Gratitude, Grind, and #Goals
Sometime during July I was looking for a change of pace in my reading and I picked up Michael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever. I’m not exactly sure when or how this one ended up in my house, but the price tag revealed that it came from a bargain store, so it seems like one of those purchases that I or my wife would have made during a family mall outing, you know, back in 2019 when that was a thing.
To that point, part of what made me grab this one from the pile to read now was the pure irony of it all. I literally laughed out loud and said to myself, “2020’s going to be my best year ever?!?!? This 2020? Or the alternate reality 2020 where I’m not on week 26 of sitting on my sofa and having all 5 of my kids on Zoom sessions for school at the same time? Okay, Michael Hyatt, let’s see what you’ve got.”
To be fair to Michael Hyatt, when he wrote the book in 2018, he didn’t know that I — or anyone else — would be looking for it to remedy a pandemic two years later. That’s a lot of pressure, for sure. But, at the same time, there was no fine print that said that it wouldn’t be my best year in the case of natural disasters, sociopolitical turmoil, economic collapse, or all of the above, so as far as I was concerned, Michael and I were all in on 2020 being the game changer.
That is, until I stopped reading the book.
I’m not sure what happened. Everything was going well and then, sometime in August, I put the book down. Probably had something to do with the RNC, campuses re-opening and then closing, and my own syllabus that needed attention. And the fact that 2020 was absolute trash.
This Labor Day Weekend, for whatever reason (the reason is called despair, I’m pretty certain), I decided to flip back through the book and then finish reading the last two chapters. Turns out that this was exactly what I needed. There were some strategic nuggets inside, balanced out with just the right amount of inspirational wit and readability to leave me fulfilled and ready for a new academic year.
Here were three major takeaways for me:
- “Gratitude has the potential to amplify everything good in our lives.” When I re-read these lines over the weekend, I had to take to social media immediately to share. It’s far too easy to fall into the constant complaining trap during these challenging times. In fact, right before typing this I‘d just sent an email where I was describing the difficult balancing act that has become my life now that all of my kids are learning from home in a fully planned school year (as opposed to the emergency pivot that was last spring) and my wife is working more off site, away from #PetersonVillage headquarters. But the blessings of family, health, jobs, internet, and timely mortgage payments need to be acknowledged, along with the hidden gifts of extended family time and the opportunity to share these words with the world. I’m sitting on my porch typing, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the gentle breeze is feeling right, and there just might be enough snacks in the cabinet to get the kids through the day. I’m thankful for all of this, and so much more.
- Middles are hard. Each time I have a new idea my mind is overtaken, as if I’ve never had a new idea before, and every other previous thought was inadequate. I become fixated on getting this new thing going right away, and I envision a magnificent end point of global impact, enhanced lives, and deep satisfaction. The beginning and the end feel familiar, even if neither is proximate or tangible. The middle is always — like ALWAYS — cloudy. Sometimes it’s nonexistent for me; South Park fans may remember this episode. It’s like I know there will be work involved, and I’m happy to do it (usually), but the lack of clarity cuts into the motivation and allows me to easily get derailed. Sometimes I land on a new idea and other times I get stuck in this temporary desert, questioning myself and everything else. Hyatt offers some concrete steps for goal-setting and follow through. It wasn’t new stuff for me; I’ve actually even written about it myself. Your Best Year Ever was a timely and relatable reminder. But to be honest, having him simply acknowledge the difficulty of middles helped me to feel seen. I think it’s why I decided to finish the book. I wanted to earn my way to the end by working through the middle, and not just to get it done, but to get the good word that came through the investment. This is why middles matter.
- “I want to help hundreds of thousands of college students thrive during school, complete their degrees, and shape a better world for us all.” On page 160 Hyatt wrote down three motivations for his work. Reading them helped me get clarity on mine, included here. My social media numbers combined don’t even hit 1000, so having the audacity to state publicly that I want to connect with hundreds of thousands of students doesn’t feel comfortable. Or sane. But if I don’t believe it and make the commitment, who will? I know that I have a unique offering in my book Higher Learning: Maximizing Your College Experience, along with my workshops and approach to this work. I push on the intersections between success on campus and social justice in the community, and I acknowledge the systems challenges and the individualized tools and awareness necessary for achievement. Being clear on my motivation, keying in on my value, and tapping into my support network and collaborators will help me reach the students in need of direction, inspiration, and strategy, and help us all get ahead in the game.
2020 most certainly feels like no other year that I have experienced in my lifetime. And at the same time, each day we wake up there’s an opportunity to recommit to the vision, put in the work, and be grateful for the journey. I’m keeping things in focus as we move through this thing. I believe the wins are out there for the taking, and if enough of them are stacked, it just might be my championship go around. For this, and so much more, I am thankful.