What’s Stopping Me? It’s a Good Slogan to Live By

Instead of entangling yourself in listicles, try a simple saying. It works!

Posted Dec 28, 2020

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions years ago. When I finally thought about it, it made no sense to me to create a list of things I “had to” accomplish over the next 12 months if I wanted to consider the year ahead a success.

Although I have created a few of them myself, I’m not overly fond of listicles. Most of these recipes for promised health or prosperity (“100 Things You Must Do to Have a Good Day”) strike me as someone’s particular view that things that worked for them will work the same way for everyone else. Kind of like saying, “I won the lottery by buying my ticket from this particular store between 10 and 11 a.m. when the sun was partly hidden by clouds on the first day of spring—and you too can win the lottery if you follow each step I did.”

I decided to toss the list of must-dos, the guilt and sense of failure that follows the inevitable violations of New Year’s resolutions.

Instead, I found a much better way to keep myself on track toward accomplishing the things I want to accomplish with the time I hope and intend to have in the coming year.

I start each new year with a new slogan, a simple phrase that I can repeat—often out loud (when I’m alone)—and use to remind myself of the change I would like the year to bring to, in, and through me.

John-Manuel Andriote/photo
My footprints in the sand at Herring Cove Beach, Provincetown, Mass.
Source: John-Manuel Andriote/photo

One year my slogan was “Just do it” (with thanks to Nike). Another year, it was “Claim your expertise.” Still another year it was simply “Shine!” Throughout the year, I would remind myself of my slogan whenever I needed reminding, and it had a powerful way of sometimes hauling me back to the more centered place where I usually am.

I first became aware of the healing and motivating power, and practical value, of slogans and sayings during the years I was actively involved in Al-Anon. The program for people affected by someone’s alcoholism uses slogans borrowed from AA, the recovery program for people with substance use disorder. Among them: “Easy Does It,” “First Things First,” and “Keep It Simple.”

The slogans provide simple, straightforward messages that can be very useful in keeping us on track—or even, sometimes, from going off the emotional rails. They help to anchor the mind to what is most necessary in a particular moment, a reference point of sanity in what can often become in our busy lives, amidst a pandemic and political strife, a bit (or a lot) insane.

As I was thinking this week before New Year’s about what I should choose as my slogan for 2021, I happened to read my horoscope (I confess) in the Los Angeles Times. For Libra, it said, “You will not be sure what’s stopping you until you ask yourself the good questions, which are not tricky. Start with ‘What’s stopping me?’”

There it was, practically jumping off the page.

“What’s stopping me?” It felt like precisely the right question for what I know will be times I need to ask it of myself in the new year as I embark on a new adventure, offering one-on-one personal resilience coaching.

It’s a natural extension of the work on resilience I’ve done over the past decade—the personal work in which I have dug deeply into my own history to trace the development of my resilience, and professional work, in which I’ve been immersed in reading, interviewing, and writing about the subject.

Friends and coaches I know have told me coaching is a natural fit for me. I love to teach and have designed and taught several university-level classes. So I have what it takes to succeed.

But I know myself, and I know that I am going to need to ask “What’s stopping me?” along the way between here and my first clients, as I make my way through the online life and resilience coaching courses I am doing.

My 2021 slogan will be a useful kick-in-the-butt when I become sluggish and “imposter syndrome” rears its unattractive head, when I lose sight of my goal—my vision—and the reasons I want to accomplish it. It will help too when I find myself feeling shy, hesitating to tell someone about my personal resilience coaching practice. It will remind me that whatever limitations I feel are just old tapes playing in my mind, not present reality.

That’s why “What’s stopping me?” is, for me, an ideal slogan for 2021.

What’s your slogan going to be?