Desperately Seeking Inspiration: Confessions of a Goal-Oriented Person without a ResolutionJanuary 22, 2020
How are your new year goals going? Personally, I feel uninspired and mentally exhausted. In the past few weeks, as much as I try to get excited about new projects or get traction on my goals, I can’t seem to get there. I’m still getting my work done, but I feel like I’m just hobbling through. I don’t have vision for the future, and when I push forward on my creative projects, I feel like I’m just running on fumes.
Last year, I took on several big challenges. I took a promotion to Vice President, which came with new responsibilities. I started a podcast, which took a lot of upfront work and now takes work each week to keep it running. I even finished a draft of a book. I feel like I should be excited about these things, but I’m mostly just tired.
I’m not even physically tired — my Christmas break was actually a break, and instead of doing work, I went on long walks, hiked in the woods with my husband, read books and watched movies. I got a new bed and put time and energy into making my bedroom a better place for sleeping (getting a sound machine, diffusing some oils, etc.). So I’m coming back to work well rested.
But my mind is still exhausted, and I don’t know exactly why or how to fix it. I feel like I’m going through the motions: technically meeting all my responsibilities, but not excited or passionate about them. I’m still coasting on work I put into getting podcast episodes ready for the new year, but I haven’t been booking new ones, and to be honest, I’m dreading getting into that mode again. I know that once I start I won’t be able to stop, so it’s hard to even begin. I really enjoy making the podcast, so it’s hard to know where my reluctance is coming from.
This sort of melancholy hits me every year during this season. I think it’s a product of eating badly and barely exercising during the holiday months, being disappointed that the hope and magic of Christmas has passed, winter being sort of dreary in general, and being daunted by the expectations of the new year ahead.
It’s hard to know what to do I’m feeling mentally unfocused like this. My natural inclination is just to put my head down and force the work to come. But usually, when I’m feeling creatively blocked, that approach doesn’t work. The solution is generally to simply ride this feeling out — I’ve had it dozens (hundreds?) of times in my life, and it never lasts forever. I can frustrate myself by trying to struggle out of it, make myself more emotionally exhausted, and prolong the feeling. Or I can simply give myself as much time as possible to zone out, be a little lazier than normal, allow for a some space, and wait for my hope to replenish itself.
That doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing in the meantime. People are depending on me — my podcast listeners, my staff and clients at work, my friends and family. There are things that need to get done, and as much as I might want a true sabbatical, I’m not in a position to take one. But I can take things day by day, do the work that is laid out directly in front of me, and not to be so obsessed about creating new long-term goals. I can move forward one step at a time instead of growing by leaps and bounds. Because those leaps and bounds times will come — they always do. But the only way I’ve found to make them come faster is to stop chasing them: to do my daily work and care for myself. In these days, it seems like what brings me the most hope and fulfillment is to clean my house, take care of my body by eating well, and bring at least a little movement to my day by walking or doing a few minutes of yoga in the morning. To be content with getting through a few things on my to-do list instead of knocking out the whole thing. These aren’t the new years goals that get a lot of traction on social media, but they are probably exactly the things that will allow the fog to lift so I can see the path in front of me a little more clearly.
Carrie Rollwagen is host of the Localist podcast author of The Localist, a book about buying from locally owned stores and cofounder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Currently, she works as Vice President of Strategic Planning at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find her as @crollwagen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most other social media platforms.