If you’ve been part of the Outside Insights community for a while, you know how important I view goal setting and developing actionable steps to make them a reality. We set our sights on outcomes that we want to reach and then act with intention, every day, to achieve them – knocking tasks out one right after the other.
Goal setting, and the tasks that follow, are tactics for creating the life you want. But deciding what kind of life you want takes something else entirely – stillness. Dedicated time to do nothing but introspect. To take stock of not only what you’ve accomplished – but how you feel about it.
In 2006 my small business was five years old. I had spent the majority of those five years burning the candle at both ends – working through Christmas, birthdays, Sundays, it didn’t matter. My sole focus was on completing the tasks that I had attached to my goals. When I completed one, I didn’t waste a second before moving on to the next.
After a while – I became so goal obsessed that I lost sight of the bigger picture – and I lost touch with myself. Something needed to change – and it did. I realized that to move forward, you must be still.
How I Find Stillness
I’m still when I’m on the yoga mat, when I’m flipping through a good book full of dog-eared pages, or when my boots are trudging through the mud during a walk in the woods. Hell – I even found moments of stillness when I was scaling Mt. Rainier in frigid temperatures. It is in these moments that I turn my task-oriented brain off and allow myself the mental space to introspect on where I am, where I came from, and where I’m going. To ask myself if my goals and the tasks that support them are aligned with my values – if they support the wellbeing of myself, my family, employees, and customers.
When my mind is still, I’m alone with my thoughts – for some, this might feel uncomfortable. You might have to confront realities you’ve been avoiding, feelings you’re unfamiliar with, and truths you might not be willing to admit. And that is exactly why you need to do it.
Steps for Carving Out Moments of Stillness
1. Start small, but start today. Create five minutes in your schedule today where you do nothing but close your eyes and let the thoughts come. The uncomfortable ones, the optimistic ones, the seemingly irrelevant ones. You don’t have to process them today – but you must acknowledge that they’re there.
2. Find what brings you peace. I find stillness in yoga and in the woods – find what works best for you. Maybe you lie down and listen to classical music – maybe you dance or tend to your garden.
3. Make it a routine. When I first started blocking off regular time on my calendar for introspection, it felt like a burden. Do it anyway. I promise it will become a little slice of heaven that you look forward to every day.
4. When you’re ready – process your thoughts. After you’re comfortable with the idea of greeting your thoughts and feelings and letting them flow through you, you’re ready for the next step: identifying what they mean for you and what you need to do about them. You can start by writing common themes down or by creating a vision board. How do these thoughts and feelings align with the direction you want to go or the changes you need to make?
5. Do something about them. This is where you put your task-oriented brain back on to write out your goals and create a plan for reaching them. Persistence is key – you’re not going to get there by sheer luck. Show up for yourself, every day, to make your self-aligned visions a reality.
6. Repeat the process every day.
How do you find moments for introspection? What activities allow you to turn your thinking brain off? Have you had any epiphanies lately as a result? I’d love to know.
By the way, this week I’ve been preparing for my one-month sabbatical (all of my employees get one after 10 years of hard work). One month of stillness. I don’t know what ideas this month will inspire, but I’m excited to share them with you all when they come.
Wishing you many still moments this weekend.
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