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Welcoming Disappointment in the New Year

What are your thoughts and feelings regarding setting New Year’s goals or resolutions?

For me, I first get excited! I have so many ideas of how I want to commit to growing, because I have so many areas of my life where I am still a work in progress!!  I can see in my mind, the new journal and planner. I can visualize a spreadsheet color-coded with all the different goals and tracking my progress.

The thought in my head is: “The planner, journal and spreadsheet, will bring me perfection.”  

All of this goes on in my mind, and then I sit with the new journal and planner. Oh, and the new pen, ready to write down the goals I want to achieve and the steps I need to take!

I become completely overwhelmed, and my phlegmatic temperament kicks in with thoughts like, “This is a bit hard isn’t it?”and  “What’s the point?”  

My brain reminds me of all the times in the past that I tried and failed.

“You don’t want to be putting yourself through that disappointment again!”

And so the journal and planner sit unopened on my desk – screaming “you are a failure” for a few weeks until I’d eventually move it to the drawer out of sight, waiting for the next new year!!

That was the old me.

Through my journey with Metanoia Catholic and my training to become a certified Catholic coach, I have learned so much about goal setting.

Firstly, I’ve learned that goal setting is good! To have a goal and be working towards it gives purpose and meaning and an opportunity to grow in virtue.

To know your why, why is this goal important, to keep asking yourself why until you are really clear, and to remind yourself often of your why, particularly on those days when you feel like giving up is good!

Slow and steady wins the race. Better to be taking small steps than being stuck in overwhelm or confusion.

Perfection, nice and all as it sounds, (it’s a pretty thought!) is not my friend but my enemy, and it keeps me swirling around and around, getting more and more confused. Stopping this cycle and taking one small step gets me off the merry go round and back into clarity.

Focusing on the successes, the small wins, and what I’ve achieved to-date is much more helpful than trying to figure everything out in one go. I think of the Gospel passage of Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on the water. Once his focus was on Jesus, he was walking tall, but as soon as he switched his focus to the wind and the enormity of what he was doing, he started to sink.  Once I focus on the next step with Jesus, all is good.  

Just the next right step Jesus, show me the next right step has become an important prayer for me.

All of the above is like treasure I’ve uncovered as I’ve journeyed, but the real gold was when I discovered thoughts about how I perceived God was holding out on me.

Permit me, a minute or two to tell the story.

This summer has been challenging. We canceled our family holiday because of Covid; a 5-night stay in hospital for our beloved puppy; a car accident (thankfully no-one injured), are just a few of the challenges we faced. And my thoughts around it all, “It’s a season of testing”, “It’s a hard season everyone goes through them”, “If I could only pray more, fast more, figure out the lesson God is teaching me, and study and pass the exam, then I could move out of this season”

These were some of the thoughts that were limiting my hope and confidence moving forward until one evening, while I sat with some of my closest friends, ladies who know and love Jesus, and one asked me and where did you go with all that disappointment?  

(As coaches we know the power of the right question at the right time!)

My response – tears! Because in that moment, I realized the truth. I hadn’t perceived all that happened over the summer as something to be disappointed about but rather I had seen it at some big test I had to get through. I felt frustrated and angry, and as a result, I turned to self-reliance. And God, well he was the examiner. (Forgive me, Heavenly Father!)

As I prayed and journaled the next day, I realized that disappointment is a big word for me, and that I do and don’t do lots of things to avoid feeling disappointment. (But that’s a story for another time.)

I wasn’t even sure if I knew how to feel disappointment. II had lots of thoughts about how hard it would be, but God, in his kindness, didn’t waste any time. A few nights later, I was with another group of Jesus-loving women, and we were making Christmas wreaths. As I pushed the last piece in, (in an effort to make it perfect!!), the whole thing broke into four pieces – right there in front of everyone!

Staring in disbelief, I could hear the thoughts in my head: “You see, it is just a time of everything going wrong. You can’t even make a wreath!”  Then the lady who was showing us how to make the wreaths came over, gave me a huge hug and said, “Feel the disappointment. It’s okay, it’s all okay. We can start again.” This lady knew nothing of my revelation about disappointment a few nights earlier!

I allowed the tears to flow, I acknowledged I was disappointed, and I started again!

With this new insight, I spent the next few days journalling and talking to God about all my disappointments and inviting Him into each one. I no longer saw Him as the strict examiner, but I saw Him as my companion, my comforter and my strength in all my disappointments.

Why do I share this story in relation to goal setting? Because we all have disappointments when it comes to achieving our goals. These disappointments, if not acknowledged, I believe can keep us stuck in very negative thinking about God – and ourselves!

As this new year begins, I invite you to take some time and acknowledge the various disappointments in your life and then to invite Jesus into them. Ask Him to speak to you there. Ask Him to restore those areas and let Him wipe every tear.