Completing the Past Beats Positive Thinking

Posted in: Uncategorized Started by

Completing the Past Beats Positive Thinking

I sat down to write out my New Year’s resolutions for 2015 – the upcoming year – and realized that I hadn’t really fully appreciated the year that I had just spent living.

From coaching training, spiritual practice, and lots of personal growth workshops… I have heard many times to visualize the future I want.  Get a vision board.  Think positive.  Use the secret.

But, I also know from experience that to create a powerful future I need to be complete with the past first.  It takes more than belief.  It takes some shadow work.

It’s only after I understand and accept where I’ve been… and why… and am able to set that all to the side… that there exists a foundation on which to build new possibilities that have staying power.

The rest, as they say, is lipstick on a pig.

So, I pushed my New Year’s resolutions into the recycling bin and started over with 3 Steps for a New Life’s Resolution:

  1. Gratitude for 2014
  2. My Life’s Purpose and Direction
  3. An Inspired 2015

Step 1 – Gratitude for 2014 looks something like this.

I grabbed a pen and paper and started writing down every meaningful and significant thing that happened in 2014 – decisions, changes, milestones, events, etc.  No rules.  Just whatever came to mind first.

Then, I pulled up my calendar and started in at January 1.  Scrolling through my calendar, I also jotted down any big meetings, trips, trainings, etc. that slipped my mind.

After I had a long list, I went back and labeled each one related to the area of life it seemed to fall under: Career, Education, Spirituality, Travel, and Relationships.  Those were mine.  You might find different categories, but the important point is to find buckets to organize your major happenings of the past year into.

Last, I re-wrote my list in each bucket and sat with them for awhile.  I tried to really get a feeling for any theme that ran through that area of my life in the past year.  What did each item have in common?  How was that area of my life going?  Which things were becoming more and less important for me here?

Then, I wrote this blog post to share with you – in hopes that it would solidify my own learning, and provide value to others who are on their own journey or quest.  Don’t just think positive – set New Year’s Resolutions and forget them in a month.  Look back with intent.  Find completion, so you can move forward powerfully.


2014 was a year of really getting outside my comfort zone, and not settling for convenience.  The risk of increasing the impact that my work has in the world became more important than the safety and stability of my old “dream job.”  I stepped off the ledge in a big way… more than once.

  • Day 1 – January 1st, I had the support of my friends and family as I gave 3-weeks notice to Kum & Go so I could work on a state-wide sustainable business association idea
  • February, I was grateful to be invited to co-work out of the office of a consulting firm, Proxymity, downtown
  • I began interviewing generous sustainability professionals from Iowa businesses recognized for their best practices in social and environmental performance
  • March, inspired by the Hope for the Hungry Conference and the local hunger-fighting community, I defined a vision called “A Garden for Every School” and began interviewing school garden coordinators in the metro
  • April, I began integrating with Proxymity’s amazing team to serve local Iowa businesses, and loved the transparency and collaboration with kindred souls that I found there
  • May, I was lucky enough to find Katie Benedetto and upgrade my blog and coaching website –
  • July, I got the honor of receiving my first giant publicly-traded sustainability client, Meredith Corporation – a huge victory after leaving Kum & Go
  • October, I was coached by my friends, Chandler, James and Tyler in writing and publishing a #1 best-selling ebook on Amazon Kindle
  • November, I got the honor of receiving my first paid client for an introductory sustainability audit – a tool to help small- and medium-sized businesses that can’t afford on-going sustainability consulting
  • December, Keep Iowa Beautiful’s board of directors voted unanimously to be the host non-profit for the $160,000 fundraising project “A Garden for Every School”
  • December, I watched 4 leading companies and 1 major university step up to fund and found the association idea I started working on in January… and I filed articles of incorporation for the official Iowa Sustainable Business Forum
  • December, I began talks with my employer, Proxymity, to transition 100% to my own company, ecofluence, and still stay connected and do contract work with them… I’m doing a print copy of the book, ramping up speaking gigs, and focusing on sustainability-specific client work that isn’t an exact fit for how our team served target clients


2014 was a year continuing to sharpen the saw.  I continued to invest in my own education – which I hope to never stop doing.  Self-improvement is paramount in making the difference in the world to which I am committed.

  • Online, I took the Global Reporting Initiative 4.0 Bridge training in March so I could use the GRI framework in my consulting with SMEs
  • Eva, an amazing co-worker, connected me to a coaching workshop with Cylient
  • For years, I had been wanting to take the Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM) training with Doug McKenzie-Mohr… and thanks to my friends Mercedes and Brenda, I had a place to stay in Seattle for a week while I took the Intro and Advanced workshops in October
  • As a new member, I attended the annual International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) conference in Denver… and a friend of a friend let me crash on her couch
  • I also read dozens of great books, top among them: Evolution of a Corporate Idealist, Eco-Pioneers, Integral Ecology, and The Enneads


2014 taught me so much about the power of language as the main tool for creating my life.  I learned how to take as much responsibility as possible for the way the world is, and the way my world is.  The strength that provided me was immense.

  • I took an amazing road trip with my BFF, Mike George, to Boulder for the Fourth Turning Conference to meet the Integral community and see Ken Wilber (a hero) for the first time – and it reinvigorated me on my path and my meditation
  • The Prairiewoods Franciscan Spiritual Center was home for 2 days of a silent meditation retreat in Cedar Rapids – and it brought me a deep respect for slowing down and embracing silence
  • My friend, Brandon Swett, and I saw Tiokasm Ghosthorse speak on how our language is actually “conjuring” our world experience
  • I decided to “review” or re-take both the Landmark Forum (in Kansas City) and the Landmark Advanced Course (in Chicago)… but this time with friends, and I really feel like I got a new relationship with my dad as well as my co-workers and friends – and I truly overcame my resistance to sharing and inviting people I care about to try things that have had a profound impact on my life
  • Plant medicine became a ceremony that will remain in my life periodically… I share about my own experience openly and with anyone who is interested – I have had awakenings to the miracle of life beyond words and see the “messy perfection” that I used to avoid at all costs, which I now strive to embrace and celebrate


2014 was a year of getting real with myself and others, which helped me deepen those relationships that mattered most.  One of the biggest changes was I realized, for all I talked about “community,” that I didn’t spend one-on-one time with people.  I went to “community” events, and didn’t do the work to get to know each individual and build something meaningful.  Friends.  Family.  It was the same.  So, I started grabbing people for coffee, lunch, going home to my parents, making phone calls.  To be honest, it was exhausting.  It was so new to me, it felt like way too much work.  And I also realized that to have real “community” in my life – a collection of meaningful, deep relationships – that I had to stop working in the evening and on weekends.  I had to make my travel and free time include people I cared about, not just run off and do whatever I felt like.  I’m still working on it.

  • Emily and I ended our long-term relationship, and we were living together, so it was at least a week of really intense conversations – sharing, venting, being emotional, loving and accepting why it wasn’t a good fit… and that we were able to still care about and want happiness for each other made me feel like a mature adult for maybe the first time in my romantic break-up history
  • I moved back into the entrepreneur house in West Des Moines with friends, and spent lots of time rebuilding old and creating new friendships after having spent the past few years doing more of the couples lifestyle
  • Honest and emotional conversations that I never thought I’d have openly took place in all kinds of new places – around the board room at my company, with my parents and sister, with my close friends, and with people I had never met… I didn’t always pull it off with grace in the moment, but it was much better than holding back how I truly felt
  • Exercise and fun… ultimate frisbee Wednesday nights saved my life – it was so good to get back into competitive sports with friends and let some of that stuff work itself out physically, sweating up a storm, digging deep, getting rowdy, and seeing a different side of friends
  • I went to a family conference from the Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa and heard a ton of great information, including meeting and hearing a beautiful, young woman who was a survivor of brain damage (like my brother) coaching parents, care providers, and other survivors on how to handle and overcome situations… I cried several times and found some real forgiveness and acceptance and gratitude around my brother’s accident and the repercussions
  • I started dating – which means after six months, I not only got back out there, but forced myself to do the uncomfortable thing for me and go on lots of dates with different women… where I learned how weak I made women by thinking that I was going to hurt them by being honest about my feelings – women are incredibly strong and for all I know I’m the one who is going to be crushed by something not working out, so best to just be honest and save everyone the time (love hurts sometimes, but it’s no reason to stop loving)


2014 wasn’t as much travel as I wish for, yet it was a great reminder of how much I love seeing the world.  The beauty of nature is astounding to me, and it reminds me both to protect it for future generations, but also to get out there and enjoy what we do have because it provides rest, peace, joy, inspiration, etc. and lights a fire in people.  Communities need people with a fire inside.  Nature has the power to change lives.  So, go with friends!

  • After several months apart, Emily and I took a vacation to Iceland for a week that we had planned before the break-up… not an easy decision to come to, but also another victory in the adult column for me, because we spent the whole time as friends, and were able to hold space for how different both of our needs are when we travel (and Iceland was ridiculously amazing – a real bucket list for me)
  • I went to a dear friend’s spring wedding in La Conner, Washington, with my BFF, Mike George, where we were amazed by mountains, forests, and inlets that were astoundingly gorgeous… such a quaint and beautiful little town, and to share it on such a lovely occasion with friends was picture perfect
  • During the summer, I went on a Peak4Poverty trip with my housemate and friend, Calvin Johanssen, where we attempted two snow-covered 14ers and went white water rafting… camping, hiking, rafting, and cooking over a lovely campfire – some of the most wonderful ways to spend time living
  • I took the CBSM training with Doug McKenzie-Mohr in Seattle, and although we were in a conference room most of the week, my same friends (who got married earlier in the year in La Conner) drove me each morning over a bridge that looked out at Mt. Rainier in the distance, then took me hiking in a lovely park on a hill overlooking the bay

I learned a lot in 2014.  I grew.  I struggled.  I fought.  I went deeper, with myself and people I care about.  I kept on keeping on.  And I looked back and learned from it all.  Which set me on a great path forward.

Namely, to figure out and clarify what my life is actually all about.  The whole, “Why am I here?” question.

Next week’s blog will be about finding my life’s purpose and direction.




Adam Hammes is the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, a consultant, author, and motivational speaker. He specializes in helping businesses and sustainability professionals with environmental and social performance.

Check out Adam's new book on Amazon, Audible and Kindle: Sustainable Business in Iowa.

Like this content? Enter your email below for additional Chapter Cheat Sheets from Adam’s new book and more...