I love having a goal. Something that challenges me and makes me a better person. Actually I love having several goals to work on at same time. Some are personal, some are professional. I have long-term and short-term goals. Sometimes it depends on the day and my mood as to which ones I want to focus on. Having multiple goals keeps my to-do list full, and as every Type-A personality will tell you, it’s very important to have a full to-do list. As a matter of fact, most Type-A’s will say that they have trouble keeping their to-do lists under control. So it must be great to have all these projects and challenges to keep motivated, right?
It’s a great theory, but there is one basic problem with it. A problem that reflects the world in which we live. A fast paced world moving faster everyday, where if we don’t keep up we will be left behind. Sometimes it is hard to keep pace when there are so many expectations at work, not to mention all the responsibilities to be managed at home. We don’t want to disappoint the ones we love, nor do we want to fall short at work. So we keep setting goals and pushing forward with our personal and professional agendas. Quite frankly, it can be exhausting.
The other problem I find with having a goal, or several, is that we tend to focus on the outcome and not the process. We have been trained to be results-oriented, always looking toward the finish line. That’s great, but when the finish line doesn’t seem to be getting any closer, it can sometimes suck all the motivation right out of you. And with a distant winner’s podium and little motivation, it can be very hard to keep moving forward. Sometimes it can seem easier to sit this one out and pick up on the next race.
So what do you do when there isn’t any wind left in your sails? It’s time to stop. Stop, breathe, and look around. Chances are that you may feel like you aren’t making progress, but are you really in the same place you were yesterday? Most likely not. Something has changed, and something has been accomplished. It may not be all you want it to be, but it shouldn’t be discounted. Actually it should be celebrated. It is so much easier to look back on the day and see all that we haven’t done and load up the to-do list for tomorrow. Why not take a moment and acknowledge all the things we did do? It’s really a variation on exploiting your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses. And working from your strengths will always make you feel better and more confident.
When you feel like you are falling short, or things aren’t going the way you want, it is easy to blame yourself. To say you’re not working hard enough or you are losing sight of your goals. Ironically, that really is the best time to lose sight of those goals, if only for a moment. Instead of looking ahead, look to the side, or look behind. Admit that you really have made a change, that things are different. There is movement, and that is a good thing.
Several years ago I suffered a back injury. I was in constant pain. I couldn’t walk for more than a few minutes, and I certainly couldn’t bend over to touch my toes. The pain was continuous,stabbing, and lasted for almost two years. My doctor said I would most likely have reduced mobility, and absolutely never have the flexibility I had enjoyed. I would have to accept that bending at the waist was something for other, um, younger, people to do.
I flashed on that this morning when I was in a full forward bend in my yoga practice. True, I don’t have the same flexibility that I used to, but bending over isn’t a problem. It didn’t happen overnight. It happened inch by inch. There were times that I thought I had a ridiculous goal–I would never be back to where I had been. But then I realized that where I was okay. That just adding that extra inch or half-inch toward the floor was exactly where I needed to be. I gave myself permission to accept things as they were, and that gave me the ability to keep on stretching, literally.
This came to mind because some of my current goals are taking longer than I expected. There was a time when I would have blamed myself for not succeeding, not achieving everything I set out to when I wanted to. At times I can hear the echoes of my inner bully trying to bring me down. In the past, it would have been easy to give in, settle into a funk, and give up. Now, I take a breath, look around, and recognize that I may not be where I expected to be, but I have come a long way. Even if there are disappointments, they are building blocks, not potholes. As long as I am taking some kind of action, I am changing something.
We hear a lot of jokes about taking baby steps these days. But baby steps are good. They allow you to pause on your way and enjoy the scenery. To stop and evaluate where you are. To enjoy where you are.
As I said earlier, it’s good to have goals. But it is also good to remember that the journey can be as important as the destination. If you take baby steps, you can accomplish great feats. Just don’t forget to appreciate each tiny step along the way.
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