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Monday, 22 December 2008

Make way for a killer 2009: Release any lingering agony from 2008


Whatever your business, job situation, balance of your 401(k), personal situation or region of the world, you have to admit that 2008 was a doozy.

It certainly was for us here in the Slim household.  We had more exciting and terrifying rides in my husband's business than either of us had ever experienced.  The perfect storm of growing a heavy equipment construction business just before a historic slowdown in local building, coupled with a global financial meltdown made for an <ahem> interesting year.

Throw in some big life challenges for loved family members, writing a book, raising a baby and chasing after a toddler, we were not short on excitement and, sometimes, drama.

If that was what it was like in our household, I can imagine that you had your own challenges.

  • Some of you may have lost your job.
  • Others saw hard-fought life savings melt away in the economic firestorm.
  • Perhaps you ended a marriage.
  • Or faced a big health challenge.
  • Or, as our dear neighbors recently did, lost a 5-year old child unexpectedly.

Living through such immense personal transitions may have left you feeling quite vulnerable and raw and even bleeding.

That may not feel like a terribly powerful place from which to launch a new and positive year.

I was wallowing a bit myself in these past months, trying really hard to focus on the tremendous opportunities ahead, but at the same time feeling a bit anxious and gun-shy given the nature of 2008.

All of my training as a coach tells me that any external circumstances (like a down cycle in the economy) do not impact my success or failure:  it is only my thoughts about the situation that drive my reality.

This very true perspective can have some unfortunate side-effects, especially for the overzealous Law-of- Attraction-or-Else fans:  you can start to beat yourself up for not being hyper-perky and positive.

Here is the rub:  unless you release some of the emotion that bottled up during your rough and tumble parts of the year, clear thinking and focused intentions might be a bit difficult.

So here is a way to do a bit of excavation to make way for a positive and productive 2009, without having to feel like a Stepford Wife or member of a hyper-cheery cult.

  1. Think back over your year and notice emotions you feel.
  2. The easiest way to categorize emotions are: mad, sad, glad or scared.
  3. Do any emotions stand out?  For those who faced lots of challenges, mad and scared tend to be high on the list.
  4. Do whatever you need to do to acknowledge and release the emotion. 
  5. Once you feel the emotion has been properly dealt with, it is time to let go of the story you attached to it, such as:  "This year was so hard." "I can't believe my teenager got into so much trouble." "My health situation is terrible.  I gained so much weight from all the stress!" "The economy is in shambles.  All businesses are failing." "Getting new clients will be hard."
  6. Then with gratitude in your heart for tremendous lessons and clean, sincere thoughts for the new year, you can say "I am ready to stand up and lead my life in 2009."

The function of emotions:

Rather than unpleasant things to avoid, emotions have very specific purposes.  Martha Beck wrote a great chapter on this in Finding Your Own North Star, where she describes the function of emotions:

Fear:  Protects from danger
Grief:  Heals, strengthens
Anger:  Corrects injustice
Joy:  Nurtures, expands

Ways to attend to lingering emotions:

Fear:  Take a quiet moment and let yourself speak or write down exactly what you were afraid of.  Describe in great detail what it felt like to be threatened, overwhelmed or scared.

"When my business dried up, I felt terror rise in my throat.  I was afraid to look at my dwindling bank accounts, and avoided the phone because I was afraid to talk to creditors. This made me anxious, and I felt like I had no power and was at the mercy of huge, scary forces."

"When my husband left me, I felt like my life was over.  I felt undesirable, unloved and unwanted.  I felt like I would never meet anyone again who would love me like he did.  It scared the hell out of me."

Anger:  Let out all of your emotion in whatever way feels the best.  When I was a wee 10-year old in the 1970's in Marin County California, we beat pillows.  It worked then, and it may work now!  Go to a desolate place and scream your lungs out, write in a "hate and rage" journal (Martha Beck's term) then burn the pages, or hit a martial art heavy bag until you have no force left in your body. Examples of anger thoughts:

"When I lost my job after 20 years of loyal service, I wanted to hurl rocks at all the smug managers who remained.  How dare you not acknowledge my contributions?"

"&^%^%&^(**  and furthermore &^*^%&%&(*)(_))!!!!"

Grief: Make a very safe space where you can absolutely fall apart.  Cry buckets, sob, heave and break in half.  Curl up on the floor.  Do whatever you need to release anguish in your heart.  Watch sad movies, look at photos of a dear departed, or whatever else will really put you in touch with that which you are sad about. Just make sure to put time limits on your grieving sessions, lest they swallow you up.

Running away from these feelings will do nothing but build up a wall between your true, open, positive self and the life you want. 

When I was able to release some of this pent-up emotion from the year, I was surprised to feel a gigantic swell of gratitude for the lessons 2008 taught me.  As a result of all the experiences this year, my eyes are wide open, I understand the life of an entrepreneur much more deeply, I appreciate my clients even more, and I am wholly and specifically committed to my work.  The mantra that really resonates this year is:

Promote liberation.

Liberation from self-destructive thoughts, careers, relationships and businesses.

Time to lead

Seth Godin's book Tribes really influenced me this year.  I was struck by its core premise:  our tribes are out there, waiting for us to lead.  If I wallow, hesitate, pull back or play small, I will not serve the people I am meant to serve.

It is so basic, yet quite profound.

Who is your tribe?  Who is waiting for you to get rid of the emotional residue of 2008 so you can burst on the scene with a genuine smile in 2009?

I can't wait to see where you lead me in the new year.

What's ahead

Thanks for your tremendous support this year as I wrote my book.  Your stories, examples, challenges and requests were a critical part of shaping the story and choosing just what to, and not to, include.  I am really happy with the result, and aim to do everything I can to get it into the hands of every frustrated, dreaming, it-has-to-be-better-than-this cubicle employee who needs it in 2009.  It officially hits the stands in May 2009, but tune in here for early ordering information.

Building on the book, I will develop specific tools and programs for those of you who really want to make things happen in your life and business in 2009.  I am really giddy about this: for the first time, I see a very clear blueprint (the book) from which to build a significant and useful body of work.  I will be getting out from behind my computer screen more in the new year, with dates and cities to come, but definitely to Austin in March (for the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, and a panel on Blog to Book with me, Hugh McLeod, Guy Kawasaki and Kate Lee), New York, Washington D.C, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

I wish each of you a calm end to your year, good quality time with those you love and some time to reflect on what you desire for 2009.

We head to San Francisco tomorrow for the holiday. It will be the first time in two years that I am back in my City by the Bay, sampling delicious food, smelling the salty air and hanging out with my family. I can't wait to get back to my roots.

From me, Darryl, Jeffery, Joshua and Angela, Happy New Year!


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Great post Pam. I love the idea of confronting the things stirring the greatest emotions in you, and letting them go before heading into the new year.

By the way, one of my major deals in 2008 was moving away from Arizona, and your picture really makes me homesick as I stare out my window at all the snow.

I am very excited at the possibilities 2009 has in store, and I look forward to reading about your coming adventure here.

Scot Herrick

Great post.

The way I get perspective on all of the events of the year is to ask myself this question:

If five years ago someone were to tell me that in 2008 this (name 5,000 events here) will happen to you, I'd have told them they were nuts.

You go through the emotions, of course, as noted here. But having this perspective says we should plan...but be open to opportunities and trials as they come. That attitude will serve all of us well.

Safe flying for the holidays!

Ben H

Pam, I wish you and your family a wonderful xmas and a great 2009. You have been a huge influence in my 2008 and firmly believe that the decisions I have made as part of your coaching are the best I could have made this year.

Thank you


Account Deleted

2008 was the year I "met" Pam Slim; 2009 will be the year I *meet* her (god willin' and the creek don't rise).

It was a year of nuttiness, but really, it's hard not to see the goodness. It's virtually everywhere you look, if you put the right glasses on.

Dave Barnhart

Hi Pam,

Thanks for kicking me in the you-know-what. Great article!

Pamela Slim

@Ian - come back and visit soon! We can take a hike in those mountains. :) Good luck next year.

@Scot - too true! I NEVER could have foreseen the events of 2008, both the fantastic and the -um- not so fantastic ones. :) Best to you in 2009.

@Ben it was truly my honor to work with you. I am so impressed with the direction of your life -- can't wait to hear of great things in the new year.

@communicatrix - hear, hear! meeting you live will be a blast -- sxsw will never be the same. and let's rock the socks off of our (cleaned up, crisp and compelling) brands in '09, shall we? with your help, I will be smooth and slick. good slick, not bad slick. ;)

@Dave - we all need a good kick in the arse on certain days, don't we?

To all other future comments I miss while disconnected from the internet, thanks and Happy New Year!


Diane Whiddon-Brown

Thanks so much for this, Pam. So much of the time, it seems like we're given techniques to 'get over' or 'deal with' unpleasant emaotions. It's nice to read something that reminds us to acknowledge and even embrace them. I think that's the only way to really be okay with them.

Hope you're having a wonderful time in San Francisco. Happy New Year! Looking forward to chatting with you in 2009.


Happy Xmas to you and yours.

Sorry for going off-topic, but that's a great family portrait! I have a sudden, irrational urge to move to Arizona.

Marcia Francois

Pam, merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family and a very Happy New Year.

I'm believing for BIG, JUICY things for all of us.

And before I forget, have a BLAST in San Francisco (I'm so jealous!)

Tom Volkar / Delightful Work

Journaling is a very effective tool to first feel and then release emotions that we'd rather not carry forward. Looking forward to a fresh start and a break previous barriers 2009! Thanks for your leadership Pam.

Lynn Jericho

Fabulous, so clear, so inspiring. 2009 is going to be great for you and everyone who works with you, reads your blog and buys your book.

My theme for this year's Inner Christmas - the twelve Holy Nights of personal renewal and development - is Twelve Essential Needs of Your Soul. Knowing these needs can lead to health, liberation and empowerment. Join me in this practice www.innerchristmas.com

Thanks for blessing my life in 2008. Many wonderful lessons to you and your family. Lynn


Hi Pam -
Thanks for sharing a year of wonderful insight and this great post about emotions. Sharing how we feel and expressing ourselves is great medicine during tough times. I encourage checking out these mood magnets at www.themoodswinger.com that help us express our emotions in a fun way.

chris Zydel

Hi Pam,

Great Post! It was fun to be reminded about the old days of pounding pillows in Marin County and yes, it still does work. You also made me laugh out loud with your reference to "The Law of Attraction Or Else" fans.

As an expressive arts therapist and someone who advocates the power of embracing and experiencing our emotions as a way to greater wholeness it is very heartening to me to see these same approaches and attitudes being expressed in the business world!

I am also a big fan of Seth Godin's Tribes and am very excited about how the turbulence we have been through and still face will provide us with many opportunities to form strong and vibrant communities in the coming years.

Thanks as always for your wisdom and openness . I wish for you and your family a healthy, happy and inspiring 2009. And good luck with the book. Can't wait to get it!

kare Anderson

This post provides honest and actionable ways to re-experience our year, put it to one side (for inevitable sidelong glancing in 2009 moments of apprehension) then becoming grounded to walk on our best path....

.Here's to the adventure story that we most want for the next chapter of our lives - with the scenes, scripts and sets of players we picture assembling to collaborate with our tribes

Also I am trying to imagine the sparkly energy when you and Colleen are in the same place with the New Slick brands you are both concocting.


francine hardaway

Great post, Pam. My sig line used to say,"It's not what happens to you; it's how you come to it." That's how I try to live. Especially through the 2008's in my life, which seem to come every 7 years, like the Bible says:-)

Eric Deeter

Thanks for these strategies to engage the emotions. I tend to bypass my emotions and jump to "fixing" the problem. I grew up learning to surpress my emotions so they tend to linger under the surface and leak out in unhealthy ways. Thanks for reminding me to stop and feel before I move on to dealing with the situation I face. Blessings to you and your family this Christmas and may you prosper in the coming year.



You coping strategies are right on! This is something I needed desperately this year, but with some outside help and support, I survived.

Though I will have a new set of challenges to face in 2009, I'm optimistic that I will come out ahead in so many ways.

Happy Holidays!

Andrea Mai


Thanks for a great piece. You wrote 'Living through such immense personal transitions may ... may not feel like a terribly powerful place from which to launch a new and positive year.'

I love that because it's so true- but the flip side is that what often rises up from the vulnerability is great personal power to create change. I really loved the bit about our tribes waiting for us to lead. I've found it to be very true- wallowing should be done mostly in private and too much sharing of personal struggle is not appreciated by those who want you to lead. It's been a hard lesson to learn this year but I think I finally get it. You have to share just the right amount.

Best of luck in 2009!

Dr Wright

This is a great post because you actually provide tools to do what you ask us to do. This is my traditional time of year to reflect and process all those feelings. By the time 2009 rolls around I am ready to rock.

Thanks for providing how to not just what to do!
Happy New Year!

Dr. Wright
The Wright Place TV show


This is super. I've actually really enjoyed 2008. I had some serious milestones come to light. I look forward for great joys in 2009! I am going to start it off with a kick and adopt a puppy this weekend. My first pet! Woo hoo!

Working Girl

Plus you got a cat.

It was a wild year, wasn't it.

Best to you and yours in 2009.

Matthew Moran

Hey Pam,

We have exchanged a bit about some of my story - the great flood of '07, relationship, professional, etc. Your post strikes me for a couple reasons.

First, kudos for mentioning the over-zealous LOA folks. After the flood destroyed my home and possessions, I had at least two people ask me what thoughts I had that might have brought that storm on...

I thanked them for their faith that I controlled the wind and rain and while I might have a degree of arrogance, I just don't believe I command that much power. ;)

Second, having had one of those years, I took much of November and December to journal about how I felt about the past 20 months and beyond. I separated out those things I could have controlled - not to feel badly about them but to make a plan to create a more controlled future.

I also "embraced" - such a touchy-feely word - some of the emotions I was feeling - loneliness, nostalgia, etc. as representative of very positive things about my nature.. My love for family, my willingness to allow myself to feel pain so I can experience love, etc.

I don't do new year's resolutions, traditionally, but I do use the new year as one of many self-assessment point.

Thanks for your welcome insight.

Charlie Ahern

I hit a couple of potentially UGLY events in 2008 that I'm resolving without too much emotional trauma.

* When I was laid off at the end of January, I found a job (with a pay raise) so fast that I only qualified for one week of unemployment.

* While recovering from cancer surgery in November, I decided to challenge myself by setting a goal to compete in the cyclocross season next Fall/Winter.

* Although our eBay business faltered, I'm still searching for an Escape or possibly just a "four-hour" second job.

Maybe I'm just a lucky optimist, but 2008 felt like a good year.

Falling forward into 2009...

Virgil Bierschwale

Just found your site today.

Great article and if you ever get curious about the numbers that affect our country, you can find "My Analysis" of the IRS, GDP and Employment/Unemployment numbers at http://www.KeepAmericaAtWork.com


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