It’s a new year and I feel obligated to give a nod to this time in our lives when we seize the opportunity to start over, wipe the slate clean and dream up new possibilities for ourselves. While I’m not a fan of resolution making, I am a fan of taking pauses and re-assessing life at multiple intervals. Resolutions have seemingly the right ingredients but most fail because they are not authentic expressions of our soul’s wishes. Resolutions typically embody what we think we “should” want for ourselves (weight loss; new romance; to be better people...). Rarely do they embody what our soul yearns for us (to listen to our intuition and quit that job that’s burning us out; to make that piece of art just because we feel like it; to say no to dinner with those friends that we don’t really like...).
To have a meaningful reflection on our lives and the direction we are going in we must understand the intention behind the choices we are making and take ownership of them. Life is not about what’s happening to us or what people around us are or are not doing. Life is about the choices we are making and where they come from inside ourselves. One of our most powerful choices, made countless times a day, is the choice to believe either in our own limitations or in our possibilities.
It goes like this: every action we take is the result of our thoughts. Every thought we have is a direct result of the beliefs we hold. If we are filled with limiting beliefs about ourselves then our thoughts will reflect those limitations and our actions (or lack of) will seal the deal. For example, if deep in our hearts we fear we are less worthy or less talented than our co-worker, we might spend most of our time trying to prove to others that we are capable while unbeknownst to ourselves, through actions we can’t even see that are we doing, we are sabotaging the very success and acknowledgment we desire!
Let’s take an artistic example. I know someone whose dream it is to be a singer. They work hard at it and have had some moderate success but it never goes far because deep down they don’t believe that they are good enough or ever going to be seen as the creatively talented artist they want to be. So what manifests? They make those limiting beliefs come true by shrinking and by focusing on an end result that meets their expectations. They already believe no one will notice them, so no one does. They are rarely complimented for their performance, rarely get parts they want, and rarely feel good about the quality of their performance when they do actually sing. All of which they then hold up as evidence to back up the story about why they will never get the chance to be seen as a great singer! On top of that they then spend weeks feeling depressed, resentful of people around them who are successful, and being angry with themselves for what they then term as being a failure. It’s a vicious cycle...and nothing changes.
People who are living artfully (gracefully, confidently, in flow, at peace...) take the time to examine their core beliefs. They peel away the layers of fear to get to a place of vulnerability; to get real about what they want, why, and what limiting beliefs they may be holding that stop them from achieving their goals and dreams. Let me share a personal example with you. Throughout my career I have been a relatively public person whether I was dancing, leading non-profits, lecturing, giving workshops, etc. As I dancer first in life, I wasn’t much of a talker. As my life transformed, I became a speaker but all along I found myself wishing people would see me as a passionate, talented, powerful speaker and I felt certain that they weren’t. It took me a while to peel the layers back to realize that I was the one who didn’t see myself that way. I feared that I was a horrible speaker; that I sounded like a monotone robot getting words out but with no inspiration. I was sure everyone else was thinking that about me! So what happened? I never gave great speeches and I never got complimented as a speaker. Which I then let be evidence of how bad I must be! Rather than work to try and improve, I just stewed in that space of feeling bad and incompetent, repeating wistfully my desire to be a good speaker, but assuming I didn’t have it in me. So nothing ever changed. Until one day I went on a personal retreat to get quiet and listen to my inner voice in order to assess where I was at that point in my life and what I wanted. (By the way, I highly recommend personal retreats! They can be just 24 hours away from your regular routine...it doesn’t have to be a magnificent vacation - just somewhere you can be still and connect to yourself!).
I peeled apart this issue down to its core where I realized I held this steadfast belief that I wasn’t a good speaker. Plain and simple, there it was. When I examined it further, I didn’t know where it came from. I had been speaking and having at least mild success since I was in elementary school where I became a class officer with my first speech that I ever remember giving, and yet I still had this fear and limiting belief that I was bad at it. It didn’t matter if I was actually good or not in real life, I believed I wasn’t. Voila! Now that I had examined my beliefs, I could decide if I believed them to be true and what I wanted to do about them. I could also examine my motivation and why I cared about public speaking in the first place, what I wanted it to look like for my future and what I could do to make that a real possibility. Today I speak constantly in front of crowds; sometimes I’m good, sometimes I’m bad, but now I always approach each time as an opportunity with a belief in myself to give it my best in that moment.
As you head into 2016, take some moments to deeply examine your wishes and goals. What limiting beliefs buried in your core story are stopping you? What encouraging beliefs might exist there too? If you truly want 2016 to be your most artful year yet, get on with creating your life from a place of honest, empowering, vulnerable, authentic choice...and watch the magic unfold.