Planning for 2020? Don't Be Afraid of Your Shadow (December 2019)

Oct 22, 2020
It's December 2019 and most of us are in full planning mode. In addition to planning for our holiday, we often find ourselves thinking about this past year. Maybe you have fond memories of great experiences. Maybe you are in awe of all the goals you set and smashed. Perhaps you are establishing goals for 2020 or, like most people, thinking about what you could have done differently in 2019.
Studies show that only 8 percent of the population achieve their new year resolutions. Furthermore, additional research suggests that fewer than 3 percent of the population set goals regularly. There are many articles that give concrete tips on ways to set, be consistent with and achieve goals. However, I firmly believe that most of us miss 1 thing when thinking about what we want to do and how we want to do it: our shadow. 
"Our goals are lofty, play up to our greatest perceptions of who we want to be and negate those parts of us that we don't really like."

Dr. Carl Jung, psychiatrist, developed the term "shadow self" to describe the "id" or subconscious part of yourself that your ego doesn't want to recognize. The ego is the part of the self that is able to connect to all that we do well, the parts of us that are successful and receive positive feedback, the parts of us that are most like who we imagine we want to be. The id, or your shadow, is the part of you that is always there; ever present but unacknowledged. Often the most reactive part of yourself, it is the part of you that you are least proud of, the part unlike how you view yourself or want to be seen. It is the part of you that you want to hide, that you work hard not to be and that you defend against admitting is there when other people reflect it’s behaviors. When developing goals we often connect most with our ego. Our goals are lofty, play up to our greatest perceptions of who we want to be and negate those parts of us that we don't really like. 

Take the most popular goal people set in the new year: weight loss. Most people set eating goals based on what "should" be: a 2, 000 calorie diet or less. You may consult a nutritionist or personal trainer and develop a regimen from there. Maybe you agree to have meatless Monday, work out 3 days a week in the morning and cut out all sugar and soda. 

This plan sounds perfect. However, you work late hours, don't know where to get or how to prepare a meatless meal. You enjoy eating the random snacks available in closest proximity, don't belong to a gym, and don't like to get up early. Being successful with the plan set out means shifting a lot in your life at once, none of which are consistent with your rhythm of life. It is very likely that you agreed to this plan because you see the value in these changes and don't like to acknowledge the aspects of your personality that don't align with the plan. You may be telling yourself that you are just lazy and can get up early but you haven't had a reason to. You only eat the snacks mindlessly, you don't need them and you absolutely can cook a meatless meal. These are  likely things your ego would like to believe.

"By paying attention to all of who you are, not just your ideal self, you will create a plan to best approach weight loss for you."

The truth is, you'd be more inclined to set realistic goals if you actually paid attention to those things you don't like. You feel like you are lazy, is that accurate? What are the things you tend to get up for? What time of day do you feel most motivated? You are not likely to cook, but can you get meals prepared? Can you take the time to get healthy snacks or map out stores with healthier snack options? By paying attention to all of who you are, not just your ideal self, you will create a plan to best approach weight loss for you. 

The same goes for any goal, especially those related to emotional wellness. Maybe you desire to finally reduce your anxiety? Maybe you want to address your anger? How about figuring out why you can't move on from your last relationship? What we tend to do in these situations is fill our head with a lot of "shoulds." What you "should" be feeling. What you "should" be doing. What "should" happen next. When you start with the "should" it is about your ego. You are having a hard time reconciling your feeling/behavior with how you view yourself. Things like “I am a strong person, how is it even possible I'm still hurt by that situation” are driven by ego. By focusing on your "ideal" you are ignoring what is right now. And you can't fully understand what is needed or why you feel how you feel without taking the time to fully acknowledge it. Even a GPS needs to start with where you are, to be able to determine the path to where you want to be. 

If we take the example of recovering from a relationship, acknowledging and examining your response to the break up and why pain continues after a period of time can give you a lot of power. Saying "I am hurt and embarrassed" does not negate your strength. But it gives you the ability to ask and answer: “what hurt me? why do I feel shame.” You can also understand relationship patterns, assess your own behavior that allows those patterns and make other choices. If you are always so focused on the needs of the ego, versus the needs of the id/shadow then you will never reach true understanding or resolution for the goal. Your goals and plans won't be rooted in who you are or what you actually need so they are bound to fail. 

As you get ready for 2020, take the time to really pay attention to all of you. Especially the parts you don't like. It's likely the exact place you need to begin to achieve those goals that seem elusive. 


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