Now What?

Jan 30, 2024

Pictured:  Fable’s goal for 2024 appears to be the daily practice of dog yoga.

It’s the end of January.  For many of us, it’s the time when those shiny-new, beautiful goals we romanced at the end of December have…well, let’s just say the honeymoon is over.

Quite often the entire relationship is done -– we’ve already broken up with our goals.  The fling burned hot for only a few short weeks.   Things didn’t turn out as perfectly as we’d imagined a month ago.  Or we didn’t show up as perfectly as we’d hoped, inevitably.  Doing real life with your goal just turned out to be too hard.  Too demanding, too high maintenance.

So, now what?  This most important question is often neglected, stepped over as we resume the old, well-practiced ways of being. Before you pack your things and leave your goal behind, pause and ask yourself: Now what?

Doing this part differently — the part where you want to give up – this is where real change happens. Not in the beautifully crafted plans and color-coded calendar entries. (Perfectionists, I see you.)

This moment, this end-of-January-thaw in the hot pursuit of your goal, is so important to your happiness, to your dreams, to the rest of your life.  This is where you can either learn and grow, or step back into the rinse/repeat cycle of default living.

We want change to be a straight, linear runway off into the horizon.  It’s not.  Real change is a messy, spiraling, circuitous passage. Sometimes it feels like a roller coaster.  Sometimes you’re bushwhacking and wondering if you’ve inadvertently circled back.  Sometimes you wonder: “Will there ever be a nice bench with a decent view on this trail?”  Real change is messy because it happens inside your real human life.

Real change is hard.  Growth can be scary, and exhausting.  But I’ll take it over the hamster wheel any day.

Now what?  If you can be curious, maybe even compassionate with yourself in this moment, there is so much to learn here.  For most of us, when we haven’t been able to stick with a goal, there’s only the opposite of curiosity and compassion.  There are only the jeers from the cheap seats in our brain.  The judgement, the beating ourselves up, giving up on our goals….and giving up on ourselves, again.

Now what?  If you were talking with a friend, even a stranger, about a less-than-perfect January with their goals, what might you say?  I bet it would be a whole lot kinder that how you’re talking to yourself right now.  There’s this fallacy that if we just find a way to be tough enough—if we find the precisely right combination of insults, berating, and self-reproach…this will finally kick us into gear.

Now, what?  This is the moment to come alongside yourself, and lovingly pick yourself back up.

If you were helping a child learn to walk or ride a bike, you’d be gentle, encouraging, patient. You’d create the conditions for them to keep trying.  You’d know, intuitively, that the very muscles they need to walk are strengthened only by the falling itself, over and over again.

This is the moment to learn to coach yourself.


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