2017 was a truly transformative year for me personally and professionally. I entered it with a fledgling business that I had no idea how to make really work. I had made significant progress but was still grappling with a lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety. I had an addiction to a horribly toxic news cycle and crappy tv shows. I was in poor health and steadily gaining weight from quitting smoking. I was facing a decade of self-imposed singledom after an abusive relationship that had created a terror of dating. I was still grappling with empty nest syndrome was incredibly lonely. I had no idea how to design my life or make friends now that I was on my own and had a light but tenuous foothold in my new city of Oakland.
I’ve left 2017 with a solid business with a strong and growing client flow that provides real value. I’m free from the heaviness of depression for the first time I can remember. I go to the gym four times a week and I love it. I’m approaching the world with love and its steadily loving me back more and more. I’m dating without terror. I have friends, activities, hobbies and a positive outlook on life.
Now, to be fair, it wasn’t all crap entering 2017. I had laid a lot of groundwork. I had been studying consciousness and laying the early foundations of my business. All great things take time. These concepts that I’m about to share didn’t just magically appear. I’ve worked at them. But in 2017 they all culminated in a lightening of a horrible heaviness and anxiousness I had carried as long as I can remember.
Here’s how I did it.
1. I recognized the power of choice and did my best to make choices that served me.
I used to think in terms of “have to”. I had to please others, I had to climb the corporate ladder, I had to be ashamed of my imperfections. Now I think in terms of “choose to”. This small shift exploded the amount of energy I had in a day. Instead of ruminating on how I’m a victim of circumstance, I move towards the things I want and away from the things that don’t serve me. If something doesn’t feel good, I stop and ask myself why I’m choosing it. If there’s a solid reason – perhaps some greater goal or a question to answer I might continue. If there isn’t, I’ll make a different choice that serves me better. I am always choosing, even when I choose not to choose.
2. I released others from responsibility for my happiness.
From the time I was very small, I was trained that I needed other people’s approval to be ok. This, of course, is a lie. In fact, needing other people’s approval to be ok is the very essence of codependence and it causes unhealthy relationships that made me really not ok – depressed, anxious, overly sensitive.
In 2017, I accepted the fact that I can’t control others perceptions of me. I can only control how I show up and what I do. I learned that if I want to be attractive, I need to find that attractiveness within myself. If I want to be loved, I need to find that love within myself. If I want a partner who treats me well, I need to choose a partner who finds it easy to give me the things that I need to be loved and safe. If I want a good business, I need to build a business I believe in. If I want to be cared for, I need to care for myself. If I want to have positive interactions, I need to own how I show up in those interactions.
If I can’t find those things internally, I need to change my habits. For example, I was really worried people were going to think I was fat. To get rid of that energy load I needed to either release the idea that fat was a bad thing or I needed to change how fat I was. Simple options. Simple choices. I did a little of both in the end.
Owning my own happiness is tough and the struggle is real. I slip up regularly. My ego, anxiety, insecurities and conditioning all get in the way quite frequently. Its an art form and it takes practice. I’m getting better at it though. I can measure it because I know that the more I give myself what I need the more I get all the things I’ve always wanted – love, connection, health, wealth and community. I received a lot of these wonderful things in 2017.
3. I attached myself to “Maybe if” and detached from outcomes.
Building big things – especially for someone as analytical as I am – can be overwhelming. At the beginning of 2017, the outcomes I wanted were way too far away. I mean, my father wrote the math that is the foundation of securing the internet. That’s a pretty high bar to try to reach.
I realized I was sitting down at my desk trying to figure out how to transform the world. The chasm between where I was and what I wanted to build was too big. It killed my productivity and kept me stuck.
I decided to try scientific theory as a way to get moving and it worked. I shifted from trying to build things that everyone thought were awesome to asking questions, forming hypotheses and testing them. Moving from “I will do this thing and it has to be loved and adored by all or I’m a failure” to “Maybe if I try X I can get Y” skyrocketed my productivity. I applied this everywhere.
For my health:
- Maybe if I tried alternative medicine I could fix my frozen shoulder. A few experiments and boom.
- Maybe if I tried boxing with a Groupon that would be an exercise program I would like and it would help my health. Boom! I loved it. I’m a total boxing gym rat, healthier than I’ve ever been, I’m getting so much better with practice and am very happy to welcome all of you to my very impressive gun show.
- Maybe if I tried hypnosis, I could get at some data I needed to get to the next stage of healing from trauma. I don’t think I ever want to have a hypnotized conversation with my 8 year old self again but I got the data I needed for sure and it led to some amazing insights and healing.
In my love life:
- Maybe if I tried dating once a week that would get me through the terror of dating. Not so much time went by and yup! It worked. I realized it was just showing up and talking. That’s not so scary.
- Maybe if I set my sights a bit higher, worked on showing up openhearted and risked a greater chance of rejection, my dates would be better. That worked. My dates got way better and I learned that the old voices of rejection are just left over demons from being called ugly in middle school and high school. I also learned that showing up to a date with tons of emotional armor on doesn’t yield desired results.
Rebuilding my empty nest life:
- Maybe if I took myself out on a selfie date I would have a good evening and meet people with common interests. On that evening I found a piano bar that I love going to and that has been the source of many positive and wonderful friendships.
- Maybe if I did one new thing a week I would find things I liked. Yes! That rule has helped me have awesome new experiences and find all sorts of activities and friends I enjoy.
In my business:
- Maybe if I analyzed I looked for a coach, I could figure out how to get more clients myself. Yup! That led me to a solid set of lead sources that really helped grow my business.
- Maybe if I honored the way clients want to work that would work better than my fitting them into “my way”. That has been revolutionary.
- Right now I’m working on two maybe ifs “Maybe if I write down my methodologies for career I can produce more growth.” And “Maybe if I tried my methods on high school students I can find better ways to cut off the biggest issues our dysfunctional approach to careers cause earlier”.
Bottom line – “Maybe if” is the road to all things awesome.
4. I looked for the loving lessons in the heartbreak of perceived failure and rejection.
While awesome, “maybe if” is bound to lead to some pretty messy outcomes at times. It certainly did for me. Some experiments resulted in enormous heartbreak, deep panic, and horrible shame. As I waded through the pain, I told myself that there was a powerful lesson to be learned. I fought my inner demons who wanted me to be consumed with self-hatred by fiercely holding onto the knowledge the pain was part of the lesson. I constantly reminded myself that if I learned it there would be no failure – only growth and success.
The rule for the lessons is that they must be loving lessons that are kind to me – meaning the lesson can’t be that I suck at something or I’m just not good enough. They have to help me clarify how to do more of what serves me well.
When I was ghosted by a romantic friend without reason, I learned the lesson that its not that I trust the wrong people – its that I don’t trust myself. When I offered an online workshop that was painful for me to deliver, I learned that my perception of value is 100x what others expect and I now make an effort to practice detached enthusiasm. When I had my first committed relationship in 10 years rapidly crash and burn in flames, I had to recognize that I was mourning who I wanted him to be. I wanted to succeed at dating so badly I couldn’t see who he clearly was. He didn’t see who I was either. We are two wonderful people but the things that made each of us easy to be with were hard for us to give to each other – not because we were faulty but our anxieties didn’t mix well.
Lessons are hard but powerful.
5. I loved myself for struggling – not in spite of it.
Our culture is ripe for causing depression. We love slapping a label with the word “disorder” at the end of it whenever we experience a long term challenge or have a struggle. Here’s the truth. We are human. The struggle is real. Its natural. Its part of who we are. The more we lay shame, self-criticism, and anxiety on top of the struggle the bigger the struggle gets. That creates more disorder in our lives and it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.
In 2017, I practiced loving myself for my humanity. When I didn’t show up how I wanted to, I lovingly identified what I needed and leveraged “maybe if” to find out how to get it for myself. I removed myself from having responsibility for others judgement of me. I lovingly recognized that my struggles had very real, very clear reasons. I’ve been abused in all the ways a person could have been abused. I was repeatedly told I was ugly, permanently damaged and screwed up in my teens. Of course I’ve got some bugs in my system. Sometimes I make choices based on screwed up co-dependent viewpoints. That is so normal I would do that based on my background. I do my best to honor the fact that the struggles are part of life. Struggle is growth. We grow or we die. I want to live.
6. I honored the reality of how hard it really was.
When working on their careers and businesses, clients often ask me “When am I going to get there?”. I always say “You’re already there”
I had to own this personally in 2017. The idea of “getting there” is having everything be easy. We want a magic bullet that unlocks some truth that sets everything in the right place, gives us an eternal sense of peace and endless success.
Now, I don’t want to eliminate the idea that magic bullets can never be found. However, more often than not this type of evolution is a long-term, hard-fought journey. Most things worthwhile, impactful, meaningful are hard because they are hard. Its ok they are hard and scary. The difficulty is not a statement about my worth, my talents or my potential. However, it is an enormous test of my tenacity, mindset and desire.
Sometimes things are too hard and I don’t want them enough so I stop. That’s ok. Sometimes I need a rest to reflect and that’s ok too. And sometimes its just that damn important that its worth doing all the work, being that incredibly vulnerable, and risking the journey and I go and do it.
I’m taking these lessons into 2018 to turn up the brightness on my desire to show up with an open heart, a curious mind, a sense of purpose and a commitment to self care.
“Maybe if” I keep practicing I’ll get more of what I want. We will see!