“I’ve tried that before, and it doesn’t work.”
“I’ll never be able to do that.”
“That goal is way out of my comfort zone!”
Sound familiar? We all have a set of these statements and they are keeping you from reaching for your dreams. Take heart. Come Rosh Hashana, they lose their power.
My big challenge used to be networking. In both my personal and business life, I believe that meeting new people is the key to prosperity. Yet I am not exactly the outgoing extrovert who loves social action. So, a few years ago I went to a large Tel Aviv hotel conference in hopes of meeting new business connections. Walking into a cavernous hall, filled to the brim with stern-looking middle-aged Israeli men wasn’t my idea of a fun morning. I didn’t know a single soul there and felt completely out of place.
After hugging the walls for an hour I left without talking to anyone. It was both mortifying and traumatic! Many people find networking hard, because being rebuffed by a stranger you approach is one of the strongest social fears. Since that day, I’ve been to plenty of conferences within my comfort zone, but haven’t ventured out to the Tel Aviv conference scene.
For many people, experiences like these turn into permanent anchors. You probably have one of your own. It’s the experience that sits in the back of your head and screams at the top of its figurative lungs: “You can’t do that! You will never get to do that. It didn’t work the last time, it won’t work now.”
Sefer HaTanya, the seminal work of Chassidic thought, teaches us that on Rosh Hashana God bestows a new light of consciousness on the world, more sublime than that of the previous year. The extent of this consciousness and our ability to access it depend on our prayer and spiritual work during the Ten Days of Teshuva.
Yet the author of the Tanya goes further. Not only does God open up new vistas for us as the new year unfolds. The consciousness of last year leaves right before Rosh Hashana. Whatever held you in place, whatever stymied your progress, whatever kept you small, won’t be around anymore come Rosh Hashana. You get a clean slate! You get a new mindset!
Each year has its own spiritual, personal, and professional development work, which builds on that of the previous years and endows you with the new tools you need. The old limits don’t have to stop you anymore. With mindful and consistent work, step-by-step, you can reach the goals you have trained your eyes on, no matter what previous history tells you.
For me, that meant going to a major business conference in Tel Aviv last week. The same cavernous hall, the same unfamiliar faces. But no more wall-hugging. This time, I worked the room, met a lot of interesting people, gathered the business intelligence I was after, and agreed to have follow-up conversations with half-a-dozen potential joint venture partners. Oh, and it was fun. I still had my moments of uncertainty, but I could handle the experience and meet the goals I had set for myself. I could also feel proud for coming a long way since that previous conference.
We all carry around a big bag of unnecessary baggage. Now is the time to examine it and see if maybe the time has come to unburden yourself of it. (If your “baggage” is particularly traumatic and includes abuse, depression, or mental illness, please seek out a trained, experienced, and empathetic therapist to help you along).
Just because something feels difficult, uncomfortable, or undoable now, don’t think that it will be that way forever. It doesn’t mean anything about your ability to do that very thing a month, a year, or five years down the road. The more I think about it, the more I realize that my personal skill-set has developed as I overcame previous challenges and found strategies to do the things I couldn’t. Today, these skills give me the edge.
Now that the new year is almost here, make a commitment to yourself to get to a better place in one specific issue in your life that you feel needs work. It can be a professional challenge, a difficult relationship, or a personality trait. Don’t let previous experiences limit you.
In personal development, as in business, previous performance is not an indicator of future gains.