Last week, I woke up on Monday December 26th and realized I needed time off. I needed to slow down, ease into my body and take a step back. I started contacting clients and asking for subs. And… within twenty-four hours I had arranged everything I needed to, thanks to the amazing staff at Elemental Yoga.
Even when I am on staycation, I feel like I have to stay directed. My purpose became to use my down time to envision my desires for 2023 and beyond. I opened up a Smart Life Push Journal I bought from Chalene Johnson years ago, looked at old podcasts from Tim Ferris on his year in review, and listened to audiobooks about establishing new habits.
Whenever I write down my goals, I never consider the project is then completed. These desires need time and space to gestate and gain greater articulation. Then certain goals can rise to the forefront as priorities while others take a back seat.
One of the exercises I have been practicing for the past week since listening to Joe Dispenza’s book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself is to visualize the future self that I am becoming and feel her embodiment in the present.
I have three primary goals I am focusing on:
A healthy pregnancy
An ecstatic birth
Meaningful connection with every student and teacher at the Yoga Studio
I visualize these things when I first wake up in the morning. Just this morning I was listening to a podcast by Andrew Huberman on focus and concentration and he was talking about how the more emotionally invested we are in something changing, the more likely we are to build the necessary neural pathways to make it happen. To me, it was an affirmation of exactly what Dispenza was teaching.
But by the same token, Huberman says we can’t just visualize the end goal of what we want. We also need to use our negativity bias to “forecast failure.” I have to spend time imagining what it will feel like not to achieve the things that I want.
I also heard (?somewhere?) that most people overestimate what they can achieve in one year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten. Historically, I have resisted exploring my ten year goals because they felt arbitrary and forced. So many things can change in ten years. Yet this statement of over/underestimating compelled me to consider my ten year self more deeply.
Do I have desires that have been so consistent for so long that I can confidently say they will still be desires in ten years time? If I can focus on those desires that have persisted over time, then perhaps I can make greater progress toward them now by letting my imagination go a little wild.
This is exactly what Michael and I did on New Year's Eve. We took time to interview each other about our spiritual goals, health goals, career goals, relationship goals, familial goals. The career goals were the most substantive: as in you could easily measure whether or not we had achieved those goals. And I think we were both careful not to make too many career goals but to focus on the one to three things which seemed like they would hold up over time.
Many of the things we focused on were personal- how I want my meditation practice to be, qualities I want to have developed in myself, how I want to experience health in my body, etc…
With a ten year goal in mind, I can ask myself when I reflect at the end of the day, or in any given moment, “Does this choice bring me closer to or further away from the person I want to be in ten years?”
It seems crazy to say that the how of all of it doesn’t have to be exactly known- that’s what Dispenza says. Huberman, who is a scientist at Stanford, says though that it really helps when we develop concrete processes after vocalizing specific goals. I think where the two meet in the middle is on Huberman’s discussion of dopamine, which is a necessary part of motivation to achieve a goal. If the image of a goal isn’t exciting enough for us, there won’t be a sufficient secretion of dopamine to take action toward it. Perhaps though if I am getting excited in visualizing the goal, it will support dopamine secretion. If I know I want something and I put my attention on it daily, it will be natural for me to make choices that are in alignment with that goal.
This brings up another point: if we focus on trying to achieve too many goals at once, it overwhelms the system. Huberman says it is better to actually have one to two, maybe three major goals to focus on in a year. This is encouraging to me. If I can make something that is currently out of my wheelhouse a habituated thing in a year, then one year from now, that major goal should be somewhat easy to maintain. And I can move my attention to the next big thing on the horizon.
Goals are just one piece of the puzzle. Phillip Moffet, in Emotional Chaos to Clarity, distinguishes the difference between living for our goals versus living from intention. Achieving a goal has a beginning, middle and end. Often we are hyper focused on the end while deprioritizing everything else in between. Living from intention (and not for goals) means we are committed to waking up and living in a certain way every single day. Life is less about achieving the goal and more about the process of who we become on the way to achieving them.
My last reflection and learning from staycation happened on Monday morning January 2nd when I woke up and realized it was time to go back to work. For one, I didn’t feel ready to go back to work. I still thought I had to run a marathon. So, I told myself, “It’s okay Brynn. You don’t have to run a marathon. You can let yourself ease into these things.”
I felt my work should never be about pushing through just to say I got something done. My work is the opportunity for self-discovery and exploration. In the same way that living from intention allows me to enjoy the person I am becoming, slowing down with work allows me to sink into the goodness of what I get to wake up and do every day.
Mind Map of My Ten Year Goals: