September is a special month for me as it marks another year of my life on the planet. And you know what that means? Yes, cake and champagne for sure, but also a serious date with my journal for some deep reflection. Although birthdays seem innocent on the outside, they’re often packed with emotional baggage and pressures about what we have/haven’t accomplished thus far, and setting new goals for ourselves in the year to come. I still remember spending my 30th birthday upset that I had not yet been published, started my own business, or made my first million (like, what had I been DOING that whole time?) So as I get older, birthdays have become a bit more daunting, because they offer the perfect opportunity to assess where I am relative to my goals.
And here’s a little secret about goals – they can be a wonderful driving force that gives us just enough discipline and encouragement to achieve greater heights, or a great reason to beat ourselves up and decide we are simply not good enough when they don’t get met in the way or time we originally planned.
Watching the Olympics last month made it crystal clear that achieving big goals takes dedication, commitment, perseverance, hard work, and sacrifice. I admire all of that, but I believe truly setting yourself up for success (which means not only achieving a goal but actually finding a sense of fulfillment and happiness through that achievement) takes a little bit of something else: self compassion.
The dictionary defines this as extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Going after a goal requires us to step out of what’s comfortable and try something new – something that we are not already good at. And that puts us in a very vulnerable position where inadequacy, failure, and suffering are just around the corner. If we don’t have a way of coping with the hardships that we’ll inevitably face as we strive for greatness, we’ll either give up and feel like losers for the rest of our lives, or reach our objective completely depleted, stripped of self-worth and joy, and unable to celebrate our achievement.
At ExxonMobil, I was a well-regarded, highly efficient employee who knew exactly how to navigate the company’s waters. By the time I left, I had 9 years of corporate success under my belt and felt pretty darn confident about achieving my goal of becoming a badass entrepreneur. Day one in my new role took that confidence right out of my system – I went from being the girl that got shit done, to not really knowing shit. I made mistake after mistake (I got taken advantage of by the contractor during the studio’s remodel, got sold on a more expensive POS system than I actually needed, waited too long to start my marketing efforts, opened with way too many classes… just to name a few.) I felt overwhelmed and frustrated, and I came down pretty hard on myself.
Luckily, my yoga practice kicked in somewhere around that time and I took a step back to reevaluate the situation through someone else’s eyes – the eyes of someone who loved, respected, and believed in me. And you know what? I realized I wasn’t doing that bad. Sure, the learning curve had been steep but all of those hiccups had been learning opportunities. I was attempting something I had never done before, something that I had no manual for (trust me, no MBA or entrepreneurship book will prepare you completely for going out on your own) and I was still moving forward…didn’t I deserve a high-five more than a walk of shame back to my house from the studio every day? The answer was yes, lots and lots of high-fives.
Yogaleena is turning 8 moths old on September 16th, and I am still making mistakes as an owner/boss/teacher. But that’s ok. I am approaching this endeavor as an adventure, with softer expectations and a lot more self-compassion. Of course I still have goals for the business that keep me moving forward and working hard, but I am willing to make exceptions, to go with the flow, to change my mind and adjust expectations, and above all, to feel proud of myself despite the final result.
Running this business has become more about bringing my vision to life and sharing it with others than reaching a certain financial target or becoming a yogilebrity…and that’s made it a goal worth working for.
This month, I invite you to reevaluate the goals you have set for yourself thus far through the lens of self-compassion. Are you truly working towards something that will bring you joy and are you doing so in a way that nourishes your spirit vs. depletes it? Are you taking the time to celebrate the small wins and talking to yourself with kindness and understanding? Are you leaving room for mistakes along the way and seeing them as opportunities rather than failure?
Time on your yoga mat is absolutely perfect for reflecting on some of these questions with an open heart. As you practice this month, notice how you react when faced with a challenging pose and see if you can soften into it instead of fighting the fall. Pay attention to your mental chatter and see if you can change the dialogue to positive encouragement. Make acceptance and self-compassion a part of your yoga practice, and try to take it with you out into the world.