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January 2, 2018

Happy New Year! Time to Leave Guilt Behind…

Fireworks in a dark sky with text: Celebrate by Leaving Guilt Behind!

I’m back from my Christmas trip to see the extended family, where we enjoyed each other’s company but the entire family got sick again…because…of course? I hope everyone’s holidays were at least as good as mine. *smile*

Thanks go out to Elizabeth Randolph who filled in for me last week! I hope you all caught her guest posts on tapping into our story’s universal and primal aspects and on her insights for marketing locally.

This time of year is ripe for wrap-ups of what we accomplished over the previous year and statements of goals or resolutions for the new year. However, I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions.

Life Doesn’t Always (Ever?) Go to Plan

Most resolutions to exercise more or eat healthier don’t survive the month of January, potentially leading a lot of people to feel like failures as the year wears on. As a perfectionist, I already have plenty of things to beat myself up about, and I don’t need to add to the list, thank you very much.

Regular readers might have noticed that I post a lot about making realistic goals or how to find a healthy life balance. As with many writers, my writing is often a form of therapy, and all those posts are reminders to me to do X, Y, or Z.

Those of you who follow my blog know that this past year was a struggle for me in many ways. My health was a huge factor in that struggle, as I fell victim to not one but two(!) antibiotic-resistant infections, needed surgery to undo a year’s worth of work on my jawbone after a second failure, and suffered dozens of setbacks.

I know many others struggled this past year too, so it might be easy to reach the end of 2017 and feel like a failure. Maybe we think we didn’t accomplish enough or we didn’t reach a certain goal or milestone. But I want to enter the New Year with a more positive spin. *smile*

Question Your Measures of Success

A few months ago, I shared 6 steps to better define our success.  It’s important to understand what success means to us, both for the setting of goals and for the sense of accomplishment.

If we haven’t defined success, how will we know when we’ve succeeded? And if we think we haven’t yet succeeded, how will that make us feel?

Especially if we’re comparing our progress to others or looking at our still-long to-do list, it’s almost a given to feel like we haven’t done enough. If we’re using the wrong measures of success, we’re more likely to be unsatisfied.

Pressure to Accomplish Can Cause Stress and Guilt

As I confessed to my writing-bestie Angela Quarles this past weekend, I’ve had to accept that while I always get more accomplished with deadlines, given my craptacular health lately, deadlines would just add stress—and stress would not help my health.

That acceptance is incredibly hard for me because I’m not just a perfectionist, I’m an over-achieving perfectionist. Much of my sense of self-worth is tied up in what I feel like I’ve accomplished.

So it’s nearly impossible for me to avoid feeling bad about myself when I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much. Depression has lurked in the wings of my mental attitude this whole past year.

“Luckily,” all those health setbacks throughout the year have been a good reminder of just why it’s been so hard for me to get things done this year. *laughs and cries*

I’m probably not alone with that mental tie between self-worth and accomplishments. Seeing the remaining items on our to-do list can interfere with our memory of the things we did check off (or that we didn’t give ourselves credit for but should have). We usually accomplish more than we think we do.

On Twitter, I retweeted the following positive insight from Megan:

My 2017 Successes: The Positive Spin

It’d be easy to look at my lack of much writing last year and beat myself up. Much, much too easy.

I mean, even with running guest posts during NaNoWriMo, I still managed to get in only a few hundred words in November. (I was feverish and sick then too. *sigh*)

But I really want to work on seeing the positive this year. So here’s my silver-lining wrap up of the year…

During 2017:

Despite multiple surgeries (including one to undo the failed results of the previous year’s worth of surgeries), more rounds of antibiotics than the total of my life previously (which caused negative reactions), a two-month-long toxic infection that nearly put me in the hospital, and countless other setbacks:

  • I released a book, Stone-Cold Heart. Sure, the release was a year behind schedule and most of the writing/editing work was completed in 2016, but I did what I needed to do to make the release a success. I even developed an Advanced Reader program for my new releases.
  • I completed a total overhaul of my website: new format, new theme, new graphics, new plugins, new pages, new coding, new customizations, etc. Each of those aspects represents several days of work.
  • I took control of my health the best I could, such as by researching, developing, and completing my own physical therapy program (our insurance doesn’t cover anything), and I can once again walk—without pain. Yay!
  • I also researched alternative treatment options for my incurable C.Diff. infection (as my doctor’s plan ignored my other health issues and the standard medical practice in general would have made things worse), and my self-treatment has successfully kept the symptoms of poisons and toxins under control for nine months so far.
  • I kept up with my blog, running posts every Tuesday and Thursday. Yes, I leaned on help from guest posters now and then and reran a few older posts, but the majority of posts contained new content from me.
  • In addition to those posts, I did get in 9640 fiction words. That’s not much compared to my goals/hopes/expectations, but it’s still better than nothing.
  • I managed to be there for my family, keeping up with the support they needed and participating in family activities, appointments, and errands. (My final tally of making Christmas cookies for neighbors, friends, and family this year was 638 cookies. *whew*)

Celebrate Your Wins!

Listed like that, I can see that I accomplished a lot. I have nothing to feel guilty about. (Gee, listing our wins really can help reframe our thoughts. The advice works!)

Don't feel guilty about not accomplishing A, B, or C. You did J, Q, and X! Click To TweetTo some of you, that list might look pathetic, and to others, that list might look amazing. But as Megan said in her tweet, whatever we did is enough.

Just because we didn’t get A, B, or C done doesn’t erase the fact that we did get J, Q, and X done. Did you learn something, research something, or figure out what didn’t work? That’s a win!

Even if we didn’t “complete” anything, any progress we made is still progress, setting us up for the future. (It can take us years to be ready to publish, etc.) So let’s leave the guilt behind, give ourselves credit for whatever we did accomplish, and resolve to make healthy and realistic goals for this year. *smile*

To help, here’s a sampling of some of my recent encouraging and/or tip-filled posts about goals and dealing with stresses (in addition to the define your success post I linked above):

Do you feel guilty about the things you don’t get done? Or do you struggle to give yourself credit for the things you do accomplish? Have you made a list like I did above to try to capture your wins? Or can you at least put a positive spin on your year? Do you have any advice to make the acceptance process easier?

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Julie Glover

Yes, I’ve felt terrible about my lackluster 2017! I had so much I wanted to accomplish… *sigh*

But I am a resolutions maker, primarily because I love that feel of a fresh start the New Year brings to me, so I’m resolving to just keep moving forward, step by baby step. And by the end of 2018, I will be making my done-did-it list with a bit more excitement, one would hope.

Regardless, I like this idea of leaving behind the guilt and taking stock of what I did accomplish last year. It’s likely a lot more than I think. So I’ll get on that. Thanks for saying what I needed to hear!

June
June

I believe that anyone who can blog two times a week is an overachiever. You add in health issues…

Bran Ayres

I’ve never been much of a resolutions type either but I love the idea of looking back and seeing what has been accomplished. I’m forever in awe of you Jami, you are the gold standard I hold myself up to when it comes to staying realistic and accomplishing goals. You are simply put; amazing. I look forward to seeing what you accomplish this year.

Sieran
Sieran

Jami, yes, my self-esteem is inextricably tied to my accomplishments and productivity…. I know it’s bad, but this seems to be my mindset right now. On the flip side, I feel very good about myself when I do accomplish things or get tasks done. Recently, I’ve become more forgiving and humane towards myself, accepting that I can’t do THAT much, since I’m only human, and have my own health problems to deal with too. (I’ve seen two optometrists and one ophthalmologist now, and my eyes are still suffering… Today I just asked my doctor to refer me to a neuro-opthalmologist. :O Fingers crossed. It sucks so much that people keep talking about the Last Jedi, and I’m physically unable to watch movies now…)

But yes all the way to making lists to recognize the things we DID accomplish. And hey, Jami, I can add at least one more item to your list: you set a very high goal for your Goodreads challenge, and you beat it!! 😀

Glynis Jolly

I learned how to take care of some of my health issues via home remedies during this last year. I am so glad you are walking without pain now, Jamie. I do love your new blog. The colors are the same as before but the layout is cleaner and fresher. And the comment plugin you picked lets me know that I won’t miss replies to my comments.

I have this odd feeling that 2018 is going to be an unusual adventure that shouldn’t be missed with disregard.

Laurie Evans
Laurie Evans

Thanks for this! I can’t believe how much you did with all your health problems. I’ve had many challenges in 2017, but I wrote up a list of accomplishments for my writing group, and was surprised to see I did much more than I thought.

Sophie
Sophie

Ahh, this is definitely a timely post~

I’ve needed to remind myself that everyone goes at their own pace, and while I haven’t made much progress with my main project (because life was not fun in 2017 (not as bad as your situation, but pretty bad for me ^^;), and I pretty much sat in a creative writer’s block for most of the year thanks to the changes going on), I’m still trying to work on it in some way. My feeling of “ugh, I could/should have done more” is probably tied to the fact that I turn 20 in a few days, and it kinda feels like I should be in a different place to where I am now.

Being reminded to take stock in your achievements is always necessary, as it helps the mindset going into the new year that “Hey, I managed to do this much, even with the issues going on… I can continue hopefully ^^” So thank you~ (And nice work with the blog page, it looks really awesome! I think I definitely like this one compared to the old one~)

Let’s just hope 2018 has something better in store for all of us ^^

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[…] a new year, full of new possibilities! Jami Gold says to celebrate the New Year by leaving guilt behind, K.M. Weiland shares 4 life-changing New Year’s lessons for writers, and Grant Faulkner has […]

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