Essentially, you can think you are doing things to move forward, feel you're making new beginnings, imagine working toward goals--but how do you keep track of your efforts? Confident people always think they are doing the right thing, whether they are or aren't. Keeping a journal or blog can help maintain a system of self-checks-and-balances.
For me, in February 2010, I was writing a memorial to my friend, Susan Steed Allen, who passed away on March 1, 2009. In 2010, I was working on growing out my hair for the second time to donate to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths for the American Cancer Society in Sue's honor. Something I did in 2009 as well. And I did donate 12 inches again in March 2011. That shows some forward momentum but I was looking for more.
This week in February 2011, I was apparently watching a great deal of movies and creating new, healthy Pop Culture Cooking recipes. So far in 2012, I've only seen two movies in two months and have barely turned on a burner, let alone create whole new recipes. I was also working out 5 days a week last February and doing more snowshoeing and winter hikes than at any other time in my life. This year, I'm not exactly on track there. But does that mean I'm not working toward my goal of moving my life forward?
While 2012 isn't exactly a disco-party, I had a deadline for a book chapter in late January and one for the end of February. The Pop Culture Professor also had herself a great two-hour interview with USA TODAY book critic, Deirdre Donahue; the resulting four-lines in a piece on Amanda Hocking was printed on January 3, 2012. Then, I got an invite last month from the Boston Comic Con promoter to speak on X-Men, True Blood and Twilight at the Hynes Center in Boston on April 22nd.
That sounds like progress, doesn't it? And yet, I feel less on task than I did one year ago when none of it existed.
Seems like "moving forward" isn't as cut-and-dry as making a list, checking it twice, and seeing results in a year...or even two. We all tend to think in a very linear way even though the world moves in clear cycles. Cycles imply ups and downs. So while one area of our lives may be in the up part of a given cycle, another could very well be on the down-cycle. It's a rare moment when everything improves simultaneously. So rare, I've never seen it in my lifetime. At least, not yet.
By February 2011, I had my 20th anniversary comedy gig set up for June at Nick's in Boston. I was back to my physical peak, lifting ridiculous amounts of weights, rowing for 30 minutes at 35 strokes/minute and barely out of breath. I could snowshoe for miles, hike in the ice and snow for hours. Weirdly, most of my life was in balance despite the lack of a very large, very important component. But sometime after mid-June 2011, and, after experiencing yet another trauma, I was unable to maintain that balance in the same way. So when I look back to February 2011, I see progress from February 2010 but don't yet feel it in 2012.
A good analogy may be something like paying off a car loan or education loan but finding you now have an equivalent balance to what you just paid off on your credit card. It's a shake-your-head-and-roll-your-eyes moment. Three steps forward, two steps back.
In some ways, it reminds me of cancer. You can have a perfect life, perfect kids, perfect house, perfect job, perfect spouse, and perfect friends, until you learn that you have cancer--and then, everything that is perfect isn't...and can never be again. Divorce, loss of employment and bankruptcy do something similar. It takes years upon years to get your balance back. But that's not to say you're unsuccessful in moving forward in between.
We're conditioned in 21st century society to expect immediate results. But cycles aren't about instant gratification. It's about taking your time. Figuring things out. And avoiding previous pitfalls that may have plagued you in the past. In short, a cycle is a journey. And at the end of one journey, a new beginning emerges. That's not exactly a comforting thought, true--but what is comforting is understanding that to stay on track, you don't have to walk a straight line. In fact, walking a straight line may take you somewhere else entirely. You may walk the diameter of a given cycle, cutting out half the journey, only to end up in a similar position again.
It's good to look backwards, to check on your progress. It's also necessary to fix a point of origin for your return. In any three-dimensional space, though there are six points that may define that space, you need a seventh to both know where you're going and where you have been. That's what looking backward is all about. Finding the seventh point. And following it home.
What progress do I hope to make by February 2013? You'll read more about that in the coming months. The more important question today is, where do YOU want to be one year from today, February 18, 2012?
Assess where you are in your journey, what points are fixed and what points are not. And most importantly, forgive yourself if you have a sense you've lagged a bit, remained static, or, maybe even have had some backward movement. The whole point of today's piece is to tell you there is no such thing as backward movement. We only ever move closer to the pinnacle of our cycle--no matter what stage we think we're in at a given moment.
To say you'd like to be in Hawaii by February 2013 is easy. Even easier, go online, get out your credit card, and make the reservations. But you still have to pay for it. You still have to earn the money to pay for it. And still have to consider your job, vacation time--if you have any, who will watch your house, your dog, your kids, parakeets, ferrets--or whatever you have in your life that you are responsible for--besides you, that is. Just making the reservations and putting it all on your credit card is not as proactive as it may seem at first glance. All that does is create the illusion of forward momentum. In the end, you're only setting yourself up for failure.
Look for "real" solutions to the obstacles in your life. Put down the iPad. Step away from the iPhone. Leave your laptop out of the equation.
It's all about YOU now.