It’s that time of year again. The moment we stretch open the new moleskin notebook, unwrap the plastic on new versions of our favorite pens and simultaneously reflect on the past year and look ahead to a new one. The Type A lover-of-the-smell-of-sharpened-pencils lives for this moment. The chance to plan something new.
That was, I loved that moment until this year.
2021 was a rough ride for many, myself included. In marking the second full year of a global pandemic, I was weary to re-live both the good and the bad moments through my normal reflection prompts. In past years, I’d list out all of the milestones that happened that year – joys, struggles, moments of clarity, you name it. That three-page scribble would then morph into four or five themes, key lessons I’d take to the next year.
As I sat down in the very brief moment of quiet time over the holidays, I just couldn’t do it. I stared at a blank sheet of notebook paper. Did I have to note the extreme happiness and crippling anxiety of stretching myself in new ways this year by things that were outside of my control? Did I have to write down that I had another miscarriage? Couldn’t I just leave 2021 in the past and look ahead instead, knowing that there’d be more moments of duality, of heartbreak and elation all wrapped into one bullet point?
Normally, I’d make myself trudge through the muck and do the activity. Not this year. I resolved to do it a little differently. Instead of diving right in, I waited until the first week of January to do my year planning (with a ton of FOMO, I might add). Before putting pen to paper, I pulled out a book that lights the fires when I cannot – PROFESSIONAL TROUBLEMAKER by Luvvie Ajayi Jones. Instead of making lists, I was sitting still.
It was the best decision ever, and I accomplished the same goals in my reflection/planning process even with a different approach.
The chapters that always make me uncomfortable in Luvvie’s book center on likeability and people pleasing. I’ve spent a lifetime wanting people to like me. I still struggle with it – especially in professional circles when I’m surrounded by powerful women that I should know because they should open doors for me, even though their approach goes against my values and makes me question myself regularly. As I read more and journaled about it, I realized that I was still hung up on a recent experience of expecting to meet more like-minded people at a high-powered party that could help propel my writing career, only to find that the people at this gathering were not going to be my champions. I walked out of this event feeling smaller and more uncertain than when I strutted in.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from the past two years, it’s that I’m enough to walk in a room and light it up with my own personality. I’m not waiting on others to open doors for me – I’m looking for people I can collaborate with so we can open doors for each other together. I spent a December afternoon at Drama Book Shop in NYC with my mind spinning. That’s when Luvvie’s words made sense, echoed again on a recent Hello Monday podcast with Jessi Hempel.
“The more you double down on who you are, on your ‘too muchness,’ the quicker you will find people who are like-minded and who you fit with. The sooner you stop chasing those you are actually supposed to repel. They are not your people.”
Getting out of the likeability trap is not just the first step, but this inner work needs to be done in tandem with dreaming big about building a strong team and asking for more. More in life, more in finances, more in partnerships. If there’s one thing that Luvvie does well – and I need to work on feeling comfortable with doing myself – is speaking big dreams out loud and watching them happen.
So, instead of making a list of 2022 objectives and KPIs, and financial goals, I made a list of people that I wanted to work with on partnerships or mentor opportunities. They range from people I’ve always admired within my community to the big dreams I’ve always had. There are some big names on that list – Michelle Obama, Oprah, Brene Brown, Luvvie, and Glennon Doyle, I’m looking at you – and also some personal heroes and publishing industry-specific I’d love to know. The common thread is not that they can help me advance or move me forward. It’s that other people have said our values are aligned and they’re incredible teachers. They live from an authentic, vulnerable place. They hold space for others.
That is EXACTLY what I want to do in 2022.
Beyond this list of my newfound friends and partners, I ditched the one-page structured KPI breakdown and listed my year of intentions. The biggest one: get a book deal and publish essays. Take at least one speaking gig. Start a podcast. Connect with other writers in deep, meaningful ways. Expand my business so I can hire a team. The most important: put the phone down and be present for my family, both in our home and beyond our four walls. (Fingers crossed for more travel in 2022 with a vaccinated kiddo!)
This perspective shift helped me walk into the new year with a little more confidence and a lot more ease. Starting the year shouldn’t be a checklist of things to do – it should be a dream of what’s to come. Here’s to a bit more of my “too muchness.”