Friday, September 3, 2010

100% content

This post is philosophical and heavy on personal reflection. Some days, it just comes to me. I gotta go with it.

Here's something I thought about a lot and talked with my friend Tammy quite a bit - the idea of finding balance between constant goal setting and goal pursuing and trusting in the ebb and flow of my life. This has been a tough one for me. Somehow in the process of becoming an adult I developed an odd relationship with goals. What are good goals for me to have? How do I work toward them? What do I do if I'm not achieving them? And what about "just going with the flow?" Isn't that kinda the opposite of all this goal business? And don't we hear that going with the flow is healthier and will allow us more happiness? Shouldn't I just be going with the flow? How do I do that? That seems even more complicated than goals, and I clearly don't have a grasp on those! Why can't I figure this out? Why is finding where I need to be on this spectrum so hard for me?

The connector in me seeks to figure out why and how I don't get all of this. I have a few ideas. One, I'm fairly confident that "striving" strengths are not in my top tier of strengths (I'm using the Marcus Buckingham StrengthsFinder system to define striving). My top five strengths are spread around the other three strength quadrants, but none are in this area. I just don't think I'm much of a striver, and in my mind, meeting goals seems striver-like. Like I said earlier, I really relied on my love of learning in a formal environment to determine goals for me. But when I completed my MA in 2002 at 27, I was really at a loss. No more constant goals set up for me by subject matter experts. I had even met my Weight Watchers "goal" weight at that point. I didn't even have a goal with them anymore. Now I had "maintenance." And when I wasn't falling into line with other goals much of society says I should be attaining at that point in my life - getting married, advancing steadily in my career, having kids - I started retreating more and more into anti-goal living. Letting life just move me along. Society's goals didn't seem to mesh with my day-to-day reality, so I gave up on goals, period. I was like a leaf in a stream of water, powerless really, to whatever the water did to me or to whatever I bumped up against.

Then 2008 rolled around and I experienced what I call a crisis of conflicted thoughts. It lasted for a few months. It was a dark, dark time for me. I had developed pretty good attending skills from past work with a therapist so I decided just to allow myself to feel bad about all the negative thoughts I had about myself. I felt my way through it to the end. And then one day it ended. It was like God said, "Jill, you've thought enough bad things about yourself for a long time now, why don't you try feeling some goodness about your life for a while?" I didn't hear a God voice or anything, but my life started to change. Literally, one day over Memorial Day weekend in 2008 I was thinking horribly negative things about myself and the next day I thought, this is ridiculous, I'm not doing this anymore. That was the day I started learning how to really trust my feelings. And ever since I've been learning how to trust my life. During this time I haven't given much thought to goals. But I have given much attention to feeling content in my life.

So here I am, September 2010. September is always synonymous with the start of school for me. The start of all the goal setting and goal achieving, but most importantly, learning. Learning something even if you don't meet "the goal." I think I've figured out my relationship with goals. I like them for this: "it's my goal to finish these five things before lunch today." That's sorta the amount of power I give goals right now in my life. But I really love trusting my feelings about how my life is unfolding. And I know these realities are always with me: Faith in my abilities and gifts. I'm not alone. I'm loved by myself and others. I have hope.

If you made it this far with me, thank you. You've probably figured out this has been one of those "hot button issues" for me for a long time. I'd love to hear your ideas about goals and trusting life as it unfolds.


  1. I struggle with this sooooo much. My life right now seems to be a constant process of setting unrealistic goals, not meeting them and then beating myself up. Or I meet them, and then beat myself up for not achieving more. At the moment I'm experimenting with very very loose goals and structure and find I'm actually achieving more.

  2. Jill, I wonder how much this issue has to do with setting goals that are personal. Society often dictates does our body to some extent (having children fits into a certain period of our life biologically). Sometimes the whole goal thing gets mixed up with the clock ticking thing and at my age (almost 55) it is all about whether I have properly prepared myself for are my young adult children doing (kinda not my problem anymore but somehow my heart set goals for them too!! dumb but we mothers tend to do this)...can I keep up with image/age related issues. My struggle is to stop looking at what where I "should" be and relax into where I want to be.

  3. Jill, I really enjoyed this post. I have thought quite a bit about my own experiences with goals vs. "going with the flow." I'm not a particularly religious person, but I have recently spent a lot of time pondering to what extent I make things happen in my life (such as setting and achieving goals) and to what extent things are meant or destined to happen. I don't have a clear answer, but I have learned I feel a greater sense of peace when I relinquish control and allow my life to unfold day by day. I also find I stay much more present in my life when I'm not so focused on what I'm trying to make happen in the future.

  4. I have my own struggles with this. I am a list making, goal setting kind of girl. I long to set aside time to just "be." I enjoyed your perspective on it. You've given me a lot to mentally chew on today. Great post.

  5. Two important questions to me about goals:

    Where did the goal come from? (Another way of saying 'why' do I have the goal I guess.)

    And then beyond that - Can I enjoy (or at least accept the process)?

    Like say I want to run a marathon, but complain about running every day. Even if I complete the marathon I will have made everyone around me miserable through this "achievement."

    This is what comes to me today.

    It sounds like you have a "goal" to have "goals" Jilly. (or a rule to have goals maybe) If this is true and of interest to you. My question is, "Where does that come from?" :)

  6. i hear you on this.

    i have been opening up to the ebb and flow of things more: just trying to become aware of how i do things, what's my norm, and just sort of observing what my reactions are without judging them. and if i do judge, just taking a deep breath and letting it go: there is never going to be perfection. at any moment.

    when i strive for goals, (which i think can be a good part of my balance) i tend to notice i don't absorb what i acheive: it's like i did what i reached for and then immediately stepped onto the next task. so i've been noticing that and trying to slow down and appreciate what i've accomplished: even in the middle of trying for something, trying to keep that balance of "this too shall pass."

    i'm definitely trying to live more in this present moment: with whatever is happening. it's feeling good. :)

    xo brooke

  7. Thanks ladies for your insights - goals, a rich subject for us, right? I love connecting with you all through blog-land. It's so, so good :) xoxo, Jill