Whatever your business, job situation, balance of your 401(k), personal situation or region of the world, you have to admit that 2008 was a doozy.
It certainly was for us here in the Slim household. We had more exciting and terrifying rides in my husband’s business than either of us had ever experienced. The perfect storm of growing a heavy equipment construction business just before a historic slowdown in local building, coupled with a global financial meltdown made for an <ahem> interesting year.
Throw in some big life challenges for loved family members, writing a book, raising a baby and chasing after a toddler, we were not short on excitement and, sometimes, drama.
If that was what it was like in our household, I can imagine that you had your own challenges.
- Some of you may have lost your job.
- Others saw hard-fought life savings melt away in the economic firestorm.
- Perhaps you ended a marriage.
- Or faced a big health challenge.
- Or, as our dear neighbors recently did, lost a 5-year old child unexpectedly.
Living through such immense personal transitions may have left you feeling quite vulnerable and raw and even bleeding.
That may not feel like a terribly powerful place from which to launch a new and positive year.
I was wallowing a bit myself in these past months, trying really hard to focus on the tremendous opportunities ahead, but at the same time feeling a bit anxious and gun-shy given the nature of 2008.
All of my training as a coach tells me that any external circumstances (like a down cycle in the economy) do not impact my success or failure: it is only my thoughts about the situation that drive my reality.
This very true perspective can have some unfortunate side-effects, especially for the overzealous Law-of- Attraction-or-Else fans: you can start to beat yourself up for not being hyper-perky and positive.
Here is the rub: unless you release some of the emotion that bottled up during your rough and tumble parts of the year, clear thinking and focused intentions might be a bit difficult.
So here is a way to do a bit of excavation to make way for a positive and productive 2009, without having to feel like a Stepford Wife or member of a hyper-cheery cult.
- Think back over your year and notice emotions you feel.
- The easiest way to categorize emotions are: mad, sad, glad or scared.
- Do any emotions stand out? For those who faced lots of challenges, mad and scared tend to be high on the list.
- Do whatever you need to do to acknowledge and release the emotion.
- Once you feel the emotion has been properly dealt with, it is time to let go of the story you attached to it, such as: "This year was so hard." "I can’t believe my teenager got into so much trouble." "My health situation is terrible. I gained so much weight from all the stress!" "The economy is in shambles. All businesses are failing." "Getting new clients will be hard."
- Then with gratitude in your heart for tremendous lessons and clean, sincere thoughts for the new year, you can say "I am ready to stand up and lead my life in 2009."
The function of emotions:
Rather than unpleasant things to avoid, emotions have very specific purposes. Martha Beck wrote a great chapter on this in Finding Your Own North Star, where she describes the function of emotions:
Fear: Protects from danger
Grief: Heals, strengthens
Anger: Corrects injustice
Joy: Nurtures, expands
Ways to attend to lingering emotions:
Fear: Take a quiet moment and let yourself speak or write down exactly what you were afraid of. Describe in great detail what it felt like to be threatened, overwhelmed or scared.
"When my business dried up, I felt terror rise in my throat. I was
afraid to look at my dwindling bank accounts, and avoided the phone
because I was afraid to talk to creditors. This made me anxious, and I
felt like I had no power and was at the mercy of huge, scary forces."
"When my husband left me, I felt like my life was over. I felt undesirable, unloved and unwanted. I felt like I would never meet
anyone again who would love me like he did. It scared the hell out of
Anger: Let out all of your emotion in whatever way feels the best. When I was a wee 10-year old in the 1970’s in Marin County California, we beat pillows. It worked then, and it may work now! Go to a desolate place and scream your lungs out, write in a "hate and rage" journal (Martha Beck’s term) then burn the pages, or hit a martial art heavy bag until you have no force left in your body. Examples of anger thoughts:
"When I lost my job after 20 years of loyal service, I wanted to hurl rocks at all the smug managers who remained. How dare you not acknowledge my contributions?"
"&^%^%&^(** and furthermore &^*^%&%&(*)(_))!!!!"
Grief: Make a very safe space where you can absolutely fall apart. Cry buckets, sob, heave and break in half. Curl up on the floor. Do whatever you need to release anguish in your heart. Watch sad movies, look at photos of a dear departed, or whatever else will really put you in touch with that which you are sad about. Just make sure to put time limits on your grieving sessions, lest they swallow you up.
Running away from these feelings will do nothing but build up a wall between your true, open, positive self and the life you want.
When I was able to release some of this pent-up emotion from the year, I was surprised to feel a gigantic swell of gratitude for the lessons 2008 taught me. As a result of all the experiences this year, my eyes are wide open, I understand the life of an entrepreneur much more deeply, I appreciate my clients even more, and I am wholly and specifically committed to my work. The mantra that really resonates this year is:
Liberation from self-destructive thoughts, careers, relationships and businesses.
Time to lead
Seth Godin’s book Tribes really influenced me this year. I was struck by its core premise: our tribes are out there, waiting for us to lead. If I wallow, hesitate, pull back or play small, I will not serve the people I am meant to serve.
It is so basic, yet quite profound.
Who is your tribe? Who is waiting for you to get rid of the emotional residue of 2008 so you can burst on the scene with a genuine smile in 2009?
I can’t wait to see where you lead me in the new year.
Thanks for your tremendous support this year as I wrote my book. Your stories, examples, challenges and requests were a critical part of shaping the story and choosing just what to, and not to, include. I am really happy with the result, and aim to do everything I can to get it into the hands of every frustrated, dreaming, it-has-to-be-better-than-this cubicle employee who needs it in 2009. It officially hits the stands in May 2009, but tune in here for early ordering information.
Building on the book, I will develop specific tools and programs for those of you who really want to make things happen in your life and business in 2009. I am really giddy about this: for the first time, I see a very clear blueprint (the book) from which to build a significant and useful body of work. I will be getting out from behind my computer screen more in the new year, with dates and cities to come, but definitely to Austin in March (for the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, and a panel on Blog to Book with me, Hugh McLeod, Guy Kawasaki and Kate Lee), New York, Washington D.C, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.
I wish each of you a calm end to your year, good quality time with those you love and some time to reflect on what you desire for 2009.
We head to San Francisco tomorrow for the holiday. It will be the first
time in two years that I am back in my City by the Bay, sampling
delicious food, smelling the salty air and hanging out with my family.
I can’t wait to get back to my roots.
From me, Darryl, Jeffery, Joshua and Angela, Happy New Year!