Friday, March 26, 2010

What's So Great About Goals?

If I had to single out the biggest challenge in my life, I would say that it is undoubtedly time management. I have become a tight rope walker, balancing and staying centered, precariously carrying all of the aspects of my life. Occasionally my load becomes too cumbersome and if I don't drop something, I will lose my balance and fall.

For a long time, I have really pushed myself with questions like, What's next? What am I going to do now? What are my goals? Like a little honey bee, I search for my next flower; an area that needs growth, something I want to learn about, what I'm going to do next. In many ways, this is a part of myself that I really like. I am rarely bored and I feel this attitude helps me to grow and continue to be dynamic.

However, there is also a huge disadvantage to this train of thought: It can at times discourage contentedness.

When I am constantly striving for more, more, more and
str e e e e tching 
myself further with high ambitions, I fail to live in the present, to be satisfied with myself in this moment. In Terry Hershey's words, it is the "tyranny of pursuit." I am like a frantic shopper, always looking for the latest trend to buy only to become bored with my most recent purchase and replace it with another. Goals can be like that. What about simply being comfortable in your own skin? How many accomplishments do I need to accomplish before I am satisfied?

Another problem with goals is that you can lose yourself in your accomplishments and define yourself by them. There is a real danger in this. What will it mean if I don't accomplish a certain goal? Who am I then? Furthermore, I need to reflect on the reason for my aspirations. What need is this fulfilling? Or am I simply driven to this in order to stroke my own ego???

Of course goals in general are not inherently evil. But I do believe they can be taken too far, a means of boosting my own pride. The seesaw of self-confidence is a delicate balance. But for some of us, maybe we don't need to work on feeling better about ourselves. We live in a culture of me-ism, constantly told to "put ourselves first." And while I realize it is very important to take good care of yourself, a life of only "putting yourself first" should just be called what it is: a selfish life. How many magazine articles or episodes of Oprah are there about how to become more humble? How to work on humility? Self-sacrifice?

Lastly, sometimes goals can be self-defeating in that the means of obtaining them takes away from another priority in my life. Goals take time and time is a precious, hot commodity in my life; it seems that the supply can never meet the demand. This year I planned to run a full marathon in June; a bigger, better achievement than last year's puny half marathon. So I prepared my training schedule and have made it about halfway through. Several evenings a week, my darling Jason would walk in the door after a long day's work, and we would kiss goodbye as I walked out the door for my run. Family dinner time often had to be rearranged or sometimes just didn't happen because of this schedule. Jason and I didn't have as much time to talk.

Do you see the irony? In trying to accomplish yet another goal, I was taking too much away from other more important areas in my life.

I could run the full marathon. I know I'm capable. But I don't want to! I actually don't have to accomplish every feat that I could. I am under no obligation! This is such a freeing realization for me. A weight is lifted and I find myself with more time and energy free to talk to my husband, play with my children or take a nap.

No full marathon for me. I'm keeping it simple and sticking with the puny half :)

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