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Whether you love partying until the New Years’ ball drops or turning in before midnight…
Whether you swear by New Years’ resolutions or roll your eyes at them…
It’s hard to fully avoid getting caught up in the energy of a new year (and in this case, a new decade!). I don’t know about you, but I can’t help feeling inspired to reflect on my life, dream about the future, and commit to making changes.
I think it’s important to have built-in rhythms throughout the year that remind us to pause, reflect, and — if necessary — course-correct.
So while I’m personally not crazy about new year’s resolutions (let’s be honest — they’re usually abandoned by February anyway), I do appreciate anything that reminds us to be a bit more intentional.
That said, if you find yourself dreaming, visualizing, and intention-setting around this time of year, I applaud you!
And … I also want to challenge you to dig a bit deeper this year, to get to the heart of why you want the things you want. Because the “why” behind your goals will determine whether or not you actually achieve them … and more importantly, whether achieving them will ultimately make you happy.
Consider the changes you want to make in your life in 2020. Do you want to get a new job? Or go back to school? Or move to a new city? Or create your own business? Or start a new exercise regimen?
Then, look out for the following 4 potential red flags to make sure you’re not pursuing the wrong dream for the wrong reasons.
1. IT’S A “SHOULD”
Most of the new years’ resolutions that end up failing are “shoulds.”
“I should lose weight.”
“I should pay off debt.”
“I should try for that promotion.”
It’s no surprise, then, that the things you feel like you “should” do are also the things you never end up prioritizing.
That’s because the energy of a “should” is heavy and demotivating. So you’ll end up procrastinating on the things you should be doing in favor of the things you want to be doing.
Then you’ll judge yourself for not focusing on those “shoulds,” and the guilt will make the thing feel even heavier. It’s a vicious cycle.
So take a good hard look at the things you feel you should be doing, and ask yourself if you can simply let it go. (If you feel instant relief, you’re on the right track!)
Or, if you can’t let it go completely, how can you infuse some joy or deeper purpose to it?
2. IT’S JUST ABOUT THE MONEY
Look, I’m not going to pretend like we live in a world where you can make choices without considering how it’s going to affect you financially. That would be insulting your intelligence.
The truth is, for better or for worse, we all need money to survive, and it affects all areas of our lives. So whatever changes you’re hoping to make this year, you probably have to consider the financial implications.
BUT … I see far, far too many people making choices that are all about the money.
They stay in a job they hate because it pays well. Or they never pursue their business idea because they’re afraid it won’t make enough money. Or they postpone moving to a city they love because moving is expensive.
You know these people. Maybe you ARE this person. Hell, I’ve been this person! It’s easy to fall into the money trap.
I’m not asking you to make financially irresponsible decisions, but I am challenging you to get honest with yourself about how much your money fears are impacting your choices.
Because if you’re doing something (or NOT doing something) just because of the money, you’ll never feel deeply fulfilled by it.
3. IT’S WHAT SOMEONE ELSE WANTS FOR YOU
I have a client who’s struggling with the next steps in his career. He recently said, “Everyone keeps telling me I should get an MBA, and I know they’re probably right, but I have zero interest in going back to school, especially for something that’s so math focused.”
Despite his reluctance, he often finds himself researching MBA programs, and he’s even halfheartedly submitted a couple of applications.
But getting an MBA has never been a dream or goal of his. It’s something other people want for him, and he’s gotten caught up in their visions for his future.
This happens all the time: College students majoring in something their parents will approve of. Employees taking on projects that will impress their boss. People pursuing titles, degrees, cars, or homes for the prestige factor.
If you’re struggling to figure out whether something is a genuine desire of yours vs. you’re doing it for other people, try this:
Imagine you could make a decision and no one would ever know what you chose. What would you do?
A way you can practice this in real life is by keeping your idea to yourself for a little while to make sure it’s truly yours, and not influenced by anyone else’s opinions.
4. IT’S THE LOGICAL NEXT STEP
Once you’ve gotten on a particular track, it’s all too easy to keep following that trajectory, whether or not it’s leading to a place you care about going.
I’ve heard more stories than I can count about people who fell into a random job, and then stayed there for years — or decades! — climbing the ranks, simply because that was the path they found themselves on.
They’ll take the next promotion because “it’s the next logical step,” not because they want the new position.
This happens in relationships, too. I’ve known multiple couples who got married because “we’d been together for a few years, and it felt like the next step.”
If the main reason you’re going after something is because, “it makes sense” … I beg you, take a pause to examine whether or not you really want this.
Trajectories are comforting because they give you a natural next step to pursue, but they’re also dangerous because they take the thought and intentionally out of reaching for the next milestone.
So before you follow the next logical step along the path, zoom out and make sure it’s a path you actually want to be following in the first place.
HOW TO KNOW YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK
If you resonate with any of the following statements, that’s a good sign that you’re pursuing the right dream, for the right reasons:
- You’re a bit scared to go after it, but it feels worth getting out of your comfort zone.
- You find yourself daydreaming about it at random moments, wishing it were already true.
- It aligns with your top values (whether that’s passion, connection, joy, purpose, freedom, generosity, etc.).
- You’d like people to approve of what you’re doing, but at the end of the day, you don’t really care what they think because of how much this matters to you.
- You wish you had more time to focus on this thing, because you’re so eager to make progress on it.
- If someone asked you, “Why do you want this,” you’d have no trouble giving them a clear answer.
- You’re willing to do some uncomfortable things on the path to pursuing this.
- You’d want to do this, even if no one ever knew about it.
So tell me, have you ever pursued the wrong dream for the wrong reasons? What are your goals for 2020 based on this more in-depth way of looking at new years’ resolutions? Share with me, in the comments!
Kristen (& Rachel)
IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU’LL ALSO LOVE…
Why you should keep new ideas to yourself (December 2018)
Do you want it? Or do you only think you SHOULD want it? (January 2019)
How to transform knowing what you DON’T want into knowing what you DO want (August 2018)
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