The summer is usually one of my favourite times, and I’ve been anticipating this year’s more than I usually would. I’ve designed blogs and websites full time for almost four years but for the past year, instead of one-on-one client work I’ve craved blogging, being involved in my community and creating online courses.
If you’ve read my blog, you already know I love goal setting. I’m a complete day planner / agenda / goal setting / personal development / journaling nerd and for a long time I blogged my monthly goals here.
Usually my goals are focused around actions I can take on a daily basis, and the ways that I want to be in the world, but this year for the first time I set a big scary goal: I wanted to make $50,000 this year.
Being in my third year of working for myself this was scary! While I track how much I earn every month I’ve never set concrete financial goals before, and this would be my biggest earning year yet. I was determined and excited about it- and I knew that I could hit those numbers if I just hustled hard enough.
At the time, this wasn’t my primary goal of the year. It was a way of expressing that I was transitioning from working with clients on large scale one-on-one projects, to consulting work, speaking and teaching classes. But there was something about that number that stuck in my head.
Instead of transitioning my work from one-to-one to one-to-many, I started thinking $50,000.
Instead of thinking about how I want to blog consistently and be a better community member, I started worrying about $50,000.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the line I pinned my worthiness to something I couldn’t control.
As it always does, this year life has happened. I’ve taken time off to travel, said yes to working with past clients on updating their sites, had a number of projects triple in scope, and have prioritized friendships, family, and experiencing the world around me.
It felt great and is completely in line with my priorities! But on paper, I was a failing.
At first I thought there was no harm in keeping that $50,00 number around on my planning sheets. I would still update them as an income tracking tool, no big deal! But by June I wasn’t updating them anymore because there was $50,000 staring me down every time I opened them up.
I know that it’s a fictional $50,000. It doesn’t really exist. It’s a phantom, an idea, and a benchmark that I made up.
And while I know it’s not where my happiness or worthiness lives, the frustration and claustrophobia it made me feel was very real.
We’ve all had these moments and so often they’re tied to numbers, aren’t they?
It can be pageviews, dollars earned, days of vacation, comments on a post or pounds on a scale. If it’s easy to measure, it’s easy for us to weaponize against ourselves.
After floundering for a few months, telling myself that I “couldn’t” blog while I had client work on my to do list and living too much in my head I went to my family’s cabin earlier this month. Limited internet and distractions resulted in dialing up the volume on my internal monologue and intuition, and I finally realized what had been feeling so wrong. I needed to re-set my priorities and goals for the year now, before they levelled me!
Here’s what I did & how to re-set your goals if they don’t serve you:
1. Define Your Values
Your values (or priorities) are the big picture, overarching themes you’d like to focus on through your actions. These can help give you a framework for what you’ll say yes to and make time for, so your year starts to take the shape that you’ve set for it.
2. Find Ways To Express Your Values Through Action
The trick for this part is to balance being specific with what you want with being specific about how you accomplish that. If you vow to run a mile a day but get injured, how do you negotiate that? Make sure you don’t paint yourself into a corner.
I find what works best is having goals that are specific about the value or priority I want to honour, but are flexible about the method.
So instead of “Run a mile a day”, if my overall value is health, I would re-word that to something like: “Work up a sweat on most days of the week.” This gives me flexibility while getting at the heart of what I want to experience.
This is the part where, if I’d set the goal of “transition my work from one-to-one to one-to-many” I would have been on track, but on paper I’d set a goal that focused on the exact way my work would shift by focusing on “Earn $50,000 this year”.
3. Try to Loosen That Death Grip on Your Expectations
This is the piece where I have the most work to do (clearly!) because my goal fails this test spectacularly. In fact, my goal was just one giant expectation! Having expectations is completely normal, but having lofty and elaborate ones is a recipe for disaster – especially if we pin our hearts to how people respond to us. Not only can we never control that, and it’s usually not even about us.
Trying to have fewer expectations is hard, but I find that staying in the moment helps – as does just writing them out without judgement or qualifications. Making myself aware of what I expect from a situation can be a great way to put some distance between myself and them, and is a helpful first step away from valuing them so highly.
Now that I’ve realized what I was doing and have removed all traces of my $50,000 year goal from my journal and planning worksheets, I feel much better. I’m formally recording my monthly income again, and I’m feeling proud of the people I help and work that I’m doing, because it’s the right fit for me right now. I know that every day I’m stepping in the right direction and that those steps all add up – no matter what their dollar value adds up to at the end of the year.
Though I doubt that my ego would be devastated if it was around $50,000 ;)