Goal Attainment on Our Own Terms

I watched an interesting Ted Talk today by Derek Sivers. He shares that research shows that when we tell others about our goals the positive reinforcement and encouragement we receive from others tricks our minds into believing that the task is already complete. That surge of endorphins from hearing a friend’s encouragement leads us to feel as if our work is almost done and therefore to a decline in encouragement to proceed We have already reached our goal and therefore we do not take the necessary small steps required to assure its final accomplishment. I also read an excerpt on the Butterfly effect and how seemingly small occurrences in chaos theory account for incredible shifts in weather, environment, goal attainment. 

This has me thinking about my own goals and what I personally have been delaying. What tasks am I feeling confident about having done when in reality I have barely begun the process? One is a potential opportunity of publishing two books. When I was originally offered the opportunity to submit my work to be considered for publication I immediately shared the news with my family – I was just so excited! And being previously unaware of this research I shared far and wide this wonderful progress I was making toward my goals. Now as I reflect upon it I realize, I shared the news, felt the joy, and celebrated as if the offer were the end and not the beginning of a new journey. And since then I have procrastinated. I have submitted one document but not followed up on it. I have not even finished the revisions required to submit my second piece – these are not steps taken if one is serious about the accomplishment of their goals. 

I can see in my own life that the research holds – sharing the goals, I tricked my brain into thinking these steps were already complete when in all honesty they had only just begun. And again I’m sharing it not with you as a celebration but as a warning, if there is some goal you are holding in your heart, hold it a little closer to your chest and see if perhaps that illusion of having more work to do rather than the brief fulfillment of feeling celebrated and affirmed, doesn’t help you to make real progress toward your goal.

The lesson being, from my perspective, that every goal and dream you hold in your heart you were put here to attain. It was placed in your heart and soul for a reason, there is something you were meant to do with it. So don’t short change yourself, don’t get in your own way, keep you focus on your work and not on the accolades. Be attentive to your next step, your next goal. Instead of seeing the mountaintop far away and stopping long before you get there, take one next step, it’s the only way to move forward. While the steps are small, many small steps can lead to great progress. These little accomplishments build toward something great – a butterfly effect of accomplishment, goal attainment, and personal satisfaction. 

In the end it is personal pride and satisfaction we are after. Pride in one’s work, pride in the progress we have made. These are things we can celebrate and be proud of ourselves for and that is the accomplishment we celebrate. Our goals should not be for external validation, prizes, accolades. For while those things feel nice they are external validation and if we aren’t truly proud of ourselves, or of our work, or of how we got to wherever it is we are going – we are the ones who will know. We are the ones who will have to live with whatever corners have been cut or small indiscretions made in order to attain that applause. Therefore the work is the prize.

The real celebration will not be on a stage, the striving is the goal, the path and the journey we take is its own reward. Our accomplishments are not about trophies, which as Simone Biles will tell you, “is a silly goal.” Our goal should always be to show up as our best. To do our personal best and to keep striving to improve. Because in the end you cannot control if someone else is faster, stronger, smarter, etc. but you can control how often you practice, what you put in to your practice, and how you show up each day. Success is incremental and when we look inside ourselves we find what is truly important – personal satisfaction and pride in the work that we are doing and that feels far better than any prize. Don’t you agree?

Healthy Routines: Honoring Yourself First

Today I took a bath and had a long call with my grandmother. I drank tea and a breakfast smoothie because when I feel physically good, I have more energy to be kind to others and myself. When I punish myself and do not tend to my needs the cycle of negativity keeps flowing and sometimes gains strength until there is that breakdown, an emotional cloudburst of activity and moments I regret or am embarrassed by, more sadness, more darkness to experience and process. But then closeness, more connection and deeper love and trust. 

Oh the dance of relationships and existing goes on and on and inside all of our emotions are raging. Look at this, feel this, it’s like when I am soaked in the luxury of sustained joy and the universe reaches out – all of these long dormant relationships suddenly seek to rekindle, the labor of boundaries becomes real and necessary. 

When I give more than I am ready to give I feel the strain, at first it’s slight a twinge, I will stop but only after this NEXT time. I abandon myself and am left feeling raw, ravaged, not because someone else dared to ask me for help, but because I chose them over me. I made them the focus and not myself. I gave away my power, not because I wanted to but because I wanted them to like me. Their liking me was more important that my liking me. I gave in because I wanted to please them, I wanted them to be happy and in doing so I made their happiness the priority and mine secondary. I abandoned myself. I gave away my torch, my power, my light to someone else who unapologetically and likely unaware of my circumstances accepted my generosity because I encouraged them to, I gave them permission and then behaved as if it were no big deal while inside I am raging. I have inconvenienced my own family, my own priorities in order to please someone else. Made their life easier and mine more difficult, why? Why did I do this? In order to be liked. In order to fill some void in myself externally that needs to be filled internally. 

And that is the deeper lesson, that finding my value needs to come from internal reflection and self-love. I cannot seek my self-worth in the approval of others for then I will be like a well in the desert – poured into but never satiated. Always thirsty for more while never grateful for what I have. And I don’t want to live like that. I want to be able to see my own intrinsic value. To look at myself in the mirror and see myself the way I see my dearest friends. With love, appreciation, and highest regard. And that comes from seeing myself the way I see those I love – it comes from self-work, and care. It comes from attention to my own needs first and caring for my inner child as I would any other little girl who is in need. And caring for myself, loving myself is where my value and strength lie. 

My value does not exist in the approval of others – which is fleeting and inconsistent. My value does not exist in service to others or in what I am able or willing to give away. My value exists because I exist. My value is ethereal and human. My value is intrinsic and unchanging – it is real, and it is unearned. It cannot be taken away or diminished. My value – and yours – is limitless, boundless, and free. I am working to celebrate this and make this the focus because when I am full from the inside, I am full enough to overflow. I am so deeply nourished and cared for that I have enough to share, more to give. And that is when I am ready to give to others. That is what I am able to give to others without resentment or feeling jealous that I don’t have what I am giving. I give what is extra, I give what I do not need, I give the excess that I cannot possibly absorb or use. I give from abundance and grace – I do not take the food from my mouth to give to another. I take the food from my overflowing table and share that. I welcome friends because I have so much. I do not starve myself or my family to feed yours because if I am starving I have nothing to share. 

And this is biblical – remove the plank from your own eye before removing the splinter from someone else’s – or in airplane jargon – affix your own mask before doing so for another passenger. We cannot serve others if we are already depleted. We cannot complete the race if we do not rest or stop for water. Pressing on through pain and exhaustion is not a mark of heroism. Martyrdom is no a gift it is an attempt to shame others into giving more than they are able because you do not have boundaries. And that is not ok. That is not to be celebrated. Give yourself the gift of self-love, care, and nourishment. Tend to your own wounds before attempting to operate on someone else. Let your own well be filled, and share with others the sweet water of life that you no longer need because you are refreshed and satiated. Do not take from yourself and give to others because that is false, that is giving from resentment or because you value the approval of others more than you care for yourself. Love yourself first, love your family first, and then give from that abundance. Rejoice in giving freely and without reservation or strings attached. Leave the gifts on the table with no thought of getting something back or of your gift being appreciated, accepted, or taken. We give the gift and pull our hands back and hope that it is received with the same intention it was given – freely and with love. Love that has no expectations because we have enough to share.