How to shine again after you've been roughed up a little.
"Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
Most people intimately know the “New Year’s Resolution Effect.” That moment when the flush of momentum for something new meets formidable resistance. First, one obstacle shows up. We get a little roughed up and feel a lot less shiny, but we make it through. We keep building traction on our intention.
Then seemingly all at once--
We get sick.
Someone under our care gets sick, gets into trouble, or otherwise needs ten times the usual amount of attention from us.
We’re tired and sleepy all day and yet at night, we can’t sleep well.
We realize we have previous commitments that conflict with every single timeslot we set aside to do our new thing.
Our car windows get shattered, our water heater quits working, our computers go into a coma, and we spend our precious time either fixing these problems or frantically looking under our couch cushions for money to fix them.
It feels like the universe let us down, but also like it’s our fault we ended up here. We lose a little trust in ourselves, in our ability to make change happen.
“I can’t do this,” we say to ourselves.
And even if the overwhelm passes like a cloud, the wind has already been knocked out of our sails.
If you’re sighing in recognition, you’re not alone. Those all-at-once obstacles? All true facts from my real life over the last two weeks. That was the interference I experienced as I tried to write.
I even attempted an end run on the New Year’s Resolution Effect. Yes, I took sick people to the doctor, let myself hit the snooze button, and crawled on the floor to reboot the hot water heater (thankfully, the gas leak smell really was just in my imagination and I didn’t burn down the house in the process.) But I also set up accountability checks and showed up for the task with boxing gloves on.
What I learned is that even if you show up, meeting NYRE this way taints the output. The words I strung together tasted like cardboard. Definitely not worth serving up to you.
It’s all so hopeless sometimes. What is there to do?
I recently went to a presentation skill workshop. During the Q&A about doing Q&As, one of the participants asked, “What do you do when someone throws a non sequitur at you?”
A statement that makes no sense, disguised as a question. You could hear almost everyone in the room sucking their breath in hard, imagining their minds temporarily hijacked as they stood on stage not knowing what to do.
After a long-ish pause, the instructor softly said, “Just let them be right.”
“A lot of times, people just want to be seen,” she continued. “So let them have that moment. You can show interest in their point of view. Invite them to tell you more off-line, and then get right back on track.”
I remembered this exchange today as I was walking to a keynote speech. Then, I got a flash of an idea.
What if I let the New Year’s Resolution Effect be right?
Instead of fighting it, I could treat the resistance like a person who just wants to be seen. Allow it a voice. Let the audience—you—hear about how the desire to make new things work is so powerful, we might as well give up from the get-go.
Letting someone be right when you think they’re so, so wrong isn’t an easy thing for me to do. I wasn’t sure this would work.
But the fact that you’re reading this third-to-last sentence tells me that sharing about how it’s all so hopeless was the most, the only, hopeful way forward.
So when resistance brings you to your knees, just let them be right.
And then, grab the spotlight back and let yourself shine once more.