There’s that one goal that eludes you. The one you long for, the one you’ve poured your heart and soul into it, pursuing it every way you know – and yet it seems endlessly out of reach.
For me it was hitting (or not hitting) the numbers I wanted when I owned my dance studio. I did EVERYTHING. Seminars, masterminds, 1:1 coaching, group coaching, hiring experts, and all the implementation. I never got my financial bottom line to where I wanted it to be, to the ‘goal’ I had set. And then the pandemic took its toll and led to my closing the studio at the end 2022.
I never ‘proved’ myself.
I became a bit obsessed with the whole situation and found my head filled with stories of failure and inadequacy. The ‘I’m not good enough, I didn’t run my business well, I’m a terrible business woman,’ types of stories. So many of them were swirling in my head that I found myself beginning to resent my own creation.
Luckily, I have a wise husband who owns an archery range. He asked me to pretend that it was his last year owning the range. What would I say to him if he kept telling me that ‘it all meant nothing because it didn’t make a ton of money’?
My immediate response to him was “that’s nuts! You’ve impacted thousands of people and that has nothing to do with your bottom line.” Ding. I got it. His exercise helped me recognize the thousands of people we had touched through the studio. This in turn, challenged the litany of negative stories that had invaded my head.
It prompted a mindset shift. Actually, a full paradigm shift.
My mindset (thoughts about being ‘good enough’, ‘doing enough’, reaching my goal, closing the studio) changed and I saw the impact that we had “regardless of” reaching the goal I had originally set. This was a powerful change and helped me to heal several physical issues that had popped up.
Then I got the real gold. The paradigm shift happened – I understood that it was all perfect. The goal I set and my tenacity in trying to achieve it kept me constantly improving, learning, trying new things, pushing my comfort zone, including new people and engaging with the unknown. I kept growing and bringing that growth to both my team and our clients. I was all-in which allowed us to have the impact that we did.
Unrequited longing is intentional. It’s our path to deep transformation.
At that point, it was easy to fall back in love with the studio that was my passion for 14 years, and it made me more grateful for those years of struggle than ever. I wouldn’t change it. This is not uncommon. Many people that struggle through trying events – illness, loss, tragedy – say it’s the best thing that happened to them. Of course, that’s in hindsight with lots of inner work.
What if we could see/become aware of the blessings while in the midst of the challenge or crisis? What if we can shortcut the ‘struggle’ part? This is what I’ve been exploring myself, AND have been training my clients to do. Here’s a framework you can play with in your own life.
There is a Different Story
You have to start by making some space and this happens by changing the story you are telling.
In the instance above – changing from a story of not enough (didn’t achieve the one financial goal), to a story of impact (touched and changed thousands of lives). I can choose either story so I ask, which is empowering and will lead me to the next level of life?
There are three steps that will help with this. Take a negative internal story you’re telling yourself about some unrequited longing, some goal that seems endlessly out of reach no matter what you do, and play with the following three sections:
Step 1: Expectations – Yours, or Society’s?
Let’s start with the beliefs you hold about your desires (or challenge). Often, societal expectations shape narratives more than one’s own true desires. That was true for me. To me, a successful business was one that had a certain level of financial success, less than that was failure. That was society talking and that belief was one of the beliefs holding me hostage. When I took it apart, I realized that impact was more of a marker of success to me.
What beliefs underlie the frustration you feel and are holding you hostage? Make a list.
Identifying and questioning beliefs creates space to change the narrative. You can’t change something until you become aware of it.
Once you have your list, find a more empowering story for each belief. For example:
- Goal – get up earlier to get more done
- Supporting belief – to be successful you have to get up at 6a and get more done before breakfast than most people do all day.
- Narrative shift – success comes in many forms and each person has a different rhythm that works for them. When am I most productive/what rhythm works for me? Who are some people who do well with that rhythm?
This is a decluttering for your mind, discarding beliefs that no longer serve you and welcoming those that empower you.
Step 2: Community – Outer and Inner
You’ve heard the saying “you’re the average of the 5 people with whom you spend the most time”. It’s true. Curating your social group is crucial. If you hang out with positive, upbeat people, you’ll be more positive and upbeat. If you hang out with people who are happy, you will tend towards happiness. (Having a close friend who is happy increases the likelihood that you’ll be happy by up to 25% – Framingham Heart Study). Intentionally building your unique, supportive community is one of the best investments you will make. You get to choose.
External communities offer accountability, guidance, and inspiration, and the digital age provides countless opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals. Equally important is nurturing your inner community.
You might not have thought of creating your own inner community, and having your own inner boardroom populated by loving, supportive characters—the wise leader, the nurturing parent, or the resilient superhero, is powerful.
Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. This tool is one of the most empowering tools you have, and it’s with you at all times. Regularly engaging with these personas for ideas, support or even asking how that version of yourself would handle a situation not only fosters a nurturing environment that bolsters growth and silences self-doubt, it provides potent, real world answers.
Step 3: Practice – beyond the perfection game
Embarking on a transformative journey requires consistent practices that enable us to gradually step into our desires. Often as leaders we feel the expectation to know everything AND be perfect at all of it. Reality check – that’s not possible, it’s unfair and it’s not kind, to ourselves or to our teams.
So how do we practice a new skill? Exercises of seeing, hearing and or feeling (depending on what mode works best for you) allow us to embody our aspirations, forging a deeper, more meaningful connection with our goals. Another trick is to maintain a gratitude journal. This practice trains our minds to focus on the positives and counteract negative self-talk. It trains us to look for the alternative stories mentioned in Step 1 above. Acknowledging even the smallest achievements, helps reframe our beliefs and replace self-doubt with self-assurance. Remember, these practices are ongoing commitments. Consistency and dedication, i.e. practice, is what creates change.
Goals that make us feel like failures, over and over again, aka -unrequited longing, can be challenging, overwhelming and frustrating. Starting to catch the old, internal dialogue makes the space to see them for what they really are: opportunities for transformation, the gold in your life.
The three tools – examining beliefs, creating supportive communities, and engaging in empowering practices, are things you can use today to own your true power as a leader and shift your focus to the things that will truly make a difference in our world.
In case this is the first time we’re meeting, I’m Maren, an executive life coach, speaker, dancer, and serial entrepreneur empowering you to step into your purpose and live your most fulfilled life. To learn more about how we can work together to uncover your unique gifts and get you dancing with life, click here. For corporate trainings or inquiries regarding speaking engagements, please complete this form.