At the end of last year, I made a list of ten goals for 2022.
I had done the same thing for 2021, and I was pleased with the result. I get both great enjoyment and great motivation out of a list. I don’t think I successfully crossed off quite everything, mainly because some of the things weren’t specific enough for me to know properly whether I’d done them or not, but I know that I did more than I would have done without it and it gave me some clarity throughout the year and also some knowledge about the kind of goals that work for me.
So I decided to do it again for this year. I made the list – things that are specific, things that are connected to my actual life and long term desires, things that feel challenging to me.
And according to that, I’m failing spectacularly this year.
That is, I’m failing spectacularly on at least six out of ten.
And the thing is, none of them are things that can be done in a day. Some of them I could still do, theoretically, but they were year goals for a reason, so some of them I’ve simply failed already and the rest are swinging towards impossible with the passing of time.
Ugh. I hated writing that.
You see, one of the core values of Jenny is that I do the things I say I will do. With other people, yes of course, but with myself, it’s even more important. I have built a lot on this earned trust with myself. It’s not just about commitment or reliability or follow-through in my mind. It’s a question: “If I do (or don’t do) this, am I making myself a liar?”
The weakest choice. I absolutely see the temptation in lying, especially as a means of self-protection, but it’s so despicable. Such a pathetic attempt at escaping. How can I respect myself if I can’t trust myself? And why would I feel the need to distort reality if I respected my choices?
I have failed at this, just to be clear.
I’ve said something and then forgotten to do it, which means I didn’t take the necessary steps to make sure I couldn’t forget it, which means I failed.
Or I’ve said something but I didn’t put a timeline on it, so it continually didn’t happen, so whether or not I still intended to do it eventually, until that day I’m continually failing.
I also hated writing that.
But here’s something I learned in writing stories before I learned it in living life: character flaws are just character strengths taken too far.
And every strength can be taken too far.
Consideration can become people-pleasing.
Strong faith can become blindly dogmatic narrow-mindedness.
The strength of always being willing to learn can become the weakness of never being willing to take any action because I don’t know enough yet.
You can look at it from the other angle too. Whatever weakness you see in yourself has the ability to become your strength.
So, although my determination to keep my word as truth is a strength, it becomes a weakness on the day that I refuse to change my course regardless of what else has changed or what I have learned since I made that commitment.
It feels dangerous to me to open that door – the door of rationalizing why I’m not going to do what I said I’m going to do. It seems easy to not do things, and try to make myself feel justified in the not doing. I’ve been well-trained in the art of making excuses, and I’ve also been well-trained to fear that.
But there is an arrogance in never correcting my course just because it’s the course I committed to. That’s the equivalent of saying, “I knew everything when I made this decision, so therefore I need never reconsider if it is the best plan for me to stick to.”
And there’s a stupidity in stubbornly continuing along a path that I know is not my best choice, just because I started down it earlier and I can’t bear to admit I was wrong.
There’s a value in doing what I said I will do simply because I said I will do it.
But it’s not the only value.
Being trustworthy means something more than just speaking factual truth.
There’s a few lines in this TV show I’m watching that hit me differently:
D: You need to start trusting me. It’s never been more important.
A: But you don’t always tell me the truth.
D: If I always told you the truth, I wouldn’t need you to trust me.
I’ve been thinking about that ever since. Because trusting someone’s words is one thing. Trusting someone, beyond their words, regardless of their words, is something else.
I’m not advocating lying to anyone.
But it’s like this: in my business, I make a commitment to every client I work with to do a specific set of tasks around their finances. But more than that, much more importantly than that, I make a commitment to every client I work with to do my best to help them attain financial success, as defined by them. On the day we agree to work together, I commit to a specific set of tasks because I believe that is the most effective way for me to help them attain financial success. But I’m always learning things, and sometimes the tasks I believed to be most effective are not – so I adjust. I change the task list, even though I once said I would do them just like that.
Being worthy of my clients’ trust doesn’t mean I only ever do exactly the tasks I said I would do, especially after I learn that those tasks aren’t serving their true goals and desires.
That would be the opposite of trustworthy.
It’s not different with the promises I make to myself.
I have to understand why I made those promises.
If the reason was simply to build trust with myself, then yes, I do need to do everything in my power to keep that promise.
But if the reason I committed to this specific thing was because it aligned with my direction at the time and I felt like it would help me to advance in that direction, then I have to ask questions:
Has my direction changed? If so, why? And is the new direction better? If so, am I advancing in it?
If my direction has not changed, then why has my commitment to it changed?
Of course, this only works if I don’t lie to myself.
There’s a fairly simple test that I’ve actually found pretty effective.
If I can say, out loud, to people I respect: “I’m not going to do that at this time, because it’s not what I want/it’s not a priority for me,” and I’m not ashamed of that statement, then I’m probably not just making excuses.
If I feel ashamed, or if I feel the need to justify it, to explain all the reasons it’s not a priority and add in what else I’m doing instead, then that means that I personally do not fully believe it’s the right choice. I am not confident in my decision to lay it down. And I need to ask why.
Sometimes it’s literally just a lack of self-trust.
But sometimes it’s because this choice is not me being my best self.
No one else can tell me which it is.
But I know, even when I try to pretend like I don’t.
So no, I’m not planning to do all the things on my ‘22-10 list, those things I said I would do this year. But some of them, I’m absolutely going to finish.
Because my priorities have been refined. For this year, and for who I choose to be.
And my knowledge has changed, my understanding of what some of these things require of me and what I’m willing to sacrifice and what I’m not.
And it’s not easy for me to choose not to finish a list, but I’m not ashamed of this choice.
Because I’m delighted with the person I am right now, with the things I’ve learned and the ways I’ve grown so far this year.
And as rigorously as I insist on testing my course corrections, I find it immensely freeing to allow myself to make them. Taking steps in one direction becomes so much less terrifying when I know I can turn when I need to, and when I trust myself not to do so out of weakness or fear.