Ep 85: Magic of Milestones 2

On this episode of Communicate for Good, Erica dives into the etymology of milestones and within that the importance of yearly reflection. She highlights the benefit of taking inventory of the choices we made, the choices we can be making now, and ultimately how those choices can create a momentum of growth.

She also poses and discusses these introspective questions – “Am I going to celebrate how far I’ve come and over whatever period of time? Am I celebrating the wins no matter the size? Am I going to honor the hard things that happened and learn from it while implementing changes in myself? Am I going to appreciate that there may have been ‘gaps’ and that goal setting requires that? Who do I want to be and is it the same person I was years ago? Can I look and see growth over the past year?” 

Resources referenced:

The Gap and the Gain by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy


The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why by Deborah Tannen


A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger



This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


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Welcome to the Communicate for Good podcast are leaders on a mission to make the world a better place come to talk and learn about how communication language and words can help increase awareness, revenue and impact. With less stress and more joy. I’m your host Erica Mills Barnhart and I’m so excited. You’re here with me. Let’s dive right in.

Welcome to, or welcome back to, the Communicate for Good podcast. I am Erica Barnhart your host aka on this particular episode, the birthday girl. Yes, it is true. April 24. You may not be listening to this on April 24 but it will air on April 24 and that’s my birthday. I’ve just always been somebody who loves my birthday. I’m gonna be honest. I’m, unlike some people who reach a certain age which I have reached, where you’re like, oh, no, no, I mean, I’m getting old. I still love my birthday. I guess I’m like a numerically speaking like four-to-four. Yes, I am the person who if I’m going to go get a latte, I’m gonna be like, “Hi, I’m Erica. It’s my birthday,” or if I go out to dinner they are going to know it’s my birthday. I don’t know why this is, except that I feel like the moments of pure bliss, pure joy, pure celebration are pretty few and far between, and, for me, my birthday has always been that. For me, I’m like, oh my gosh, I made it another journey around the sun, 365 days, and I’m still here, and importantly, I feel better about who I am and what I’m doing than last year, and I do. Now, if I was slipping backward, not so sure about that, in all realms of my life t hat would be something, but I don’t feel that way. Very important to me is this idea of who am I and how am I being of service in the world, so I wanted to take a moment to share with you how I reflect and how I take advantage of milestones in general. It may not be your birthday, it’s probably not your birthday, but if it is let me know, we’re birthday twins. You can use my particular milestone if you want, or you can think of one that’s upcoming for you, but I do think that there is magic and milestones. Yes, by the way, I did have to look up the etymology of the word milestones, because is it that simple? Like it was a stone for each miles that you had walked, trudged or whatever? Yeah, it’s just that straight forward. It turns out it was a Roman thing, so it’s a milestone. A birthday is a milestone and that’s important enough. Oftentimes, you say what, what do I do in the coming year, which is a super fabulous question. I would say, it’s super fab so long as you do a little looking back and celebrating how far you’ve come over whatever period of time, I’m just gonna keep using 365, a year, because as long as you look back and really let it sink in; all that you have done the growth, the wins, all of it. Is this to the exclusion of acknowledging anything negative? No, it’s not. It’s not, but I tend to be somebody who processes some releases as I go a lot these days so I don’t have a big backlog of negativity to deal with at any given moment. No, that did not come naturally. Yes, I had to learn how to do it, if anyone is curious, but I’m pretty consistent about that and so I don’t feel like I have a backlog. I’m also going to honor hard things that have happened, but I’m going to do it through the lens of how can I take that and learn from it? There are instances where I’m like, I don’t know, hard crest, that was horrible, but pretty much if I create the space I can see this thing that allows me, to again, feel better about who I am and to be in more service to others. That’s the looking back.

I’ve been talking a lot about The Gap and The Gain, a book by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy, because the idea is so, so simple and it’s quite powerful. If you haven’t read it, I really recommend that you do. The short version is we tend to look at the gap, what didn’t go well, what we didn’t achieve and what we still haven’t achieved. Classic goal setting is we’re here, we want to get there, and by definition there’s a gap. What they encourage is constantly be looking at your wins, big and small. Let me tell you, some days I’m like, Oh, it’s so small I can barely see the win, but I count anyway. What you are doing is getting in the habit. You are training, this is not how they said it, but what you’re doing is training your reticular activating system to notice the good, to notice the positive, and not to the exclusion of the negative as your subconscious will take care of that. You do want to work through that especially when it’s substantive. There is significant power in it, and it gives you a lot of momentum. Even if your milestone was one day, I do this daily and perpetually, just to keep momentum going but I’ve taken an inventory over the past year. I like to look back so I can appreciate the present and so I can get excited about the future of what’s coming. I did that retrospective, that backward accounting as it were, and then I come back to this question of, who do I want to be? Who do I want to be? I can look and see the growth over the past year, and I do this work all the time with my coaching clients, because we’re very action oriented, right? In North American culture so we see that goal and ask what do I need to do? What we kind of gloss over, maybe because it’s a bit more existential, is that’s for the French, they’re very existential. Maybe that’s part of it? I don’t know, but I think a piece of it is that it’s more comfortable to have task lists, to-do lists as opposed to a to-be list. Who do I need to be to get there from a leadership perspective? Of course, that’s a very introspective conversation to have, and it’s not one that you that you maybe want to have widely. That’s a private conversation first with yourself and then maybe with safe others, with a coach, whoever that may be for you, but it is so important because it gives you a different perspective. Right? The question, again, is who do I want to be? Do I want to be somebody who used to get up, no joke, rolled out of bed and working out within 15 minutes? Oh my golly, that’s not me anymore. I need quiet time in the morning. You can change over time in order to achieve the same goal, right? Like working out, fitness, being healthy. Yep. All of those things, so, again, it’s about who do I want to be? That’s the big thing. It’s not about who do I need to be? Sure, you could ask that, but sometimes it is an I need to level up but I would say that question, of who I need to be, lends itself more to a skill set upgrade. Who do I want to be as a mindset upgrade. To a great extent.

Now, I do want to mention something that feels important, which is I can ask these questions and have almost free rein because of the privilege I walk through life with. I am a middle age, white woman, Protestant which matters in North America, all of these things, so I do have great latitude to choose. I just want to say, for people of color people, living in marginalized communities, people who are marginalized in whatever way, sometimes those choices are limited, right? I just feel it is important to say that not everybody has complete free choice, and, yet, the questions are still worth asking. It just might be that the getting there, will, by definition, have to look different because the world we live in, so I wanted to acknowledge that there is a piece of privilege in this line of questioning that felt important to note. So, who do I want to be? You know, who do I want to be? And when I work, sometimes with leaders in a coaching capacity, and they ask who am I to get to decide who I want to be? Who are you not to? Again? Yes, there are structural barriers, annd we’re going to talk about those for sure. Right? Like we talked about hwo those things come up and I can’t do X, Y, Z because the world is like this, you are still entitled to ask the question. No one needs to give you a permission slip to ask this question for yourself, and no one will have better answers than you. No one, regardless is going to have better answers than you. I think this is a distinction between skill-set and mindset-upgrade, which, you when I’m working with clients are always distinguishing between those two. It may seem like that’s a really obvious distinction but sometimes it can be a little sneaky, so I would make a Who do I want to be? Who do I need to be? And then what are the things underneath each of those, right? In a leadership capacity, oftentimes, because I’m focused on communication as a way to become a more effective leader, I want slash need maybe to become a better listener. I need to become a better public speaker. I would say this is often phrased as a need rather than a want. I don’t come across many people who are like. I want to jump, that sounds amazing. Let me do this thing I’m terrified. If this is on your list, listen to the three-part series episode 78 through 80, which are all about how to become a competent public speaker because if this is on your list, you can Do this, I promise you. Public speaking, other things that come up, and I think at the my skill set upgrades, asking questions, right. It’s interesting.

I was just teaching a course on leadership and communication, and we read an article, a woman whose last name is Tanner, and doing this from memory so I might have that wrong, but we’ll put in the show notes. It’s actually from 1995, and some things have definitely changed, right? How we think about gender as a construct has definitely changed. Some of the pieces still feel so relevant, which is that women, who identify as women, are socialized as women are trained. We train ourselves, we train each other, to ask a lot of questions because what we’re trying to do is harmonize. These are gross generalizations, but in general, we’re trying to harmonize, we want we want people to get along, so we have a lot of questions because then you get the information and then you can navigate. Men who are socialized as men, it’s about a hierarchy thing and so having the answers is very important. When you look at the research, it’s pretty fascinating. Male leaders will think that women have less self-confidence and are less able to be decisive, and precisely because they ask more questions. You’re like, well, they ask the questions because they don’t have the answers, right, so this has, like, very actionable implications. There is this book that I’ve talked about before, called A More Beautiful Question, and it is basically saying the questions are where it’s at because you get that clarity, and so the question thing is an interesting topic and I do feel like there is an emergent trend or an acknowledgement, of how on earth would one leader or a team of leaders have all the answers? That’s hubris, right? Now, in certain situations, do you need to have the answers? Of course you do. Is this a balance? Of course it is. It is the balance between having the answers and asking the questions, but it is a balance, and so if you’re out of balance in that regard then this is a skill set thing.

Mindset, is what I was talking about in the opening, is a classic example earlier in this episode about is my mindset a gap-mindset or a gain-mindset? Am I looking at what I don’t have? What didn’t go well, negative, negative, negative? Or I’m gonna say, that happened and where’s the gain in that? That’s a mindset shift. Okay, so some people may do do this work a lot, right? The pausing, the reflecting to be grateful for the presence so that we could prepare and get excited about the future, but it behooves all of us to take these magical milestone moments and ask this question. Again, all of us deserve to ask a question about who do we want to be. Last year, I had a milestone, milestone birthday, and this one has one after it, so its’ still a birthday and now you know now I love me my birthday, but it didn’t have quite the same feeling. The last one did, and so I did a big pause, I did a lot of blessing and releasing of things are no longer serving me, and really embracing who I want it to be. Itt was not always comfortable. There are still moments where I’m like, really? And I’m like, yeah, that is who you want to be. Right? You made these choices. This is who you want to be. Now, could I change my mind? Yeah, right. Like, I used to be somebody who rolls out of bed at like, 5am and would do this NordicTrack thing by 5:13am, go on a run, or whatever it was. You also get to choose, and you can choose to change that is also yours to decide.

I invite you, as somebody, who I know, because you’re a listener of this podcast so I know that you are making the world a better place and what I know about that work is it sometimes it can be draining, so my birthday gift to you, whatever you choose to quote unquote celebrate with me, meaning whenever you listen to this episode, is that you give yourself the gift of pausing, asking this question, and just see what you learn. What are you really want? Who do you want to be? Who do you need to be right? There are elements of that and they’re not mutually exclusive. One of the things that was most striking to me when I looked at like my reflections from last year to this year is that there was a lot of blessing and releasing, some shifts for sure, and this year, it’s much more like, Ahh, I just want more of this, right? And not like piling it on more, just that if life rolled along nominally like this, I’m good. I’m good. Do I have aspirations? Yes, I’m ambitious by nature so I’m always going to want to be trying and experimenting, but that’s in a doing. In terms of my being, I feel pretty content in a lot of ways and that makes this milestone birthday pretty magical for me. I will say one of the things that I’m most grateful for is that I am surrounded both personally and professionally with people like you who are so committed to making the world a better place are making the world a better place, and I just want to thank you, I want to thank you so much. If you want to do this work and take you know this exploration, but it feels daunting, or you want to talk it out or whatever, and you want someonte to do that with, I love doing this work. It’s important work and you deserve to have the space created, so book a Discovery Call with me, and let’s discover who you want to be. Do good, be well, and I will see you next time.

Thank you for listening to the communicate for good podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, I would so appreciate it if you would right here right now. Go rate and review the podcast. Your review will help even more purpose driven leaders, teams and organizations. Learn how to use words to change the world. To find more ways that communication can help you increase awareness, revenue and impact. Head on over to www.claxon-communication.com.

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?