“It takes huge courage to be public about your goals.”
– Dr. Benjamin Hardy, Psychologist and Author
Dear Fellow Warrior,
I’ve heard different perspectives about sharing your dreams, goals and current projects openly with your social and professional networks. One perspective involves working on your projects silently until they are done. And I do see the value and wisdom in that. But I also have understood the value of sharing your goals, in terms of social accountability. And even though I sometimes identify social media as my “Achilles Heel,” I come from this school of thought.
The only issue with sharing your current progress and future goals is if you don’t complete a goal within a specified timeline, you come out feeling like a failure, and so many of us stop or slow down when things get hard, or when barriers and obstacles emerge. I still think it is a lot easier to hide, to not share your goals with the world, because you are hiding from the risk of being exposed, the risk of feeling the “imposter syndrome”, risk of scrutiny, jealousy, envy, and other hate that comes from untamed human emotions that slow your progress down.
“Some people don’t like you just because your strength reminds them of their weakness. Don’t let the hate slow you down.” – Thema Davis
After my doctorate, I was doing everything possible to figure out the next steps of my life, in the most difficult transition of my life, after closing the chapter of the most difficult journey of my life. I took the “Be your Future Self” 30-day online course with Psychologist Dr. Benjamin Hardy. It’s a course on helping you focus on becoming your future self. He now has a book based on that course which I have been reading again at the start of this year. I felt I took the course at the right time for me back then. I highly recommend following Dr. Benjamin Hardy. He’s a young guy, in his mid-30s I think, a super talented successful writer and Youtuber, and a wealth of knowledge. But if the self-help genre isn’t your cup of chai, then you may not feel it.
This was relevant for me back then and even now, nearly two years past my PhD Defense. I am still trying to figure out the next steps of my life. I am still struggling in my transition. Still struggling with a burden on my shoulders to make something of the difficult 10 years of my doctorate journey…make it mean something more… continue the journey… finding the next mountain to climb…
I recall on Day 12 of this course, it was about “Going Public” with your future self.
In this session, the challenge he suggested is going public and telling people about your goals either in person or on social media. To me, as some of you may know, it’s not really much of a challenge, lol, because I have always been open and honest about my goals, and almost everything else about me. I guess it can be easy when you know no one is reading you. So we will see if this continues if more people read me. 🙂
But as I wrote in my last post on “Navigating Intersections,” I am proud that I have been able to call myself exactly who I am, “wearing the many hats” but also not being limited by Labels. I don’t want to label myself anything permanently because I fear it limits growth. But by wearing many hats and honoring those words as part of my identifying factors, I can still have a sense of purpose in my life.
So I am going to be a little more explicit here, generally about my long-term goals, and with respect to the recent reflections I’ve had during this transition.
And I think this is helpful generally whether you do it in public or in private for your own reflections, if you are also in the process of “resetting” your life… for example, in the new Spring, and after several years of Pandemic Life that has led to different levels of personal and collective trauma.
And if you are also seeking significant change and transformation in your personal and professional life, it is important to take some time and just type, or handwrite, what it is you want to see yourself become in the next decade or so… You don’t have to be exactly like this person right now. This is who you are working towards… This is who can you start trying to become now…
So in Fall of 2021, months after my defense, I thought about the kinds of contributions I want to make in the world.
And I wrote out five different categories with no particular rank order:
2) Scholar/Social Scientist/Academic/Policy Analyst/Professor
3) International Development and Human Security Professional/Practitioner
4) Artist – Painting, Drawing, Illustration, creative writing
5) Human Rights Advocate/Activist (back to the roots).
I think I like this list, but I can go deeper than that and much of this can overlap too. For example, my writing can be creative, blogging, poetry, or academic.
The life that I want for my future is what writer and blogger Jeff Goins terms “A Portfolio Life.” I see many professors who have multiple roles in various projects. I do think, for the big things, we need to focus on one thing at a time. For instance, finishing my doctorate involved putting in all my emotional, mental energy and everything.…. However, making time for art during that time really brought flavor and meaning to my creative processes (both for this blog writing and my painting), even though I understand how it did take time away from dissertation writing or earning financial capital.
On academic writing and research, I’d like to advance the research and continue publishing it in book form. I have been working on this since I finished my doctorate, but it has also slipped in the back burner even with the proposal nearly completed and ready for publishers that were interested in it. With time passing, I am still holding on to my strong belief and confidence that there is much from the data I collected that remains important, as “lessons-learned”, as “history”, as a story about the aid architecture in critical countries of the world. … I’d like to continue working on my academic agenda, and I am going to push that submit button soon.
This was actually helpful to reflect and write about in my journal back then, and now to share this for the 2-3 people who read my long blog posts online. 🙂 As I continue attempting to reset and refresh my life again and again.
“Resetting your life” after closing a chapter, in a difficult transition, with nothing else quite in place is a process. It took me 7 months and over 150+ applications to land my first job, which, unfortunately, did not turn out what I had hoped to be, in terms of helping me regain some stability in my life.
I’ve said before, that it felt in some ways that I was starting over again from the bottom, when I finished my doctorate, at least the emotions around it, directly, because my experience during and upon the completion of the doctorate, like with so many other students who have it rough, was in retrospect, truly traumatic.
I cannot describe how much. I really thought I’d be “cleaning toilets” for a living, and I guess I was inspired by watching “The Maid” on Netflix.
But that was a myth. It was a misconception. It felt that way. But I did not. I was far from an entry-level professional. Yet, I have been treated like one. It is unfortunate that we are not provided the proper guidance for these types of transitions, to market ourselves and advocate for ourselves, but I understand that only we can take accountability and responsibility for the choices we make in our lives.
Whether my family, friends, and colleagues, believe in me or not, for the goals that I have listed above, it is what I have been slowly, but surely, worked earnestly towards.
I know I have failed in some things, but I also have excelled in others and can keep going. I think I have also “failed to try” many things that I know I am capable of doing or that I intended to at least try. And at least I have been planting the seeds.
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson.
I’m really glad I have this quote on the whiteboard above my bed next to the tentative title of my future book based on my dissertation.
What I can say about the support from others, is that we know it and feel it when others believe in us. We are smart enough to tell if people are really behind us or if they are happy to see us struggle, and waiting to see us fail. We know it.
And we don’t require approval or validation for moving towards our goals, and for everything else, but definitely for that. I remember telling one of my professors that I understand that I am not an easy person to advocate for. That may be true. I have lost people in my life, because of my personality disorder, my mental illness that I am open about, and the other personal challenges I have faced, which I have publicly shared on my social media platforms. I know that being an open book has drastically reduced my social capital. And the stigma from being an open book about key social taboos in life, is why some people call me courageous or brave for speaking my truth.
I would really come to believe this… sometimes the past 2 years, and I didn’t want to believe it to be true, but now I know for certain the revelation of my truth has played a part in my situation. I would sometimes think that I am perhaps a bit too honest and self-depricating admittedly. Perhaps my candidness on some things can be tamed a bit. I can certainly work on that…. But then I snap back into the formidable Warrior Queen and tell myself, Elsa, you are pretty incredible for being authentic and staying true to yourself, defying expectations and conventions. And I have to stand my ground in not having these regrets, because the “what could have been if I was not so open about my life” can be so painful. There are dreams and hopes there, especially here in Washington, DC, that are still there, even if I am hanging by a thread at the moment.
In any case, I know some day I will write articles and books that people will actually read, because I am a writer. I am a good writer. But most importantly, I love to write.
I know I have also gained so many people in my life too, which I forget to acknowledge sometimes. Some people are still there even if I don’t see them or feel them honoring the sum of all my parts, or appreciating every aspect of who I am. So for those who do stand with me, with all my shortcomings, and with the recognition that I may be a disappointment, please do keep your faith in me.
I recall tweeting upon my graduation, that I request the world to give me a second or third chance, because perhaps I do not make the best first, second, or third impressions. Hehe. Ouch. Clearly I am terrible at marketing myself. But this is where I think I am rewriting my story. That was Fall 2021. This is a new year. A new day. A new Spring.
And there remains a yearning to be better. Always has been. Will keep at it. You can rewrite your past, your story, and your identity. Sometimes, I am not doing a good job of it, because perhaps I am still clinging to the past on many things. The Facebook memories don’t help sometimes. But There is faith and hope within me that I sometimes surpress or don’t let out as often as I like.
The bottom line is that it is never too late to be better and to keep improving. You can always change your stars, rewrite your story, become reborn.
I may have shared in past posts my struggle with speaking and my anxiety disorder that made speaking hard in both personal and professional circumstances. I was never an articulate person. But wow. I have seen so much change in my ability to speak now. 15 years ago when I came to DC, I could barely finish full sentences. Over the years, it would be due to stressful circumstances, like a presentation, a Dissertation defense or a meeting where I am introducing myself to a group of people.
Now there are still times I still struggle, but I am so proud of how much I have improved. No one else will know this improvement, except for you. Some people will say you suck, even though you know your own progress and improvement. They will bring you down because of it, it is up to us to remember who we are, and how far we have come.
Sometimes our dreams can change, and sometimes they just have to. Sometimes we are so entangled in our present circumstances we forget about the direction we are heading, our vision, mission and goals at a personal and professional level… Sometimes it is the pain of the past and present circumstances that is giving us the sign, or enlightening us to make a change.
Easter Sunday is about Jesus Christ’s rebirth and redemption. I don’t celebrate this holiday, though I enjoy the chocolate bunnies. But, on the spirit of being “born again,” I will remember who I am, remember who I could be, who I aspire to become, without the labels and boxes society has and will continue to construct for me. And then…I will rinse and repeat. Rinse and Repeat. Rinse and Repeat, until I figure it out…or until I perish. Momento Mori. (Remember we will die).
We can all do this at any time: Be “born again”, as long as we are still breathing. There are no rules or regulations, there are no deadlines. Just keep moving. And don’t be afraid of letting the world know who you are, and be seen for your truth, and your true worth. Be seen.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” – Dr. Brene Brown
Thanks for reading and giving my voice a chance.
Peace, Warmth, Solidarity, and Blessings,
“She wasn’t looking for a Knight. She was looking for a Sword.” – Atticus