What would it feel like if at this time next year you looked back at how you lived your 2018 and said, “That was a wild awesome ride, let’s do it again!”?
I invite you to put away the resolutions for a minute and stop listening to the troll on your shoulder dancing around mocking all your bad habits, failures and what needs to be changed. Instead think about one dream that you’ve always said ‘someday you’re going to do’ and imagine accomplishing it in 2018.
You see your dreams are like the pea in the Princess and the Pea fairytale. There’s a mile-high stack of old mattresses on top of that pea. You shouldn’t be able to feel it anymore, but yet it’s still there.
I call this whisper of dreams the Desire Effect™ and it’s the marriage between yourself and life. Even if you hid your deepest desires away they’re still there in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, and for better or worse. They never leave because they’re the key to your true happiness, self-esteem, and a life lived without regret, yet they are covered everyday with another mattress. This marriage with your desires may be the least nurtured relationship in your life.
Your desires are the most powerful allies in being able to live the life you’re meant to live and to break the desire/regret cycle, yet most people will die never having let the desires come to full effect.
Most of this has happened subconsciously. Once you understand it, well then it does become your responsibility to change it. So decide if you’d like to take control of your life and throw off all those mattresses before you read on, because what I’m about to tell you will leave you in control and some people would prefer the excuses. They’d rather leave their lives in the hands of programs and gurus, doctors, and bosses, bad relationships, and blame, because there’s a part of their brain that says, “We’re safe. We don’t like discomfort.” Seventy-five percent of the population is motivated by external forces: praise from others; fear of pain; fear of being reprimanded; love from others, etc. So oftentimes you make decisions based on what society will deem success and right.
So are you ready to see what those external forces have done to you?
Let’s take a little journey together.
Everyone starts with dreams and desires. Little kids imagine what their lives will look like. They dream big. Every adult has a list of, “Some day I’m going to_____.” So imagine you’re standing at a split in a road with a huge mountain in front of you.
That mountain looks steep and rocky. You’re holding a treasure chest of all your dreams.
When you look to the right you see the people in your life. They’re urging you to follow the path they’ve taken or want you to take. “You want to be a dancer? That’s silly. Barely anyone makes it and you don’t have the body. You want to be a writer? I wanted to be a writer but it’s not practical. An artist? Well maybe if you go into graphic arts. Sail the world? Everyone wants to travel, but then it’s time to realize that life doesn’t turn out the way you want and it’s what happens when you’re making other plans.”
All these external voices are coming at you telling you what you should be. Many of these voices are well intentioned. These people love you and they don’t want to see you fail. Their personal fears and experiences are placed upon you. Add in the media and all the propaganda you’re fed about what makes a successful life and there’s a constant bombardment battling with your dreams aka the mattresses on top of the pea.
Let’s turn away for a moment and look at the left split in the road—the chance to follow your desires. This path is terrifying. There’s very little data on how it will work out, because it’s a unique path, one that only you can take and no one else has ever done. There’s no map, no one to take your hand and say, “See this is how it will end up.”
So you take the path on the right. At first it works out well. You see the design in front of you, and you know the goals. You work hard to get there. Yet underneath, The Desire Effect™, keeps haunting you like that little pea that won’t allow you to sleep comfortably. Suddenly life, even if it looks perfect on the outside, starts feeling like a chore and resentment builds along with unhappiness. The stress compounds and the psyche yearns for release. Food, alcohol, social media attention, fighting with loved ones, creating drama that gives you a boost of brain chemicals, all create bad patterns that are hard to break. You begin to zone out; to get away for one minute from the life you’ve built by binge watching television or just shutting down.
Ultimately you need an outside force to break you from this pattern and you see commercials for workout systems, diets, financial programs, counseling, coaching, etc. They give you a new vision of what will make you happy, and forward momentum happens as you get an endorphin rush based on a future results. The feeling is fleeting, failure starts to be debilitating and once again you start to simply make it through the day.
By the end of most people’s lives they look back and wonder, where did all my dreams go? Where is my health? My life? Oh well this is just the truth of living.
But it’s the biggest lie ever told.
What if instead, you got off of the right path and stepped into the unknown. It’s scary, your brain and that troll are going to tell you it’s impossible. You can’t remember your dreams anymore, or you can, but they aren’t practical. You have responsibilities. You like your life. There’s no real reason to complain. There isn’t enough money.
But what if you could climb the Appalachian Trail? Or take a month off and live in Italy? Or write that novel? Or learn to dance? Or whatever your pea has been whispering for so long.
Let’s take an imaginary stroll down the left path. There’s excitement and fear wrapped together because it means so much to go after your dreams and you don’t know if you have what it takes to do it. You take the first small steps and think, “Well at least if I fail I’ll know I tried, but to fail would hurt so much because I want this badly.”
And then you do fail. It’s inevitable. It happens, yet instead of running back to the right path you realize you’ve started to climb the steep mountain and didn’t even notice. You learn from the failure and decide, “Hey it hurt, I fell, but I’m still okay.” Your confidence goes up.
Suddenly there’s a desire to be healthier because you want to climb this mountain faster and your diet and workouts are chosen to enhance what you’re doing. You begin to make financial decisions not based on stuff, but on a life well–lived with meaning and experiences. You realize if you’re out of debt or make more money you’ll have freedom to have more dreams, more fun, and you start making better decisions. Suddenly the view of the top of the mountain comes into sight and you’re not even breathing hard. You notice that you’ve been meeting like-minded people who also chose the unknown path and you’re happier in your relationships. The regret is gone.
You reach the top of the mountain, with a few bruises, a few healed injuries, but as you summit you see a whole world before you that wasn’t visible at the original crossroads and you realize that this one dream that you took a chance on has led you to a huge life. There’s no longer time for zoning out, or binge watching television or all those things that allowed you to escape. You need at least five lifetimes because there’s so much to explore.
Do you still want to make that resolution based on changing what you dislike about yourself?
Want to step onto the unknown path? Don’t know where to start? Take the Dream Survey to see where you stand with your Desire Effect™. Join our Facebook group A Year of Dreams and like our Page Dare to Dream/ Marci Nault for a year of inspiration and support. Only in dreaming can you see how magnificent your life is meant to be. Make 2018 the year you settle for nothing less than magnificence.
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.