Hope you’ve had a lovely holiday break, whether or not you choose to officially celebrate any or not, I assume the majority had some kind of break from work or your regular routine.
Whilst I did enjoy time with my family of origin, and my friends, I’m quite ready to get back to regular life again. I just want the world to go back to normal – with regular opening hours so I don’t get thrown out of my favourite coffee shop at 3pm.
That said, I do like taking the weird limbo between xmas and new years day to really do some reflection on the year that’s past. It’s easy to just keep on moving from one thing to another without taking some time to stop and smell the flowers, as in: reflect on what worked, what didn’t, what you’ve learned, what you loved over the past year.
In many ways I group 2018 and 2017 together, because these were my Brighton years. The years I’ve spent away from London, the place I’ve called home, and attempted to basically start a life from scratch, relying only on the work I do online.
Which is quite funny in hindsight because it was in the past two years I learned the value of what comes from offline life. Meeting people in real life, and learning to manage my energy when doing so. Speaking to audiences from a stage, not just on the podcast. Creating community events in physical locations, not just on Facebook.
I learned a lot, and was definitely challenged as an introvert with mild social anxiety and a tendency to stay in my comfort zone behind the screen. Anyway, next year I’ve got plans to both utilise the magic that is an online business, and experiment even more with being location independent as I do quite a bit of travelling starting very soon. Whilst also embracing what comes from the real world, living more of my life offline, without relying on the comfort blanket of my laptop and phone.
I’ll share more about my plans for 2019 on Thursday’s podcast, but for now – I thought I’d talk a bit about GOALS. I’ve harped on about goal setting before, you might know how fond I am of this process. Or at least, how fond I’ve been in the past. I’ve started to soften up my approach to setting goals for myself, and in doing so I hope I can help more of you who have a less… easy relationship with the G-word.
I’m going to read a short chapter from my new book, The Creative Introvert: How to Build a Business You Love on Your Terms, which is officially released tomorrow – just search for “The Creative Introvert” on Amazon – as this is all about tackling the issue of goal setting – and finding an approach that works for you.
I tried to do as much of this ‘choose your own adventure’ in the book as possible, taking into account multiple different types of creative introvert that I know are out there, my intention being that you find the very best path for you to accomplishing just about anything you want, at least in terms of your creative career.
You’ve likely been asked before about your ‘three year plan’ or your ‘five year plan’ or beyond… And if you felt a surge of fear when you considered the answer, you’re definitely not alone. Considering our future, for the most part, can fill us with fear because of the uncertainty any rational person knows the future holds. Unless you have a crystal ball, you’ll agree that we simply can’t know for sure what our lives will look like in these distant times. Heck, even next Tuesday could hold some surprises for us.
Or maybe you love answering this question and dreaming about your future self. Some people do: they could fantasise all day long… but when it comes to making moves towards it? They stall. It’s much safer to be in imagination land than in the real world.
For folk like this, it’s the daily grind that doesn’t appeal. The gap between here and there is so vast, that they grow discouraged, and start to believe that future fantasy will never be theirs. Is there even any point in considering these distant futures, if they leave us feeling either filled with the fear of uncertainty or the discouragement of overwhelm?
Yes. And no…
Yes to future plans:
The argument for having a future plan isn’t because in doing so you’ll create more certainty or make something happen, simply by stating it out loud. I’m all for vision boards, but not if you think that in the cutting and sticking of magazine and catalogue images that you’ll magically bring them into your reality. That’s a lot of pressure for some printed paper and glue.
But if you use methods like vision boards as a way to bring clarity to your desires and creative ideas, then I’m all for it. This is the single most valuable point of answering these three-year plan type questions: it brings clarity.
With clarity, you have something to set your sights on. You have something to get a grip on and something to work towards. Life can be just fine, swimming aimlessly at times, but at some point you’ll want to swim towards the shore. But what shore? Where is it? What does it look like? What direction do you need to orient yourself?
Whether or not you make it to the exact spot of the exact shore you have in mind is not important. This is the part we miss when creating our grand plans. When we cling too tightly to the particulars of our plan, from getting that dream job to getting signed by that publisher: we end up feeling discouraged and disappointed. It then becomes much harder to re-orient ourselves and swim towards a new, more suitable shore.
No to future plans:
Enter my argument against making distant future plans: they can leave us feeling like we’re attempting the impossible. Like anything we really want is too difficult or unlikely to achieve. Or because we know how likely we are to change our mind (a classic feature of a creative type.) We wonder: what’s the point of getting so specific? We’ll only go and change our mind along the way.
The result is that many of us end up over-thinking and trying to second guess our motives. Introverts are particularly good at overthinking, and whilst this can have it’s benefits… it generally holds us back.
What’s a creative introvert to do? What’s an appropriate amount of time to spend considering the future? How detailed do we get in our grand plans? How GRAND do we get? How big can a dream be before it scares us off? Is it too small so it doesn’t push us to expand and reach our full potential?
Enter… The Bridge
Regardless of whether you love or loath long term planning, the answer to getting from where you are to where you want to be is the same: you have to bridge the gap.
The gap is that abyss that seems impossible to cross. The gap that somehow, others have crossed… but then they must have had some paragliding skills you lack.
Wrong! Not everyone who has crossed the gap has had a special advantage. They just built a bridge. And building a bridge takes time, but you are totally capable of it.
To build a bridge (metaphorically speaking – I’m no engineer) you have to start small. You can work backwards from the grand plan, OR you can work forward from where you are today. The key is in getting the route that suits you.
If long term goals scare you, and you feel discouraged, start where you are and work forward. What would make tomorrow better? Then start thinking further beyond tomorrow, taking steps toward it. If taking baby steps is uninspiring and you love the big picture, start big and work backwards. What does that distant future look like? Then you can start breaking it down and making it happen.
Depending on what you prefer (or what scares you more!) you can pick ONE of the following options to use as your guide for building your Bridge. If you still aren’t sure, read through both and pick one that feels right for you.
Option 1: Start from where you are
This is the option for you if you don’t like answering the question ‘where do you see yourself in X years from now?’ You’ll start with thinking about your daily life, and the small actions you can take that enrich your life now and set you up for the future.
Write out a typical day. Everything you can think of – no matter how mundane. What aspects are keepers? The things you wouldn’t change for the world; the things that light you up and make you smile. If you have highlighters of felt tip pens, highlight these aspects.
For the things that you don’t enjoy, or want to change even a little bit, transfer these to another list. This is going to be the starting point of your Bridge.
Now for each of these less than ideal aspects, write down what you would prefer this to be or to feel like. For example, if getting dressed every morning is a pain, your desire might be to have a simple wardrobe full of only clothes that you like and feel amazing. Or if instead of waking up annoyed at the alarm or feeling unenthused about getting out of bed, you might want to feel well-rested and get out of bed with more enthusiasm.
For each of these desires, write down one small step you can take to move closer to them. For example, if it’s the waking up scenario, then it might be going to bed 30 minutes earlier. It might be taking a magnesium supplement to help with sleep. It might be changing your alarm to a song you like.
Finally, think about your day in three months from now, if you were to continue taking action towards improving these things. Write about your day as you did before, but under the assumption that you did what you intended and things improve accordingly. These things may seem small, but these little improvements are what add up to a contented life.
Option 2: Start big, work backwards
This is the option for you if you love thinking big: the future doesn’t scare you, it excites you… until you wonder how the heck you can make those plans happen.
Start with the end in mind. Write out a list of whatever it is you want for your future. It can help to pick a time frame, even if it isn’t precise e.g. in three to five years time. Things to consider: where you live, what you do for work, what you do for fun, who you surround yourself with, how you feel most of the time.
Now, for each of these desires, write out where you’d like to be with them in approximately half the time e.g. one year from now. Things might not be there yet, but you’re making progress towards these aspects.
Now, half the time again, so you might be at six months from now. In each case, you want to try to make each aspect feel more attainable; less like a big, unrealistic dream, and more like something you can confidently work towards.
One more time! See yourself in three months from now. What would you be doing that would sow the seeds to each of these later visions?
These are going to be small things, from browsing online for your dream flat and getting a clearer picture of what exists in your dream location, to researching clients that will allow you to do the work you dream of doing.
Congratulations! Regardless of which option you chose, you should be at roughly the same place: you, three months from now, taking daily action to bridge that ‘gaping abyss’, without feeling utterly overwhelmed.
Pick ONE of the options above, depending on whether you love the daily steps (Option 1) or if big visions are your thing (Option 2.) Then start writing about your dream future. If you don’t want to write, you can make this visual, using collage or Pinterest or any other artistic medium that helps you get clear on what you truly desire.
In any case, if you need some pointers to help imagine this dream future, try answering a handful of these:
• Imagine you just won the lottery – what would you do with your cash?
• Imagine you had no physical limits – what would you do with your body?
• Describe your dream day – what’s different?
• What if you only had 6 months to live? How would you spend your time?
• What legacy would you like to leave?
• What would you want your tombstone to read?
• Describe the ideal version of yourself, with no limits – what does he/she have you don’t?
Excerpt from The Creative Introvert: How to Build a Business You Love on Your Terms.
Heads up! This is the LAST DAY to get your paws on the bonuses I’m offering as part of the pre-order deal of The Creative Introvert: How to Build a Business You Love on Your Terms.
You’ll get your hands on goodies worth around $700, including access to the League of Creative Introverts (my online community), a companion guide eBook and 6 months of book club calls that will begin in the new year.
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