Monday, March 22, 2010

All Plans Are Tentative

"The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself." -- Anna Quindlen

The above quotation is one of the Story Circle Network's writing prompts for this week, and it seemed like the perfect way to begin the first-quarter evaluation of my goals for this year. How about you--are you still working on the goals you set back in January? Did you give up before the month was out, or are you making progress? Did your initial enthusiasm for accomplishing great things this year peter out in the light of reality? Did you expect too much of yourself, too many changes, too many projects, and get bogged down in them all? Did you give up and decide to try again next year? Or are you still going strong?

No matter how good our intentions, life has a way of throwing us curves that derail even the best-laid plans. Then we beat ourselves up because we didn't do what we said we'd do, and before we know it we have talked ourselves into giving up altogether. If we can't be perfect, we might as well quit, right? Wrong, because perfect doesn't exist. We are humans, and being human means being imperfect. Don't let a false, unrealistic ideal prevent you from doing anything. Do what works for you.

When I began sharing my goals in January, I had no way of knowing I would sustain another hand injury in February, which greatly hampered my ability to type and keep up with my blog and other writing goals. Also, when you live with chronic pain and illness, as I do, the reality is that all plans are tentative because you never know from one day to the next how you will feel, or how much energy you'll have. Fortunately, my family and friends have come to understand this.

Even if you've gotten off course, there is no need to give up entirely. Take some time right now to review the goals you set in January. Looking back over the past three months, what were your problem areas? Instead of allowing yourself to be overcome with discouragement, take this opportunity to reevaluate and prioritize your goals. Make note of what was working and what was not. Did you take on too much given the amount of time and energy you have? Looking at your goals, decide what is the most important thing for you to accomplish this year, and focus on that one goal. Work on the others as time permits, but let go of the guilt if you have to put those off for later. Now that we're three months into the year, you're in a better position to evaluate what is realistic for you and what is not.

My overriding goal for this year was to find at least one thing each day for which to be thankful or grateful, and to strive to maintain a positive attitude and outlook. Although, at times, this has been difficult, it has been a valuable challenge and daily reminder of the blessings in my life. Abraham Lincoln said, "If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will." I believe the inverse is also true, and not just about people but about events. If you look for the good--in people, in life-- you will surely find it--and I have. Moral: Make a game of it, a personal challenge to find even one good thing each day, and it will improve both your mood and your outlook.

The second goal was to begin revisions on my work in progress. I got off to a good start, then lost momentum with the hand injury and have had a hard time getting back into it. Since this goal is important to me, I have once again hooked up with my writing buddy from last November's National Novel Writing Month, for mutual support, encouragement, and accountability. As of today, I'm back on track. Moral: If you got derailed, pick up from where you left off and keep going. Don't make quitting an option. Schedule in "breaks" to allow for unexpected interruptions in your plans.

The third goal was to declutter one day a week. This goal has become a habit, now, even though there have been three Thursdays (not consecutive) when it wasn't possible to do this: twice because of my hand injury, and once because of an appointment that took up the afternoon. Even so, I have made good progress, and even spent two days decluttering one week to make up for missing it the week before. Moral: Be flexible. If you have to miss working on a goal on it's scheduled day, work on it a different day...or work on it two days that week. Don't be so rigid that you miss opportunities to make progress.

Goal four was to join two offline writer's groups. In February, I joined the Women's Story Circle Network, founded by author Susan Wittig Albert in 1997. Their mission statement is to help women share the stories of their lives and raise public awareness of the importance of women's personal histories. However, I have not yet joined a second writing group because I realized I needed more information about the degree of involvement and time commitment that might be required, before taking that step. Moral: Perhaps it's better to start with one group, and be able to really participate, than to join two and not be able to give either one the time or attention to make the experience a valuable one.

The last goal was to get a package of memorabilia from my mother's house mailed to my brother. I hadn't realized the emotional impact, nearly two years after her death, that dealing with her things would still have. That, combined with the physical exhaustion of chronic illness, has caused delaying this goal--especially since there is the possibility they might come to visit this spring and would be able to take the box back with them rather than me having to ship it to them. Moral: Self-imposed deadlines are not always meant to be written in stone, especially if there may be more than one option for accomplishing the goal.

To summarize, when working on goals:
  1. Make a game of it.
  2. Don't quit, keep going.
  3. Be flexible.
  4. Start small.
  5. Look for other options.

So, how are you doing so far with your goals for this year? If you got derailed, will you join me in getting back on track? We still have nine months, three-quarters of this year, in which to achieve our goals. And for those who have managed to keep working steadily on your goals, share with us what keeps you motivated. Do you give yourself rewards along the way? What works for you? Leave your thoughts/comments in the comment section.

P.S. One of my goals for this week was to post a new blog entry and bring my gratitude journal up to date. Accomplished! YAY!