Sunday, June 05, 2016

Achieving Your Goals...And Why It's Such a Struggle to Get There

With us going to everybody's linking for the weekend again (at least for this week-we'll see if that sticks around but I have high hopes), I think we might as well also do a "GTKY Sunday" like I promised so many moons ago but we haven't done for a couple of months now (though hopefully you're enjoying the influx of articles as we've actually done two a day for over a week!), and so I figured we'd go into something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

Every year, right around when I have my birthday, I start to reevaluate where my life is at, and start jotting down what I want to accomplish in the next year.  It's a fun way to audit your life, especially since I'm born almost exactly six months after New Year's so it's also a good time to take the dust off of my New Year's resolutions and see how they're doing.  However, in plotting this each annum, I'm always struck by a few things, both in the reactions of the people in my life and my own reactions to goals in general.

For starters, you get a really wide variety of people in your life who react either poorly or with a bizarre amount of negativity whenever you say you want to do something differently in your world, particularly when you've left your early twenties.  Up until that point people look at you and think "work in progress" but once your thirties start to hit, people want more consistency in you.  This is one of the major struggles that Millennials, who were pushed back in the work place and thanks to helicopter parents didn't get to find their own identity or struggle early on enough, have to deal with-we are still figuring out our lives at this point because society (and our parents) were more than willing to bail us out when we couldn't get to where we wanted to go right away.  But this is more than just a Millennial struggle as it's something I see in people of ever generation.

For years I sort of prescribed this (using that Psychology degree that I have that also, occasionally, feels a little dusty) as being jealousy or wanting some sort of stasis in our lives.  People don't want their world to change unless they want to change it, and that has become more and more apparent in recent years.  Everyone is super excited when they themselves get a promotion or lose thirty pounds or write a novel, but when someone else does it they don't know how it will affect them.  I see that particularly when it comes to weight.  I have never, ever had someone not have an opinion on me going on a diet.  Whether it be "you don't need to diet" or "here's how you should do it" or "you can't lose too much weight" there's always some piece of advice that comes with the comment, but when you actually do lose the weight (and not just say "I'm going to diet"), it's shocking to see the reactions from people you already know-the minority of people, in fact, are happy for you (I know this being a yo-yo dieter with a serious problem surrounding my food intake), but so many people want to critique.  They'll say "you've lost too much weight" even if you still have love handles or are well in the healthy range for food, or will instantly make some excuse for why they themselves can't lose weight.  Even I do this (I'm not so blind as to not be able to look in the mirror here) when someone else achieves something that I have struggled to accomplish.

Except that struggle is frequently, consistently, more imaginary than I usually am willing to admit, which may be the other reason that people usually want to change the subject or focus on something else when I talk about goal-planning, and that is in order to accomplish a goal, you have to be very introspective to your life.  It's very easy to complain about your life and why you don't "have the time" to do something, but that is one of those cliches that doesn't hold water as much as we allow it.  There are things in your life you know you shouldn't do, and I'm not talking about smoking.  I'm talking about that toxic friendship you never end because it would be too painful or the relative you are always bailing out even though it means you don't get to go on a vacation or the coworker you never push back on when they shovel their work onto your plate because you don't want to be disagreeable or the money you never seem to have for a down-payment because you're always eating out even though you know you shouldn't.  Those things take hours, money, effort, resources that you could invest somewhere else, but it's easier to simply blame a postponed or prolonged goal on a lack of time or availability or even wont.

The problem there is that it's not really the solution.  When I speak to people about their goals (which is a subject I love to bring up), what they're describing to me and why they aren't getting it done is almost never entirely correct.  There's always more to the story as to why you don't get something done, particularly if you genuinely want it and it's not just something you are wishing on a star would land in front of you.  Frequently, though, it's not a lack of ability or a lack of resources, but a lack of effort.

I bring up the weight example because in many ways it's my own personal cross.  I used to be very skinny, to the point where I needed to gain weight, and when that disappeared I didn't really know how to react.  To this day there are moments where I look in the mirror and am floored by the person that is in front of me-when I imagine myself in my mind I almost always am thinner than reality.  But the problem with this isn't that I don't want to lose the weight, or that I don't need to do so (my doctor will vouch for that), but that I don't put in the effort.  I don't have a schedule so busy that I can't monitor my food or exercise, just like how I don't have a truly inoperable case of writer's block that's stopping me from finishing a novel or an inability that causes me to not be able to wisely save money.  These are just crutches I've invented because they're something to cling toward when I continually don't accomplish these goals.

And I suspect, when you see someone actually break through and accomplish something, you are forced to deal with that just like me, which is why we have animosity toward people who lose weight or achieve success through hard work.  It's not always jealousy-occasionally it's because it shines a mirror onto our own selves we try hard to disguise.  It's one that I have to deal with and remind myself of every time I start a new goal and a week later I feel myself slipping-if it was easy, I'd have already done it.  Being organized and trying to create lists and timelines are how I accomplish my goals and some people can't handle that structure, but what is critical and impossible to skip out on is that you have to be introspective as to why you haven't done something you have struggled to attain, because without looking at the why you'll never be able to get past your hurdle.  If you don't know what's standing in your way, how are you supposed to overcome it?  You also have to be very honest, and question the first excuse that comes up when you ask yourself why you haven't done something, because if it's one you've used for a while (particularly if it's one that's reliant on other people or circumstances beyond your control) it's either one you need to get over or one you need to acknowledge is, truly, an excuse and not a reason.  Nearly every person in my life when I talk about goal-achieving and a goal they're struggling with, including myself, I desperately want to point out that the excuse for why it's not happening is partially because they aren't willing to bend and perhaps introspect a behavior they either don't realize they're doing or won't admit they have to change in order to move forward, because it's one they clearly don't want to alter.  It's hard, but make no doubt about it-those pangs of jealousy when someone nabs something you really want for yourself, part of that is of your own making.  That may be harsh, but once you acknowledge that it's easier to move forward and actually accomplish.

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