Abandoning goals in favour of emerging principles

Ducks in a row - emerging principlesI’ve always been a goal-setter in life, generally successfully or I tend to give up quickly and relegate the goals to the bin of ‘bad ideas’. However, in 2019 I decided to take a different approach to my life in favour of emerging principles and a more mindful route through the year, noticing what is important to me and creating some principles I want to live by instead of setting goals. We are now 10% through 2019 and already I am feeling good about my new approach.

So why change my normal approach to New Year resolutions?

Maybe it is my age, having more confidence, or wanting to be kinder to myself, perhaps wanting less rigidity, although I have to admit to doing ‘Dry January’, which is in conflict with the rest of my approach to 2019, but I did need a break from alcohol after the festive season!

I felt I wanted to ‘just be’, to enjoy my life without feeling pressure to ‘improve’ myself, not be competing or pushing myself all the time.

So how did I make the decision to embrace emerging principles?

The decision began in early December, after working with my own coach and deciding that being kinder to myself was important. To stop pushing, striving, working, thinking so hard in everything I do. To acknowledge and let go of the feeling that I need to be the best daughter, mother, friend, coach, mentor, facilitator, good citizen etc. It felt so strange at first not preparing my thinking during December to consider my goals for the next year. Almost like being on holiday from my brain and a bit naughty, but a real sense of playfulness and joy at the same time and dare I say it, relief at not being straitjacketed into New Year resolutions.

A check in on my foundational habits

What I did in December was to reflect on my habits. Gosh I bet you are thinking she is cheating here. However, as a coach and mentor, you are hard-wired to reflect on yourself and your life. Reflection is healthy, creative and affirming and I couldn’t suddenly press ‘stop’ and do nothing at all! I spent time researching good habit formation and reflecting on my own life. Some basic foundational habits around sleep, exercise, eating/drinking, meditation and reading are already in place, the product of earlier years of resolutions, so apart from tinkering around the edges, such as finding time to read more, these habits mainly got a robust tick and I could move on.

So what happened next?

I found quickly that new themes for living emerged and resonated with me. Principles that meant something. I felt open and receptive to new ideas that in the past I would have acknowledged but probably not explored and pursued in a gentle but firm way. Principles that can guide my life this year and I expect will turn into habits for the rest of my life as they are bringing me so much joy each day. Interestingly, they have come onto my radar screen gradually. So every week or so, I have discovered something new in my reading or life experiences. I acknowledge other people for some, others just popped into my head, probably from seeds sown by my reading or my own reflections. They just appeared in a beautiful manner, without effort or striving.

So here is the richness of my thinking and new principle formation from the first 10% of 2019:

  1. The perfection of NOW – this is something that just came into my head in early January looking out on the beauty of my frosty garden. This present moment, this snapshot of my current reality is absolutely deliciously and exquisitely perfect, but 99.9% of the time I don’t realise this.
  2. Creating Shrines – thanks to the practical Gretchen Rubin for this. Her ‘Happiness at Home’ book has been inspirational about creating special areas in your home for super engagement. Showcasing your passions, interests and values and enticing you to particular activities and moods. They really work, thanks Gretchen!
  3. Getting stuff done (GSD) – This is from the insightfull Leo Babauta. It is so simple, but as the world’s biggest procrastinator, this simple principle and just getting down to ‘stuff’ is so powerful. Not a new idea as such, but I love bundling all my ‘frogs’ into this ‘stuff’ basket and realising I have a choice or not to get on with it.
  4. Microsteps – I value this concept from Arianna Huffington. Microsteps are about making changes that are too small to fail. She talks about making very small changes with clarity to get where we want to go to. Just like ‘chunking’ in coaching. Again, this is not a new idea, but the term microsteps feels easier to me than working with ‘chunks’. A great idea I am also using with clients already.
  5. JOMO – The ‘joy of missing out’, I have to thank Nicole Kidman for this idea. Apparently she uses this when saying ‘no’ to things she doesn’t want to engage with and I just love it! As a person with a high ‘please others’ driver I get involved with so many things I shouldn’t. I am just revelling in saying ‘no’ and enjoying missing out on activities, which would normally just weigh me down.
  6. Change the lens – this came into my head when I was thinking about an onerous project I have to deliver and my thinking of how to remove the feeling of dread as it approaches. Actually looking at it through a different lens has meant I now appreciate the positive significance of this piece of work and am excited about engaging with it in a meaningful and fun way!

Emerging Principles: What does this mean for my life?

This more emergent route to developing principles to live by in 2019 has been effortless and so much more relaxing and fun. The difficulty with making New Year resolutions is that we think about things we want to change in ourselves, but often don’t have time to really work out how we are going to get there and work out our ‘microsteps’. Then they become burdensome, a weight on our minds and don’t create the joy and mindful approach that I have enjoyed so far this year.

Behaviour change is often a step forward and then several steps backwards, followed by despondency and acceptance that you can’t change. My Olympic medal standard performance around procrastination is a great example here. However, gently and kindly, embracing the ‘Getting Stuff Done’ principal is slowly eroding my excellence in this area of my life and combined with the JOMO (the joy of missing out) I am realising I don’t have to beat myself up to do many of the things I have felt previously are necessary in my life and career. What a relief!

Being playful around the ideas that are coming into my head, developing some themed principles and indulging in kind reflection around them, is helping me to get my ducks in a row this year. Why don’t you try it also and see how you get on? It is great to discuss as part of a coaching or mentoring conversation too.

Picture credit – the ducks of Ilkley!

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This entry was posted in Coaching, Mentoring and tagged , by Lis Merrick. Bookmark the permalink.

About Lis Merrick

Lis Merrick is Managing Director of Coach Mentoring Limited, the ISMCP Accreditation Chair (European Mentoring and Coaching Council International Standards for Mentoring and Coaching Programmes), a Visiting Fellow of the Coaching and Mentoring Research Unit at Sheffield Business School and she was the EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council) UK President from 2015 to 2018.

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