A few years ago, I had set a simple enough goal to pursue my photography interests. The goal included taking lessons, reading books, go on shooting tours etc. It started off pretty well in the form of me dropping a few grand on the latest camera and its accessories. I enrolled in a class and even joined a local photographers club to get some tips and also gain inspiration from their interests. But, the excitement didn’t last long. The list of excuses was long. The class was on a day that clashed with a party, the weather was too cold to venture out with a camera, the camera equipment itself was too heavy to lug around, so on and so forth! I failed. The equipment is still a reminder of a goal unfulfilled.
People set goals all the time but what is the driving force behind that need. We set goals to make our lives more positive, fruitful and/or dynamic. Shedding a few pounds, quitting that stubborn smoking habit, increasing the bank balance, or learning a new language might have been a goal on your list, but how successful were you? People often find it difficult to stick to their goals and give up somewhere along the way, just like I did.
So, I had to sit back and think.
Where did I go wrong?
Was it a bad goal to begin with?
My goal was not wrong but my approach was wrong.
I set a destination without creating a roadmap on how to get there. I didn’t give myself the right tools to help me get there. I was depending on my strong willpower and my ability to rationally process and stay away from temptations. That was not helping. I was fighting every day against something very innate. My mind was constantly fighting for me and it was getting so exhausting that I had to quit. Some researchers reveal that we all get Decision Fatigue – our brain gets tired after deciding all day. In the case of goals and resolutions, the decision to do or not to something constantly can be daunting. So, in the end, not only was I dejected that I quit, I also felt miserable for spending all that money on my goal.
Why did I fail?
I realized I was being insensitive to who I was. I did not take into account some of my responsibilities, obligations, and restrictions that would keep me from fulfilling my goal. I don’t live in Utopia. I needed to be more pragmatic and compassionate towards myself. It was important to set goals within the parameters of my everyday life. My goal cannot be the overarching principle by which I will be governed for the rest of my life. I should have put some more thought into setting that goal.
So, I changed the way I went about setting goals.
Last year, my goal was simple but nevertheless I was risking failure until I reevaluated and modified the goal to be successful. My goal was simply to make more of an effort to talk to some long forgotten friends. In this digital age, it is easy to rely on canned responses and lose that personal touch. I wanted to make an effort to reconnect with people at a personal level. The small step I took was to call people on their birthdays to wish them as opposed to wishing them via a text message. It was not so simple! The good calls were easy. Many of my aunts, cousins were happy to hear my voice and that I remembered their birthdays. It made my heart feel good. I gained more from those conversations.
But it wasn’t all that easy. The difficulty was calling people I had ignored or forgotten over the years. It felt acerbic to call them out of the blue and I struggled to build the courage to dial some numbers. I was failing. I started to make excuses to not call certain people.
So I paused and looked at my goal again.
Ultimately what do I want to gain from this exercise? I wanted to feel good after personally conversing with long lost friends and family. So why put myself through the agony of talking to people I don’t want to?
I needed to be pragmatic and compassionate with myself. So I modified my goal, to calling long lost friends but not everyone on my contact list! I had to relieve myself of the stress of having to talk to people I didn’t want to. After all my goal was to stay connected with people I love. By not being too stringent and by modifying my goal, I was able to make it more achievable.
This year I added another goal to my basket. This is not an original thought but borrowed from a conversation with a friend, who talked about bursting closets in her house and the resolve to stop buying new clothes. It was a very novel idea. I am married to a shopaholic man and I am no less! At a time when our kids are getting closer to leaving home for college and we think about downsizing, we seem unable to stop ourselves from hoarding. Especially now that you can lounge in your PJs on a couch and order the world with just a click of a mouse. So, I tested the waters by suggesting an idea to abstain from personal shopping for this entire year with the husband and surprise, surprise – he concurred!. It’s been over a month now and we haven’t shopped for any personal item so far, no clothes, no bags, no shoes and no accessories.
It has not been easy. We do get a lot of catalogs with beautiful clothes on perfect people and then there is that special Uggs that I always wanted that just went on sale and that green colored skirt that was missing from my wardrobe and so on. I just breathe. Draw in my patience and ask if I really need it and if I have something else I could manage with instead. So far the answer has always been yes, so it wasn’t that difficult to walk away. We also help each other by making sure we don’t go weak. We do that by shaming the other for being so weak and asking for bragging rights for the rest of the year!
I am not sure if we can keep it up all year but that’s where my pragmatism and compassion will come into play. I will just reevaluate and tweak my goal. The desired outcome here is not about putting a stop to all spending but to stop being a frivolous spender and to really think before wasting all that money; but if there is something I really need, I will let myself have it!
To sum it up –
As you embark on another new year, take stock of the goals you have set. Start by looking back at your past successes and failures. Set a goal that matters to you, and will make you love yourself more. Don’t be so harsh on yourself that you get exhausted fighting for yourself. Make a roadmap that will lead you to the finish line. This could be the smallest step you take for yourself but the biggest that could change your life. So, tiptoe if you must, but go ahead and take that step.
Remember to be compassionate, forgiving and considerate!