Back in January, a mentor of mine who I love and deeply respect told me that she could sense that 2017 was going to be “my year.”
Let me say that while I trust her wisdom as much as I ever have, now that we’re days away from 2018 I can definitively tell you that 2017 was not my year. Or anyone else’s, so far as I can tell.
I’m sure we’ve all had individual highs and great moments we can point to, but I haven’t talked to anyone who thinks 2017 was an awesome year.
I think I speak for more than just myself when I say that it was intense, divisive, messy, and difficult. It wasn’t particularly fun or enjoyable a lot of the time, and I for one am glad to see it in my rearview mirror.
Zora Neale Hurston once said, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
I think 2017 was a BIG “asking” kind of year — a time of reckoning. The kind of year where things have to get worse before they get better, and where you’ve got to be “shaken” to get “awakened.”
THE DANGER OF COMPLACENCY
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog about the danger of living a life that’s “OK, but not great.”
And because we always end up teaching what we most need to learn, that was something I struggled a lot with this year, particularly when it comes to running a business.
It’s no secret that while I love the actual coaching (and writing) part of Clarity on Fire, I’ve never loved the business-running aspect of having a business.
And to be honest, I spent 100% of 2016 and two-thirds of 2017 pretty severely burnt out. Which makes sense, given the kind of monumental effort it takes to get a business off the ground in the first place.
Basically, Kristen and I gave it non-stop energy for about 3 years, and once it was mostly self-sufficient, we crashed. We did what we needed to do to stay the course and maintain stability, but for about 2 years we have not been interested in growth.
Which, let me point out, is totally OK. We go through seasons in life, just like the world around us — we were in a “winter” sort of phase where all we wanted to do was hermit, cocoon, and do the bare minimum in order to rebuild our energy.
But over time, too much stability can pretty quickly turn into complacency, which is what happened.
I COULDN’T HELP BUT ASK SOME UNCOMFORTABLE QUESTIONS
The thing about being in a state of complacency, toleration, stagnation, settling — whatever you want to call it — is that it requires very little energy to maintain. You can kind of skate by; you may not be having high-highs, but you’re not having low-lows, either.
That’s why so many of us are afraid to leave an “OK, not great” situation — because we realize we have something to lose and that things could very easily get worse.
For all of 2016 and most of 2017, I was cool with just staying the course. But by August of this year, I was starting to chafe and get antsy. I was getting tired of the way things were, but I wasn’t yet sure what I wanted to do about it.
I started having uncomfortable questions bubble up within me like, “Is this even what I want to DO anymore?” and “What if I just up and quit and did something else?”
This was majorly annoying, because I’d been mostly fine with the way things were up until then, so why was I all of a sudden starting to ask major existential questions? Why couldn’t I just shut up and not rock the boat?
BECAUSE LIFE WAS PREPARING TO SLINGSHOT ME
Here’s what I now realize was happening: Humans (myself and you included) are historically terrible at motivating themselves when they’re in a place of stability. Real motivation tends to kick in when things hit rock bottom — when there’s a fire lit under your butt that propels you to want to change.
Often times, the best way to motivate people is with the slingshot effect — where you get pulled down into a worse situation, only to gain the momentum you need to rocket forward later on.
2017 was definitely a slingshot year for me. I grew tired of so many aspects of business that hadn’t bothered me up until now, and I asked myself some pretty tough questions about what I wanted.
In hindsight, I realize that the reckless desire to up and quit and/or burn it all down wasn’t real; it was just the slingshot effect forcing me to reckon with the things I was settling for that I needed to grow beyond.
I think 2017 was also a HUGE slingshot year for America and the world, as a whole. I won’t bother getting into the details because I’m sure we can all think of a million examples that fit the analogy.
The point is … if things feel like they’ve gotten worse, don’t automatically despair. That’s often the precursor to bigger and better things.
WHERE I’M GOING IN 2018
One of the most uncomfortable things about the slingshot effect is the space between being pulled back and being propelled forward.
Nancy Levin talks about needing to “honor the space between ‘no longer’ and ‘not yet,’” which is exactly what I’m feeling right now.
Ignorance is bliss for a reason. It’s WAY harder to clearly see everything that needs to be changed and still live in a world where nothing has actually changed yet.
Since August, I’ve become aware of a LOT of things that I want to change about Clarity on Fire, but I haven’t been able to implement most of them yet.
Here’s a good example: After years of building up an email list that has tens of thousands of subscribers, there are a lot of duds on our list (if you’re reading this, you’re definitely not one of them). You know, the kind of people who took the Passion Profile Quiz and ended up on our list, but never open anything.
Kristen and I are going to do a massive purge of our list in 2018, which is pretty scary. Most people wouldn’t recommend that you delete thousands of subscribers from your community. But I’d rather take a massive step back, in one way, in order to make room for people who might resonate with us more.
I trust that there will be a payoff … but definitely not an immediate one.
I think that many of the other changes I want to make in 2018 will eventually make us more money … but at first, we may make less. Which is scary as hell.
I get why I didn’t want to make any big changes for a long time — the space between ‘no longer’ and ‘not yet’ is not for the feint of heart:
- I’ve refused to break up with guys I didn’t want to be with anymore for fear of being completely alone post-old relationship but pre-new relationship.
- I’ve stayed in jobs I didn’t enjoy because I wanted to figure everything out before I took a risk, and avoid the uncomfortable middle part.
- I’ve avoided new exercise regimens because I didn’t want to deal with the physical pain of ‘no longer’ out of shape, but ‘not yet’ in
But if anything, this year taught me that life isn’t very interesting when you’re trying to live in a state of complacency.
I’m still a bit tired, and I’m definitely wary, but I’ve decided that I’d rather strap myself into the slingshot, get pulled back, and breathe through the discomfort of not knowing what’s going to happen, rather than keep repeating the same old same.
I’m no longer complacent. But I’m not yet sure of where it’s all going. I’m suspended in-between.
Guess we’ll have to see what happens in 2018.
How was your 2017? Are you glad to see it go? What kind of slingshot effect are you in right now? Come share with me in the comments!
Rachel (& Kristen)