Sunday, January 3, 2016

GOALS! What are they good for? Absolutely Nothing!


That is no way to motivate somebody.

It's January third. Right about now there are people everywhere feeling gung-ho about their new year's resolutions. But give it time. Because while some may actually change their behavior, most of us fall short of what we originally intend when we make our drunken promises to the universe on December 31. In other words, we fail.

Example: Every year I swear that I am finally going to get organized, to purge my house of unwanted things and live simpler. It's actually become a running joke with my future self in the annual Christmas stocking letter. I got really close once. Read an article in one of my mom's magazines about how you need to assign a week to each section of your house and go through every space, showing your useless crap no mercy. In six weeks your house would be free of clutter. I made amazing progress until I got to our den and was hit with the brick wall of SO. MUCH. PAPERWORK.

And then I quit.

Because goals are hard, especially the ones that try to re-shift our entire way of thinking/living. And at some point you may need to accept something about yourself that is less than perfect, and that's okay. But it doesn't stop you from making the same goal over and over again. I tried again last year, with a book about decluttering, a new calendar, and a promise to myself that this time it would be different. It wasn't. I barely scratched the surface. Or dusted it for that matter.

Is it healthy for us to constantly try to fix what we, or others, think is wrong with our bodies, houses, lives in general? What if, instead of setting goals that focus on some unattainable perfection that would likely leave us miserable, we set goals that are bite sized, within reach, and fit within the confines of who we are naturally meant to be? I'm not saying don't challenge yourself. Challenging yourself is good. Push outside the comfort zone every once in a while. But don't be ashamed if you have to crawl right back in. Growth is best made in baby steps rather than huge leaps. In my opinion anyway.

More importantly, have a strong support network. One of the other goals that I routinely set for myself is to let go of fear. This may seem very fluffy and over generalized, but I have a lot of very specific, very irrational fears. Sometimes I am forced to get over them, at least to a degree that allows me to function (somewhat) normally. One of my many fears: Phone calls. Most introverts will join me in the joy that is text messaging - the ability to communicate without having to dial someone's number and wait for them to answer, secretly hoping it will go to voice mail but then talking so randomly when voice mail answers that you sound like an idiot. When I interviewed for my current job I was asked to name something I don't like to do. Easy. Talk on the phone. Well, my former boss thought maybe I needed to get over that and she had me making phone calls ALL THE TIME. Each one required pre-call practicing and "I can do this" mantras and was accompanied by a racing heart and sweaty palms. It's better now, but I'm by no means "cured". My husband recognizes this about me, has helped me celebrate my progress, and happily dials for take out so that I don't have to.

He also knows that social interactions with strangers are not easy for me. Today after church we needed to sign up for a newcomer's group and the hubs announced, "I'll go get the kids, you sign up." Not sign up on a sheet, mind you, but talk to the guy at the information desk. I stood in the hallway for a few minutes and contemplated running into the bathroom and telling hubs that I just couldn't hold it and could he please sign us up? But I knew what he was trying to do; I felt his gentle shove. Took a deep breath and did it. (In two hours we have to actually GO to the event and talk to more strangers, but baby steps...)

If you want to change, have someone on your side who knows exactly how gently you need to be shoved.

Another example: Two years ago I participated in a writing challenge for the new year. As per usual, I didn't make it all the way through. But I made some amazing virtual friends who have supported my journey and make me smile when I need it most. This past November I did a lighter version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - where writers attempt to complete the first draft of a novel in one month) called WipMo which allowed participants to set their own goals and work at a pace that fit their current needs. I rocked it and was so fueled by my success that I set the same goals for December. Butt in chair at least three days a week and 2500 words or more.

And then I quit.

All those zeros are really depressing. And even more depressing was facing my extended family who all asked how the book was coming. It's easy to get discouraged and throw in the towel. Convince myself that there is no way I can regain momentum. Goals can do that to a person. Make them give up and not want to bother.

But we have to be resilient. To accept who we are, figure out where we want to be, and how to maintain enough motivation and heart to get us there. Will I ever be one of those people I envy on Twitter who crank out a thousand words+ a day? No. Is it reasonable to blame the holidays and forgive myself for slacking off and then vow to get back on track by locking myself in my writing room until the zeros disappear? Yes. Will social interactions continue to rattle my heart like a caged animal? Yes. Am I going to let that stop me from living? That would be foolish. Will my house ever be completely clutter free? When we move out, sure. Until then, not likely. Can I focus instead on having one or two organized spaces and shoving everything else into the den and shutting the door? Sounds like a plan.

Good luck with your resolutions, whatever they may be. I'm off to end the zeros.

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