This week has been very standard at work: nothing to do. But for some reason, I come home from work just exhausted. I have grand ambitions of working on a project I want to get done or reading a book but the only thing that seems appealing is getting my workout done as fast as I can and then spending the rest of the night glued to the couch and TV. Ever have a week like that?
Last week, I was thinking about my goal of reading 50 books in a year. I did the math the hard way – taking 50 books divided by 12 months and carrying the 2 – when I could have realized my over-ambition quite fast by taking 50 books into 52 weeks. Hmmm… that equals out to be almost a book a week. Every week. All year long.
Suffice it to say, I am revising my goal to simply Read more books than I did last year. Which cuts it down to 27 books instead of 50, but that’s still a book every 2 weeks. More realistic but (I think) still tough, especially when I have weeks like this where reading feels like the last thing I want to do.
The whole point of the goal is not just to read. It’s to be more intentional about doing something I enjoy (and I just like making goals). Treating myself like a Nazi is not something I enjoy. A goal too lofty would make me feel incredibly guilty for doing anything but reading, and ruin the very purpose of creating the goal in the first place.
The whole idea behind making goals at the new year, I think, is to be more intentional about how you’re spending your time. Instead of just thinking about how much you’d like learning how to paint, or to speak Japanese, or to run in 10 states, you put some action behind it. Make your dream a reality. Use your time wisely.
But the day-in, day-out grind of life isn’t always as inspiring as those first days of a new year are. Hence, the number of unkept resolutions.
So what do you do when the glitter falls off of your goal? When you just see the menial tasks and grunt work actually required to meet your goal, instead of the sparkly prize at the end? Here’s how I look at goals:
1. Goals should be flexible. Life changes. Things happen. You might realize one day that shooting to read a book a week for the entire year is pretty much a pipe dream. So you revise.
2. Goals should be inspiring. If you’re saving for a trip to Paris, put a picture of the Eiffel Tower on your wall at work. Learn to speak French. Go eat a croissant and tell yourself that it’ll be 1,000 times better in Paris. Watch movies set in Paris. Keep a picture that reminds you of Paris in your wallet, so that every time you’re tempted to spend money that you should be saving, you hold out for the greater prize. Don’t just grunt your way through life – be inspired.
3. Goals should have a “why.” If you don’t know why you want to lose weight, or take up a new hobby, or cook more at home, it’s very easy to give up when you encounter resistance in the form of brownies, laziness or takeout food. Having a “why” also provides fodder for your inspiration (see #2).
4. Goals should be about more than just the end. Why? Because on your way to the goal, you’re still living your life. And if you’re only focused on the end, you’re missing out on the joy of the journey. Running a marathon someday will be amazing – but it’ll be so amazing because of the miles I ran and time I sacrificed to get there. A goal is an accomplishment because you stayed focused over an extended period of time for a specific result. It’s the work that got you there that’s impressive. Also, if you’re solely focused on the end of your goal, what happens when you reach it? Goals aren’t the point of life. A goal is just a tool that helps you make positive changes in your life, for your overall joy.
5. Goals should be filled with grace. There are days when you slip up and eat 2 slices of cake even though you’re trying to drop some pounds. Or you skip your run even though you’re training for a race. Or you veg and watch TV every night after work for a week even though you’re trying to read more. Some days you just need a break. And that’s ok. Use the break to think about your goal – Is it still worth it? If so, why did I do what I did? What can I do in the future to prevent it from happening again? Or should I revise my goal to make it more realistic or joy-giving?
In my case, I’ve been reading a pretty mentally-challenging book (One Thousand Gifts) and while I’m really enjoying it, sometimes I just want an easy novel. That’s why I’m drawn to TV over a book – I don’t want to think, just veg. I think easy novels can serve that purpose too. While I’m trying to break my habit of reading more than one book at once, sometimes you just have to make an exception (see #5).
How do you stay motivated for your goals?