For me, 2018 was an underwhelming year. Before being put on life support, 2018 was The Year of Bleh. It was dull and slow as far as I was concerned, but I had no idea other people felt the same until a brief scrolling through Tumblr showed an army of folks who were just as dissatisfied with the year as I was. Okay, okay, so Tumblr might just be the land of whining. And, yes, there were plenty of goings-on both politically and socially. It’s not that the entire world slowed to a crawl in 2018. It’s just that it felt that way. My suspicion? It’s really just me projecting dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in my personal and professional life onto the rest of the world around me.
In other words, I let 2018 slip through my fingers and become wasted time.
It’s embarrassing, really. Every new year, we look ahead to the 365 days stretching out before us and see their potential. At the beginning of the year, it feels like those 365 days go on and on… I mean, there is hundreds of them. But a bad habit I’ve cultivated is to let the straight up lie that a year is a long space of time lead to me underestimating both my own procrastination + how fast that time is spent with all the responsibilities, unexpected emergencies (need I bring up my being on life support again), and just activities in general that life is so full with.
Dreams are vital. They provide us with hope, inspiration, and passion – three things that life would be so insanely boring without. While I’m a huge fan of really dreaming big, I’ve learned recently that everything changes… Everything. Just like we as people should grow and become better, our dreams are going to evolve too.
It’s not healthy to grab onto a strict vision, refusing to welcome change into it as if allowing it to evolve is going to depreciate its value. At the risk of sounding like my mother and relying on metaphors too much, dreams are very much so like seeds. They’re full of potential and we use good soil as a solid foundation for our visions to blossom. Then we water them with, let’s say, hard work, dedication, passion, and educating ourselves about all that our visions will take in order to come to fruition. We watch them as they burst through the soil and show their first real sign of promise. Depending on the seed we decide on, whether or not we use fertilizer, and how well we tend to it, that vision can take a fair amount of time to flower. The point is that it will flower, though.
What we have to be is flexible about it. If we restrict our vision, we’re keeping it in confines of our own making and holding it back from reaching its true potential.
I’ve held myself and my dreams back in a few different ways:
✔ Unrealistic expectations.
More than once, I’ve put unnecessary pressure and stress on myself by allowing unrealistic expectations. For example, I’ve tried to force myself to reach goals within a certain time that no one could possibly achieve unless they focused on that one thing and cut out other responsibilities to do with family, career, and self-care. This creates an unhealthy balance. Even if they did do that and achieved that goal in such an unrealistic time frame, they’d have made it an obsession, which is just as detrimental. Other unrealistic expectations I’ve had are demanding perfection from myself and thinking that nothing unexpected is going to get in the way of my goal, therefore leaving myself totally unprepared.
I’ve learned to leave unrealistic expectations behind simply by being kind to myself. For me, unrealistic expectations stem from a place of self-loathing. I never think I’m good enough until my goals are met. I had to make a habit out of forgiving myself and showing some grace, both of which make it easier to try again instead of giving up. We should always try our best to achieve our goals, but even if we do, there’s no actual guarantee that we’ll reach them by the goal date we originally had in mind. Unrealistic expectations make us way more frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged when we don’t achieve everything we set out to. They make us tired and I’ve come very close to being so tired because of them that I’ve almost given up 100%.
✔ Losing Motivation.
There’s no shortage of momentum in the beginning. I always start off running, but never make it far. I know that reaching a goal is more of a marathon than a sprint, yet that’s exactly how I treat it. This is something I’m still heavily struggling with. It’s the biggest contender when I set out to achieve something. There are plenty of reasons people lose motivation from a fear of failure to simply losing interest to getting distracted to the age old habit of procrastination. The point is, losing my motivation generally leads to me losing my focus and desire. Nine times out of ten, after the initial motivation lessens, I give up the project or goal. Ten times out of ten, I’ll try again only to be faced with the exact same problem. It’s a vicious cycle.
I’m striving to keep my motivation by having accountability, celebrating the little victories, and being realistic. I’ll break it down further.
Having accountability gives me a sense of community. Not feeling like I’m all alone in something helps me avoid hopelessness. And there’s a massive plus in seeing other people face the same struggles, hearing their tips and tricks, and hearing (and giving) encouragement when I need it. My boyfriend helps me stay committed to fitness because he has goals of his own for his health, and we keep each other on our toes by making a game out of it while still being supportive to the other person. I’ve also found communities for accountability on Reddit and Facebook. Another thing I’ve found that helps is following a lot of accounts on Instagram (or, really, any social media) that deal with the same goals I’m trying to achieve. For me, that means homesteading, fitness, French, blogging, etc.
Celebrating the little victories combats the fear of failure. The biggest thing that holds me back from even attempting something is a fear of failure. Big goals and even small projects can seem daunting when I get in my head about them and convince myself I’ll probably fail. So what I’ve done is break everything I’m attempting, big and small, into digestible and simple steps. When I complete even the simplest of them, I celebrate that victory by treating myself, posting about it, or just allowing myself to feel good about it. It’s that celebration that makes me feel like a winner and I get out of the habit of fearing failure because I now have confidence.
Being realistic is what keeps me from those pesky unrealistic expectations we talked about. I mentioned that unrealistic expectations can make us discouraged. Often enough, it’s discouragement brought on by unrealistic expectations that lead me to losing my motivation. Avoiding that and being realistic with myself, what I want to achieve, and what it means for me when I do is a big step in maintaining motivation.
❀ A Lil Tip ❀
Making a vision or
I’ve underestimated how much work, time, or money needs to go into my vision to make it a reality. I’ve underestimated just how much passion I have for a goal and allowed that to get me in over my head. I’ve underestimated the cons of a project and found myself realizing that all the work that went into it was actually not worthwhile. Underestimating anything from a small project to a huge life goal can make everything fall to pieces real fast. A lot of people I know credit their debt, failed careers, and even failed marriages to the simple act of underestimating. It’s dangerous.
I’m breaking the habit of underestimating by doing my research. It might not sound fun to a lot of people, but knowledge is the backbone of any dream, project, or goal. Flexibility is important when it comes to research. You have to be willing to tweak your vision or even do a complete overhaul depending on the knowledge you’ve collected. One of my biggest life goals is to one day have a homestead. At first, I had a huge list of animals that I wanted to raise, but after researching for just a few hours, I realized that having all the animals I initially wanted would easily overwhelm me with work. My list of animals is now a fraction of what it was in the beginning and, in the name of flexibility, I was okay with that. Doing your research (even if it takes days, weeks, months!) is going to save you from the oh, so common yet oh, so dangerous mistake of underestimating.
To all of us who felt 2018 was a wasted year:
Don’t lose hope! Don’t give up! We can still reach our goals, finish our projects, and make our dreams come true. Time is precious and we can learn how to appreciate and even treasure it by using it wisely and ambitiously. My hope for all us in 2019 is that we learn and perhaps even master time management, maintaining motivation, and finding success in all of the small projects, life goals, and wonderful dreams that we might have.