Holding Space to Envision
You know what’s startling? We really aren’t that far away from 2017.
For me, it has finally started to feel like we’re in the thick of the holiday season. But frankly, it won’t be long before the holidays zoom by in what feels like a flash of (festive) light, and we’ll be moving full speed toward the new year.
Each year as January approaches, I naturally start thinking big. I start seeing big, vivid pictures of the imaginary new life I plan to start living come January 1st. Big goals, big ideas, big changes. I start imagining a new 2.0 self emerging in the new year, ready to live and behave in new, shiny, inspiring ways. For me, my imagined new life feels clean, clear, and electrically calm. My days are methodical, my relationships are thriving, my fridge is full of vegetables and whole grains… and I’m crushing my big, shiny goals.
The truth is, I’ve always loved the tradition of not just making resolutions, but indulging in big, dreamy ideas of what life in the new year will feel like.
The whole process of making resolutions feels hopeful, and the clarity with which we can see the possibilities is just magic. For you, maybe they’re ideal pictures of what your physical health, or your relationships, or your professional life, or even your life at home will look and feel like in a new year. You might imagine them reaching new heights, or finding a new rhythm, or even just feeling a certain way.
So much of what I’m daydreaming about for the new year involves this blog and this space. Your feedback on my survey last month was so motivating (thank you again!) and as a result, I have a few irons in the fire that I can’t stop thinking (read: obsessing) about. I envision community, conversation, consistency, and new, meaningful ways of connecting with you. And it’s all so, so vivid in my mind.
But so often, there’s a flip side to these big, ambitious visions and goals, and it’s the sort of thing we often start to realize around January 4th or 5th: they don’t come to life overnight.
The thing that makes these ideas and goals feel so big and special is that gap between where we are now, and where we aspire to be. It’s a gap that takes time to bridge, and the excitement we feel initially as we vividly envision the end result is necessary to get us there. That energy propels us forward and keeps us engaged in the early stages of a highly challenging endeavor – changing.
But the process of creating real change demands other big, important things from us too, beyond just our ability to imagine the result we want – things that aren’t always as energizing as holding an exciting vision. Things like patience and mundane consistency, or falling down and feeling defeated. Like staying the course in a moment when you know it will disappoint someone you care about, or writing another meaningful blog post even when you feel like no one is reading, or putting on the workout gear after work when you’re exhausted and would rather crack open a bottle of wine. Things that don’t feel shiny or aspirational or worthy of pins on our Pinterest boards.
And when creating the change we imagined starts to feel more like drudgery than magic, and that exciting vision we once had starts to feel less and less within reach… the energy dries up. The drive to keep going starts to fizzle. The original vision starts to fade, or fracture.
So how do we stay energized and willing to move forward, when the big dream starts to feel out of reach and defeat starts to set in?
The most important thing I’ve realized and tried to remember about striving for something that feels out of reach is that we don't have to arrive all at once, and we shouldn’t expect to. The clarity of our vision and the initial excitement to get there have this way of only making the gap feel wider once the work is underway, but the worst thing we can do is quit when it starts to feel hard... because when it starts to feel hard, it means progress is being made. Don't let the discouragement of feeling far from where you want to be keep you from starting, or plotting a path forward.
Here are a few ways I like to infuse some energy back into the process when I start to feel defeated, or discouraged, or even disinterested in a process I know deep down is worthwhile:
Track the small steps. Right now, I have a list in my Bullet Journal of every tiny, bite-sized task that needs to happen in order to launch a few of the projects I’m planning for Bloomology in the new year. Every. Single. Task. Seeing that big, aspirational process broken out into steps I could tackle in an afternoon does a few things:
It helps ward off the ‘where do I start?!’ paralysis by giving me concrete tasks that don’t feel daunting or too big to wrap my head around.
It gives me a renewed sense of purpose and energy by helping me see all that I’ve accomplished so far, and checking those things off as I go. (Don’t try to tell me you haven’t added something to your to-do list that you’ve already done, just to check it off. We both know it’s gratifying.)
It helps me make better use of my downtime. So often I have an hour or two to spare in an evening or on the weekend and I’m not sure how to use that time. Having a list of small, manageable tasks to pick from means less time gets wasted, plus I can pick a task that speaks to me in that moment and follow the energy there.
Persist, even when the reward feels small. So much of the road to success – however we choose to define it – is putting one foot in front of the other, day after day after day after day. And when the idea of doing that sounds torturous, I like to remind myself that even the people I admire most, the ones who’ve ‘Made It’ or achieved the things I hope to achieve, have all been here. They all struggled, second guessed, put in the work when the reward felt small, taken chances, made mistakes, and fumbled around in the dark. It’s a stage everyone has to go through in order to get anywhere remarkable, and there is no fast forward button. Thinking of it as a rite of passage can be both reassuring and reinvigorating, in its own strange way.
Chase the feeling, not the image. This idea became crystal-clear to me as I started digging into Danielle LaPorte’s work around Core Desired Feelings. We tend to set our sights on specific things we want to obtain, or achieve, believing that the thing is what holds meaning. Running that half marathon, redecorating the perfect house, building a flourishing business, reaching that relationship milestone. But with those goals, what is it we’re really looking for? Is the value of running that half marathon how strong it makes you feel? Are you dying to feel calm, or invigorated, or serene when you walk into your home? Does the thought of building your business make you feel creative, or connected to likeminded people? Hone in on pursuing the feeling you’re after, rather than arbitrarily assigning that feeling to a shiny milestone, and chances are that feeling will start to show up more and more in your life.
And lastly, and maybe most importantly: hold space to envision. Don’t give up on imagining possibilities, or let go of the original vision that got you excited in the first place. There’s real energy there, and that energy combined with the patience to show up consistently and the fortitude to press on when things get tough is a recipe for magic.