So it’s Friday…(yay!)…the weekend is so close…and there’s almost nothing better than a summer weekend!
You and I will probably do completely different things this weekend, but no matter what you spend your weekend doing and what I spend my weekend doing, my guess is that we’ll both be doing at least one thing together…getting ready for Monday.
If you’re like me, there are things in the front of your mind, and other things in the back of your mind, and the side…and the other side…that you need to do next week. And some of those things have been waiting for Monday….as in,
“I will start that on Monday…”
And if you’re even more like me hundreds of Mondays have come and gone….some of them starting and finishing well….some only starting well and going nowhere from there. Tuesday doesn’t go quite as well and by Wednesday, I am looking forward to yet another Monday – somehow convincing myself that it’s okay to stop trying and that next week will be better and easier. The kicker is that as hard as it was to stick with whatever I was trying to start on Monday, and as much time as I spend convincing myself that I somehow “deserve” to go easier on myself, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are full of guilt….or they used to be. I think I’ve found a cure for the weekend guilt that I once let myself feel….the trick is to keep going…
I was raised a goal-setter. When I was 10 (and my siblings 8, 5 and 1-ish), my dad sat us down and had us make ‘vision boards’. He gave us all the magazines we could ever wish to cut up, and we cut out pictures of things that represented our goals. It wasn’t anything new to us or unusual. He was always talking about goals and teaching us how to set and reach them. As we grew up, he changed his techniques – at one point paying us for book reports we did off of a list of books he wanted us to read, but the ideas were the same. He wanted us to grow up to reach our potential and knew that teaching us to set goals would be an important step. So I grew up a goal-setter.
What I’ve learned from years of setting goals is that along with reaching a goal comes an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment, and that on the flip-side not reaching a goal (or not reaching for it with all my potential) can come with an almost paralyzing sense of guilt and failure. And that’s the trouble. What I wish I’d known in all those years of setting and reaching or not reaching goals is this:
1 – to be patient while I learn
2- goals are not all about achieving, but about progressing
Sometimes I think that if I SEE something in my life and REALIZE that it needs to be changed, that should be enough for me to be able to change it. What I know now is that just because I realize I am doing something wrong doesn’t mean I know HOW to change it and even if I did know how to change it, that doesn’t mean I have trained my mind and my body to conform to my new ideas. Knowing I should eat right and exercise (for example) – even knowing how to exercise and what to eat – doesn’t mean I have changed my habits so that I reach for a carrot instead of a cupcake. And it doesn’t mean that my body won’t fight for more sleep when my mind is telling it to get up and go for a jog instead. I mean, now that I think about it and it’s on paper, it makes complete sense. In my wildest dreams I would never demand such perfection from another person in my life.
My ten-month-old doesn’t walk, but I can tell she wants to badly…she tries and tries to walk, but for now can only take more than a step if we’re holding her hands. Never in a million years would I expect her to walk because I know she wants to. I know she has to train her muscles and her mind as she learns to walk – as she tries and falls. And in the beginning she’ll fall after just one step, and she’ll fall and fall and fall. Then she’ll start being able to take 2 steps before she falls, then three and before we know it, she won’t fall very often at all.
If I wouldn’t demand perfection of her, why would I demand it of myself. To set a goal and expect perfection from the beginning is a recipe for guilt and disappointment. We ought to be patient with ourselves as we LEARN to do the things we know we should do. The things we want to do. Point made? Good. Do it.
And that brings me to my second point – goals aren’t all about achievement…they are about progress. I am a visual learner, so the way I see this in my mind is in circles of color. Let’s use the same example of eating right and exercising, since I’m sure a lot of us have that one in common. Let’s say that in my life right now I exercise zero times in a week (not that that represents the truth…it’s just an example…ahem…). So in my mind each day that I don’t exercise is a blue circle.
Then I make a goal to start exercising, and now we know that just because I set the goal and I know I should do better doesn’t mean I will automatically change those circles, but that I want to try. I want to move in the right direction. So once I’ve set the goal, I exercise on Monday (naturally) and change a blue circle to a red one. Then I miss Tuesday, but instead of feeling guilty for missing a day, I keep it in perspective and exercise for 2 more days in a row, changing two more of those blue circles to red circles.
And if I never exercise again I have still made progress. Sure a lot of my circles are still blue, but I’ve made progress and turned 3 of them red. Of course, my goal is to turn all of them red, but if I am realistic I will be patient and realize that it will take some TIME before I know how to exercise every day. And if I stick at it, then maybe in a few weeks I will have turned more than half of my circles red…
and the next month, maybe two thirds of my circles will be red and maybe after 6 months of practice, I will know how to turn all but one of my circles red.
(most of the time)…
The point is to be patient with ourselves as we progress toward what we want. Progress is what it’s all about!
So the challenge to you is that as you set goals and work toward achieving them, don’t allow yourself to feel ONE OUNCE of guilt for your imperfection. You are learning. Let yourself move in the right direction, let yourself be perfectly imperfect. Expect of yourself what you would expect of your best friend…be as patient with yourself as you would be with a baby learning to walk. I believe in you – you are becoming exactly what you were always meant to be…YOU CAN DO IT!