I started writing annual mission statements for myself a couple of years ago. 2011 was “The Year of Letting Go,” 2012: “The Year of the Experience” and last year was dedicated to “The Year of One Thing.” I’ve been pretty good about my 2013 and 2012 intentions and because we all know that “letting go” can be a serious work in progress, sometimes I’ve been better at that one than others. I know it may seem a little early to start writing about personal themes and intentions for 2014 (like holiday decorations right after Halloween), but because I’m declaring 2014 as The Year of Trusting Myself, I trust that now is the right time.
Years ago I interviewed a well-known college basketball coach who had a reputation for turning around sinking programs. Because his teams were always expected to win immediately simply because he was hired, the headline of the article was “Success Breeds Expectations.” The better you do, the more people expect.
Fast forward 20(ish) years and I’ve discovered that “Doubt Breeds Excuses” may be the opposite. I can’t run far enough or fast enough results in no run at all. I’m not losing weight fast enough results in giving in to the vice (whatever it is!). Believing the people who tell you that you can’t or it won’t work, or that’s already been attempted and failed, results in abandoned dreams. Anything or anyone that creates doubt in your mind gives you reason to avoid trying and eliminates any chance for succeeding. And personally, what’s worse is when the doubt and excuses get mean. You can’t do it doesn’t just become an excuse not to, but it starts to sound a lot like you suck.
What I’ve learned is that doubt gains the most traction when I stop trusting myself. When I stop believing in myself. When I let the haters get inside my head. Maybe this isn’t a good idea stops progress cold. You suck stops me cold. I know what I think of when I channel my inner Thoreau and visualize the life I want. I know how I feel when I believe that anything is possible. It makes me feel alive. It’s inspiring. But it’s hard to stay on the proverbial wagon. I can stay on for periods of time, but I get knocked off. Doubt creeps back in. Excuses gain strength.
As I wrote about, however, somewhere in the middle of the Sea of Cortez, it dawned on me that I need to trust myself more consistently. No. That isn’t even right; I need to trust myself. Period. I think in order to avoid falling off that wagon, I have to understand that trusting myself and following my instincts doesn’t mean that I’ll always be right. I’ll still make mistakes, but trusting myself allows for those mistakes. If I truly trust myself, I’ll be more likely to learn from them and let go of any residual effects. And, maybe more importantly, do so faster than I otherwise might.
Trusting myself also doesn’t mean that I won’t need help and counsel. Trusting myself doesn’t mean that I know everything. Quite the opposite. It means that I can acknowledge when I don’t know enough without judging myself for that lack of expertise or knowledge. Trusting myself lets me accept areas where I am deficient. Giving into doubt turns those deficiencies into excuses and slows progress and projects. But trusting myself allows them to be opportunities for learning.
Not to be overly cliché-laden and cavalier, but what’s the worst thing that can happen, right? I read a quote (used on ADWL this morning) that “the worst thing that happens … rarely is.” In other words, when we want to try something, change something, or risk something, we often make up far worse potential scenarios in our heads than the resulting worst-case realities. More often than not, the resulting realities are far from the worst. And, even if they approach the “worst case,” it rarely lasts.
What makes us think of those things? Doubt. Excuses. So … we do nothing. (I feel like I need a disclaimer here, because someone usually points out such things, but I understand that incredibly awful things do happen. I’m aware of this. Really bad, tragic things. I’m not belittling those or brushing over those. I’m talking about “more times than not.”)
I often write about being in shape (or out of shape as the case may be) because it’s one of my greater struggles. The biggest reason I fall out of shape is that I start to make excuses. I start to make excuses because I don’t trust myself with what I know is right and what works for me. I know how to eat right and exercise. But then … I’ll slip into some phase where I don’t trust what I know works for me. I let the doubt of others get in my head. And, the health roller coaster continues. But if I listen to myself, to my body’s needs, and if I trust that … I’ll be fine.
As I look to next year, I visualize an array of amazing things. There are big plans for new companies, a new non-profit, trips, friends, family and, yes, physical, financial and spiritual fitness. I trust that with the help of good people (2013) and by embracing experiences (2012), I’ll have the power to let go of the doubt (so much of which is rooted in the past – 2011). I trust that I will be able to move forward, take risks and thrive.
I think trusting myself may be the most powerful intention that I’ve ever set. It has the power to heal. The power to inspire growth. And the power to foster communities. So, no … the New Year isn’t really here yet. But, no, it’s not too early to write this post. I trust that to be true.