Friday, January 2, 2009

Starting the New Year Off Softly

By now, you've probably made New Year's Resolutions if you were going to. But if you haven't and you're a little behind (Resolution: Better time management!), I'd like to make a modest suggestion:

Don't do it.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a planner. You know that.

But a New Year's Resolution is like the worse parts of business planning: It's wanting to write for the New Yorker but not querying them. It's wanting to exercise but not putting on your running shoes. As you can tell, I disdain them.

But it's not for lack of trying them. Like my fellow freelancer Jenny Cromie, I've had the experience of making a lot of resolutions whose only purpose seems to be to give me something to feel bad about. It's like the term "me-time." Don't you just want to throw your running shoe and your New Yorker at the screen when I write that? A cloying phrase that belies the very real conflicts we all do have in our days that make me-time another bludgeon with which to pummel ourselves.

Instead of a resolution, consider adopting a guiding principle. Mine is gentleness.

Here's why: My business plan is ambitious. And I am, in general, a pretty ambitious person. But all that ambition can sometimes tip over into obsessive self-judgement--a state I like to call, simply, self-cruelty.

It doesn't help and it often hurts me by blinding me to what I've done well and keeping me so self-obsessed that I can't be of service to my clients. Nothing derails me and sucks the serenity out of the room like self-cruelty.

So for me, the guiding principle for 2009 is gentleness.

For you, it may be different: If you make plans you don't keep, it may be discipline. If you tend toward the negative side of the street, maybe it's optimism or kindness.

And then, when I start feeling uncomfortable with something I'm doing, I ask myself, "Is this gentle? If not, is there a gentler way to get the same result?"

That, I'd say, is a much better use of my prognostic abilities.

What's your guiding principle?


Jenny said...

Thanks for the mention Heather! :-)

I wrote another post today about how to get back on track if you've already fallen away from any freelance goals:

Breaking Freelance Resolutions: How To Get Back On Track ...

And now, I need to take my own advice. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,

Gentle is a great theme for 2009! I'm leaning towards making enthusiasm my theme for the year, but each year I give myself a few weeks to try the word on and see if I still like it after actually using it--sometimes a word sounds really good, but then I find it's not completely applicable.

All my best,