(In case you’re new here, let me fill you in on something about me: for as long as I can remember, I have resisted setting goals. Or, if I set one, or made a New Year’s Resolution, the minute I did so, it felt like my whole being rebelled! Hearing someone ask, “so what are your goals?” or “what’s your five-year plan?” is like fingernails on a chalkboard. It invokes a range of emotions from fear and frustration to annoyance and disgust. Setting goals makes me antsy and I’ve been trying for years to figure out WHY).
When I was a kid, I’d ask my parents “why” questions.
“Why is the sky blue?”
“Why can’t I have dessert for breakfast?”
“Why do I have to eat food I hate?”
“Why did you get divorced?”
And no matter the answer, I’d ask another “why” question. I like to know why.
One of my biggest “whys” came back in late 2004 when, after yet another failed diet attempt, it came to me that maybe I just didn’t want to lose weight. After all, if I wanted it, I’d “just do it,” right?? When I had that realization, I wanted to know why…why didn’t I want to lose weight? That question and the (many) answers that came to me were the basis of an essay I wrote, and that essay (along with a lot more) became the introduction to my book, AFTER (the before & after).
So I’ve been trying to figure out my “whys” around my resistance to setting a goal (and in a way, losing weight and setting a goal are one in the same). Last week Katie (Health For The Whole Self) wrote a post in which she asked, “Why are you not reaching your goals?” As she put it, they’re either the wrong goals OR you’re afraid you won’t be able to reach them. I understand both reasons and I know they are part of my “why” but they aren’t the whole story.
Now, before I reveal the next piece of the puzzle, it’s important to note that just because I don’t set goals doesn’t mean that I haven’t ever strived for something…nor does it mean that I haven’t achieved anything.
So here it is…here’s the latest ah-ha regarding my resistance to setting goals:
– for me, the very word “goal” summons up the feeling that whatever it is, it’s not mine
– a “goal” represents something outside of myself…an external force
– I perceive goals as “shoulds.” Maybe it’s because I’ve been so often told, “you should have a goal.” And so a “goal” is something I should want, but don’t.
– when I want something, I don’t need to set a goal
– when I want something, I am already on my way to getting it
And so setting a goal (at least in the way I perceive it) feels not only foreign, but also superfluous. It’s a distraction…based on someone else’s formula.
There’s a quote from Joseph Campbell that I love and now understand from a different perspective (or as Journey Beyond Survival put it, [regarding life’s lessons]: “It is like a spiral staircase. I can be learning the same thing, just higher up from where I started.”
Here’s the Joseph Campbell quote:
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s how you know it’s your path.”
I have loved this quote for years but the new lesson I am learning from higher up on the spiral staircase is that a goal will have the steps laid out in front of me, while making my own path requires trailblazing. When I think about “setting a goal” what resonates is that I am stepping off my path to pursue something I don’t really want.
I’ll use that to segue into thanking those of you who responded to my last post, in which I asked, “Do you find what I write about, and how I write about it, to be helpful? Would you prefer me to spell out more of the “how to”? And if so, what specifically?”
In the moment that I wrote those questions, I knew the answer (and without fail, you all answered basically the same way): “stay true to your voice.”
I asked those questions from a place of doubt; from a place of thinking I should have some sort of “goal” with my blog…that I should be taking it to the next level…whatever that is. But now I know: each post I write is one more step on my path and I have no idea what the path looks like but I know that I am on my way to getting what I want. I feel it in every cell in my body.
Christie Inge (Nourishing Circle) wrote something last week that sort of rounds the whole thing out for me:
“…it is so easy to get caught up in the dream of someone else. Whether it is business, blogging, weight loss, food, exercise – whatever – it can often feel like what we want, hope for and desire isn’t good enough. And we are only good enough if we do what the cool kids are doing.
And when we realize that the cool kids’ dreams aren’t our own – it can be hard to face all the people you told about your so called dreams and plans and tell them that you’ve decided to go a different way. The fear of rejection, judgment and criticism can feel overwhelming.
But, that is part of staying authentic – admitting that you don’t actually want what you thought you wanted – getting out of everyone else’s dream and getting into your own. Being able to makes some hard choices that might let others down. Losing people. Letting it go. Exploring the unknown.
So you can move on with who you truly are and what you truly want.”
What I truly want is to take my own steps and create my own path. I am content when I am trailblazing…when I am pondering the “whys,” relearning lessons from different perspectives, and sharing them here. I don’t need to have this as a goal…I am already doing it. And as a result, I am full.
What do you truly want? Are you already doing it?