The Year None of My Dreams Came True
I reignited these dreams on my birthday, conveniently situated at the end of May, nearly halfway through the year, thus giving myself another chance to go get all my goals and resolutions. But now, here I am, looking at the end of December and wondering: What the hell happened? How did it go so fast? What have I really done?
My mind does its usual thing of going into overdrive, asking its usual, not very helpful question: "What did I do wrong?" Well, we had planned to move—that didn't happen. My book hadn't progressed—days had turned into months of trying to balance being a mom to a toddler and finding time to write. The hardest one? To accept that I was not getting pregnant. Self-blame, self-criticism, self-doubt descended.
Then I thought, Was it really my unmet goals that were making me miserable? Or was I measuring my happiness to a few things (important, yes) that might still come in the future? Why had I given them only 365 days? What about all the things that stayed the same and how great was that? What about all the unseen ways I had changed for the better? What about the invisible foundation that was perhaps being laid this year, for future goals to happen even more brilliantly than right now? Perhaps my goals were a little delayed and might happen next year?
I realized my original 2016 goals looked as if they came from a good place. But really, it was my ego bullying me into feeling I wasn't good enough, successful enough, complete enough with what I am right now. When I really sat with this, my disappointment and dissatisfaction seemed to be tied to three things:
1. My focus on what's missing
It can be anything. At moments, I've lacked a man, a soul mate, a child or money. When I was heavier, I lacked a thin and healthy body. I've lacked external recognition, or a feeling of being good enough. Today I lack a beautiful home, a second child and some more time and money. The mind's operating system runs on lack. That is the name of its software. It cannot possibly run on what I already have. How quickly I forget how badly I wanted what I have now! The current amazing parts of my life were once my biggest goals.
2. My own timeline
The past tends to bring me face-to-face with what I did wrong, what happened to me, bad decisions I made, regrets and, my very best friend, guilt. The future brings up fear and uncertainty—as well as hope intertwined with hopelessness. Will things change? Will they change for the better? Will I get what I want? Oh…and the deadlines: "By 30, I will…By 40, I will…" Is it any wonder I would do anything to run from those uncomfortable feelings?
3. My measuring stick
The world is pretty good at telling me if things are working out for me: I got the job, I lost the weight, I ran the marathon, I found the man. That in turn triggers the feeling (temporarily) that I am good enough, special, worthy. But these daily evaluations of whether I am doing well or not, whether I had a good day or not, whether I am on track or not—they're all dependent on external circumstances.
When I found myself focusing on the failure to reach my resolutions, I could see that one or more of these three things were at play. So I asked myself, If I had never come up with these new goals to go after, what would I think of this year? Well, it was a year where my relationship with my husband deepened. A year where I saw my gorgeous son turn 3 and flourish. A year where he got potty trained (big goal I hadn't even thought of). A year where he started talking and describing his world and his feelings to me. A year where I read amazing books. A year where I didn't get sick. A year where my parents didn't get sick. A year where I helped others in small ways. A year where I got to travel to some new places and see old friends. A year where I made three new good friends. A year where I had some challenging times, where I could now see the growth and good that came from them. A year where my mind and its inner critic got a little bit quieter. (Amazing!) A year where I had my faith and connection to something greater be tested and strengthened, after some moments of real grief and loss. A year where some tough stuff made me really see that I wasn't in control of my life, however hard I tried (a concept I've read in so many teachings but never landed until now.)
All this led to three very new resolutions. This year, I'm going to …
1. Make friends with all the amazing things that don't change. And see how grateful I am for those. I want 2017 to be a year where I allow myself to rest, pause and stop with the heavy goals. Nothing is missing right now. I know I must do my part and take action toward my future, but at the same time, I can truly trust that something else is also guiding the way.
2. Make friends with my mind. This is my big and worthy goal. When my mind leads me down the path of disapproval, beating me up, comparing and just being mean, I will breathe and say, "Thank you mind, I am in charge now, and that isn't true." The only thing standing in the way of a good year, a great year or a bad year, is my mind.
3. Make friends with time. I will stop evaluating my success according to what month or year it is. Things can and will change. And it may happen on January 2 or December 30, or a decade from now. Am I really going to let it determine if I have a great year? I know how surprising life can be. I don't want to miss 99 percent of the current blessings while I've been obsessed with 1 percent that didn't happen. I want to get into the space in between my goals, observing life as it is really happening now, not how I'd selfishly like it to go.
My hope is that my days will feel precious and full of potential. And my year too.
Ariane de Bonvoisin is a writer, speaker and entrepreneur. Her latest venture is a daily app, Mindful365, on living consciously in the midst of busy lives. To learn more, visit ArianedeBonvoisin.com.
Want more stories like this delivered to your inbox? Sign up for the Oprah.com Spirit Newsletter!