5 things I hate about goals

21 02 2009

Hands up who set themselves fabulous New Year’s Resolutions – and promptly broke most of them within a month. And hands up who cringes when the self-help gurus go on (and on and on) about goal setting. Here are five things I hate about goals…

#1. Are you dreaming?

castles-with-legs2It’s too easy to get mixed up between dreams and goals. My dream is to be a prolific and published author. My goal is to finish my first novel. A goal is something solid. Something you can work towards.

Remember that stuff about it being great to build castles in the air… now you’ve got to put legs under it? The dream is the castle, the goals are the legs. Okay, I’m sure I’ve done something hideous with the metaphor, but you get my point.

#2. For goals, read guilt…

It’s sooo easy to set up lovely long-term goals and all the short-term goals that lead up to them. But those ‘little’ goals usually involve things like meditating, writing 1000 words, then going for a run. Every morning. All before breakfast. Meanwhile, our families will become magically self-managing, and we will sail into the rest of our day feeling calm and unflappable.

Like hell. We’re immediately setting ourselves up for a guilt trip. Because there’s nothing like failing to reach a ridiculous goal (or several) for turning ourselves into self-flagellating wrecks.

The only way to avoid the guilt is to be realistic in our goal setting. “Given my busy lifestyle, what can I realistically achieve?” For me, it’s writing for a couple of hours once a week. If I can achieve that, I can usually slip in one or two more quick sessions.

#3. Life is a rollercoaster

So we’ve had a reality check, and we’ve got some goals that fit into our lifestyle. All good. Then the ‘life is a rollercoaster’ thing kicks in, and we lose our way. And then it becomes almost impossible to get back into it.  

It’s like going on a chocolate cake binge when we’ve promised ourselves we’re going to eat healthy – and lose weight. Or attacking the vino with a little too much enthusiasm on our designated alcohol-free day.

…the next time we even think about that goal, we’re going to go ‘nup, look what happened last time. There’s no point in trying’. Even though there actually is. Because every time you get back into it after you’ve failed, you get stronger – and the gaps between the slips get bigger. Which brings me to…

#4. I hear voices…

The minute you set yourself goals, you start hearing voices. Natalie Goldberg calls those voices ‘the Resistance’. Because the minute you set up your goals – whether it’s writing 4000 words a week or dropping a dress size – ‘the Resistance’ kicks in to sneer at you, oppose every move, ‘encourage you’ to give up.

‘You can’t do it. You’ll just sit at the computer and blog.’ (oh!). ‘You’ll never be able to stick to that exercise plan.’ (hmmm). ‘Yeh, right. You. Not eat fatty stuff. Are you kidding?’ (yeh…where’s the triple chocolate icecream?).

So, as Natalie G says, you’ve got to fool the Resistance. Be a bit sneaky. She recommends daily writing practice (which works a bit like a brain dump). For me, it works to tell myself I’m not going to write my novel at all. I’m just going to write a description of (for example) my character.

I usually find myself slipping into writing a scene that shows my character interacting with another character, and what happens. Which often leads to the first draft of a scene for my novel. But the Resistance didn’t notice me doing it.

#5. Sticking (it) to goals

The thing I hate most about goals is that… aaagh… you have to have them. If you don’t, it’s like setting out on a road trip with no destination in mind. Which might be okay if you travel in a hash-cloud. But for most of us, going nowhere fast feels like we’re letting ourselves down.

That’s not to say there won’t be diversions along the way. And that the destination won’t change. Or that we won’t be open to opportunities. What it does mean is that we’ll be putting legs under those castles in the air. Or whatever.





One response

22 02 2009

Sadly, that all makes too much sense.

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