Knowing When to Compromise Goals

I’m a well-established goal-oriented person. I basically construct my whole schedule and life around a series of smaller goals, and then I stick to those goals week in, week out, to keep my life on track. And for the last long while. that has really served me well.

Until this semester. Right now, with all the different demands on my time, I just haven’t been able to keep up with everything I’ve wanted to do. I know that for some people, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to just jettison some of the different things they have going on, but for me, it’s been a real struggle. I’m a completionist at heart. I like to finish what I start, and I like to meet the goals I set for myself.

However, when all those different goals are just getting to the point that I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ve realized there comes a time when I have to just decide to let some of them go and (more importantly) not beat myself up about it. I think somehow I have it in my head that if I stop doing all of these things for even a little bit, that I’ll stop doing them forever.

Part of this, no doubt, is due to flossing. Hear me out. Each time I go to the dentist, I leave determined to Do Better. To floss every day. To brush my teeth thoroughly. And as long as I stick to that “do it every day” goal, then I’m fine. But I know myself, and I know that as soon as I start skipping a day here and a day there, that it won’t be too long until I’m skipping a week or two, and then I’ll mostly just give up. It’s the same thing about me and eating sensibly. As long as I stick to a routine, I’m fine. Blow the routine? Things go downhill fast.

Yesterday I was trying to come to terms with how I was going to stay on top of everything I still had to do, and it occurred to me: I could just not do some of those things. I know this sounds like a really basic concept, but it was a big leap for me, folks. I have a goal to read a book every week, and I’m behind by about two books. What would happen if I just . . . didn’t meet that goal for the next two months? Would the world fall apart? Would I stop reading altogether?

How about writing? I go for 1,000 words every day but Sunday. What would happen if I cut back on that for two months? Would I stop writing, never to start again?

The answer to both of those questions is a definite no. I love reading. I love writing. But not finishing a book a week isn’t going to screw me up for the next ever. Literally no one will notice but me. Not writing as much? I’ve got DON’T GO TO SLEEP already turned into my editor. I don’t have any commitments for any finished pieces coming out beyond that. Yes, I like my current project, and I’ll still work on it to keep my fingers warmed up, but what would happen if I slowed down and went easy on myself for a while?

I’d probably have time to get the other things done that I have going on. The class I’m teaching. Helping Tomas apply for colleges. Renovating the kitchen. Getting the Makerspace set up at work. All these big things that have all converged on this short window of one semester. Get through the semester, and then things suddenly start to open up.

Yes, knowing me, it’s important that I do a hard reset after the semester, because I genuinely like writing and reading and doing all these goals. They give me a great sense of accomplishment. But for now, I need to have confidence that I can let some of them slide for a bit so I can focus on the other more immediate demands.

And keep my sanity. Always that.

So anyway. I don’t know how much reading and writing I’ll be getting done. I’m still going to work on both each day, but perhaps for a set amount of time, or just . . . not pay attention to how long I’ve been at them. And once mid-December rolls around and the class finishes and my kitchen is (please please please) complete, then I can worry about picking up those goals again then.

It’s all going to work out.


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