As 2016 comes to a close, I find myself feeling a desire to up my game. I don't mean "do more"--I've learned the hard way how important it is to preserve space in my mind and on my calendar for the things that really matter, and I have no intention of cluttering up either with frenetic activity. And I don't really mean "be better"--I have room for improvement in every domain in life and I'm very much at peace with who I am.
Upping my game means being a fuller, truer version of myself. Not chasing after "more" or "better," but, rather, allowing things to happen that might not otherwise. Although that doesn't mean sitting around on my ass waiting for the universe to make those things happen--I have an active role to play in this process.
Earlier this year I made a major transition, stepping down from the role I'd held at Stanford for a decade to focus on my coaching practice in San Francisco and teaching just one course each Quarter. But while I'm on campus only one day a week now, I still feel the rhythm of the school's 10-week cycle. Two days ago I taught my last class of the Fall in The Art of Self-Coaching, and on January 10 I'll teach my first class of the Winter in Interpersonal Dynamics (aka Touchy Feely.)
That gives me exactly one month in which to experiment, to allow some things to happen, to up my game. Here's the plan for every one of those 30 days:
Meditate for 30 minutes. As my clients and my Art of Self-Coaching students will tell you, I'm deeply committed to meditation. I believe it's the single most-important practice contributing to our ability to direct our attention and manage our emotions. And not because it's relaxing--it's a workout, not a break. But I typically meditate for 10 or 15 minutes, sometimes 20. This month I'll be meditating for 30 minutes. I did it today for the first time, and I was pleasantly surprised--it was a different experience, although not in ways that are easy to articulate. It just felt good. I look forward to tomorrow.
Publish one post. I love having written, but I struggle with writing. I've tamed my perfectionism in most aspects of my life--as I say above, I know I can improve in any number of ways, and I'm at peace with myself. I think this shows up most clearly in my work as a coach and teacher, where I've feel that I've truly internalized a growth mindset. I'm open to any negative feedback from clients and students, and it rarely leaves me distressed or unhappy. (Rarely, not never; I'm no Zen master.) But I still struggle with this as a writer, and I know it holds me back. I recently came across Wally Bock's post on finishers vs. perfectionists, and it hit me like a brick: As a writer, my critical weakness is failing to finish. I have over 100 unfinished essays in various states of completion at this very moment. I dicked around with my book manuscript for a year, when I should have shipped the damn thing off to my editor. (Sorry, Tim.) So this month it's time to let that anxiety go, to finish, to get things done.
Read, read, read, read, read. Last year I picked up the habit of reading fiction again--and this year I promptly dropped it. But I know what a difference it made in my state of mind, how much richer life felt, when I was engrossed in a book, and I miss that feeling. While I stopped reading for pleasure, I've never stopped reading to grow as a coach and teacher, and I feel deeply immersed in the work that informs my practice. But I also have a long shelf of books (several shelves, in fact) that have been languishing, unattended, and they deserve better.
Lift weights again. I believe that regular physical activity is an essential part of a well-lived life. It's one of the practices that I consistently recommend to clients and students (along with meditation, sleep hygiene, and stress reduction), and I've been tracking whether or not I exercised each day for nearly a decade (since March 23, 2008, to be precise.) But my ability to stay active took a hit in early September, when I tore something in my elbow doing too many pull-ups. It hurt like hell for a few weeks, and then slowly started to feel better, but a consequence was that I've been unable to do any lifting all Fall. I'm learning that for me the most important thing is avoiding injury so that I can stay active--PRs aren't particularly interesting to me right now. But I can finally lift again without too much pain, and it's time to slowly get back into it.
My intention is to fulfill each of these goals every day for the next 30 days. I'm not particularly hung up on winning streaks or perfect attendance records. Perfection is bullshit, a seductive mirage that's bound to leave us disappointed, and I'm not looking to win any awards. But that consistency feels like the right way to up my game at this moment. We'll see what happens.
It's no accident that I was inspired to write this post as I'm reading the final papers from my students in The Art of Self-Coaching this Fall. Thanks to 36 outstanding people who motivated me to up my game all Quarter. It was a privilege to work with you.
Photo by Gemma Stiles. Yay Flickr and Creative Commons.