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Lee Chaix McDonough
September has always been one of my favorite months. There’s something about it that evokes a sense of wonder and hope in me, and each year I feel the desire to start anew. I call it the “September shift.”
Apparently, I’m not alone in this. Author and podcast host Gretchen Rubin has long called September “the other January,” recognizing it as an ideal time to set new goals and begin new routines.
The timing makes sense. After all, September signals children returning to school, the end of many a fiscal year, and the start of fall. What better time to throw out our old ways in favor of new, better ones?
But before we rush into a full-on life makeover, I’d like to propose a different approach to goal-setting. What if, instead of listing all the things we want to do, we start with focusing on all the things we want to be?
This approach runs counter to how many of us have approached goal-setting and life planning in the past. In our society, we often equate what we do with who we are, and that tendency starts when we’re young.
Think about it – how many times do we adults ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But what we’re really asking is, “What do you want to DO when you grow up?” We’re conditioned to equate doing with being, and to define ourselves by what we do or what we produce.
Certainly, the work you do in the world is a part of who you are – but it doesn’t have to represent all of you. You’re not limited to the roles you play. You’re also the values and principles you hold dear. You’re the memories and experiences you cherish. You’re more than mere words can describe, and then some. Simply put, you are.
When we shift our framework from doing to being, we recognize that we are enough, just as we are. Our value is not defined by how many items we check off our to-do lists, or whether we get that promotion at work. Instead, we can embrace the radical notion that our existence is sufficient justification for our worthiness.
So if you’re anything like me, and you feel that September impulse to make yourself over and start again, I challenge you (and myself) to do something truly new. Instead of jotting down resolutions or desired achievements, make a list of your top five core values, the concepts around which you want to build your life.
If this feels vague or difficult, try this: Imagine your favorite person in the world is telling a stranger all about you. How would you want to be described? What stories would you want this person to share about you? How would you want this stranger to remember you? The answers will likely indicate what matters most to you.
And if you still need a little guidance, then James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits (an excellent book!), has a list of core values that might inspire you.
Then, once you’re clear on your core values, go ahead and set those goals and create those routines. The difference is that now you’re doing so not from a place of lack or self-judgment, but rather from a place of alignment and purpose.
Talk about a September shift.
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