere. Any desire or need, I learned to translate and break it down into goals, start planning, and then execute. But ya know what? I’m burnt.
I’m still dealing with the effects of career burnout, and I just can’t push myself through things the way I used to (and likely never should have…a little tip to the younger folk out there.) Life doesn’t stop though, so for the last seven or so years, I’ve had to focus on an approach to life that allowed me to accomplish things, but in a way that didn’t burn up too much of my limited reserves of willpower.
Mostly, that’s meant getting off the treadmill of goal-setting, achievement/failure, and adjustment. It’s an important lesson I learned when I first started trying to lose weight.
I’ve always struggled with the amount of fat my body likes to carry. I gain fat easily, don’t like moving just for movement’s sake, and tend to eat out of boredom and stress. I also love good food. You add all that up with a sedentary, stressful corporate job, and I’m genuinely surprised that I didn’t come out of that life weighing a lot more than I did.
My early 20s was the first time I decided to take that on. I was looking for a “passion” career and started considering culinary school. It would have been an escape from a career that had me broken down in tears every morning, but knew I didn’t want to put on a bunch of chef weight. I decided to “fix” my weight issues by basically beating it off myself. (If Instagram had been around, I’d probably have had a fitspo account selling tea and waist trainers.)
Let me tell you though; it worked BEAUTIUFLLY…for about two years. But as any honest fitness coach will tell you, that’s simply not sustainable. I eventually gained it all back and wasn’t able to make any real changes until I decided to address my habits.
Freelancing as a Life of Habits
Freelancing changed that for me. Working on my own meant I could do things like get into the habit of simple breakfasts (vs. drive-throughs to soothe my pre-work nerves with food). It meant I could lift weights as a break in the middle of my day, and not as a punishment for overeating at work.
A year into freelancing I found my body looking very different. That happened without the feeling that I had to grind anything out to reach some goal weight or body fat percentage. It also happened without the fear of everything slipping one day when my willpower ran out.
This coming year, I’m applying the same thinking to my business.
If you’ve looked around the site, and especially in the BlackFreelance Academy, (and if you’ve read enough business writers), you’ll know that’s nothing really new. Habits are the foundation for a lot of things around here. The difference for me now is actively dropping goals. That may seem like splitting hairs, but for me at least, it isn’t.
Goals are loud. They demand emotional attention. They’re always reminding you of how close or far away they are. They’re shiny and noisy and intrusive. They’re easy to set, attractive even. You can get online and brag about goals and even your constant struggle to attain them. Goals are loud. They earn outside attention. Goals, for me, for the most part, are the opposite of peace.
Peace, one of the main reasons I left employed life, requires a consistent and level approach to life that I’ve only been able to reach through a focus on manageable habits.
The One Demand of Habits
When I decided to change my relationship with food, I started simply, with habits that took nothing away and made life easier. I focused on one meal at a time, slowly reforming my breakfasts, then my snacks, then my dinner. Eventually, I’ll get around to lunch.
I’ll be doing the same with my business.
I already have a habit of marketing, but I’m going to refine that. I also have a habit of connecting with my niche, but a few tweaks to my reading habits will make that much more effective. Basically, in 2017, I’m dropping goals to clean up my habits.
There is, though, a challenge with habits. They require space. Don’t get me wrong — small habits can be worked into any life for big benefits, but the kind of habits I’m going to need to see the growth in my business that I want, require me to keep a clean house.
That means I have to maintain distance from the relatives who thrive off toxic cycles of guilt and reward. It means I have to maintain separation from abusive people and spaces set on draining the efforts of the givers that remain close to them. It means I have to stay off Facebook.
I’m looking forward to 2017 as an opportunity. An opportunity to create nurturing, productive spaces for myself and others during the storms we’re almost guaranteed to see next year, and I will do that with nary a goal in sight.