Giving Up on Goals

Giving Up on Goals

CW: Some brief weight loss talk.

I know friends, the title is alarming. Giving up on goals? But Jordan, you just posted your 2017 action plan! It’s not even the end of January! Are you giving up on goals you set so soon?

It’s okay, chill. I’m still forging ahead with my plans, if on an unexciting slow and steady pace. But while most of us are still basking in the glow of January and new beginnings and a world of potential, I want to put it out there now: giving up on goals is okay.

The cycle is pretty familiar to most of us now, either personally or through the 10 million think pieces that come out around this time of year on how to set good goals and stick to them. Those are great, and if you are one of the many who has problems making and pursuing reasonable, actionable goals, I encourage you to read some of them! I’m personally making my way through this video course on How to Stop Procrastinating, which will probably help a lot of you with the “why” behind why you give up.

Now with all that out of the way, this isn’t a “yeah it’s cool to let go of all your hopes and dreams and never try anything!” feel good article. If that’s one side of the spectrum and “go hard or go home!” is the other, then this is somewhere in the “you’re human, be aware of your limits and weaknesses so you can do better” area.

Giving up on your goals is okay… IF you learn from it, and try again.

For me at least, life gets pretty miserable if I don’t push myself. I don’t have dreams just because that’s the cool new thing to do, I have dreams because they’re things I want that make me happy. Even the pursuit of them sometimes makes me happy, though it’s hard and scary – those things aren’t mutually exclusive. But even knowing all that, I have plenty of days where I just cannot. I’m tired, or it takes too much brainpower, or my lack of inertia keeps me standing still. Or sometimes worse, I do take steps to pursue my goal, but then I fail one step and decide everything is terrible and impossible and why even try.

But all those states are temporary, and overcome faster or slower depending on what I’m pursuing and why. If I’m trying to finish that goddamn book, it’s easy to not sit down and do the work because my day job, the sheer time and effort it takes to take care of myself as a healthy human, playing with my dog, watching TV, whatever gets in the way. But I want to write the book for the intrinsic value of telling the story (and at this point, being DONE with telling the story), so if I focus on that, on the actual happiness it brings me to write and see it inch closer to completion, it’s a goal I can pursue.

Once upon a time I was also a person with the goal to “lose weight.” Essentially by whatever means necessary, because I was unhappy and I thought being skinnier would make me happy. The pursuit of that goal was miserable, how I treated my body and health in pursuit of that goal was miserable, and my failure was miserable, because I put “happiness” as an end state to only be had when the goal was reached, not something I felt at any point along the way.

If you’re pursuing a goal that feels anything like that, yeah, that’s maybe a goal worth giving up on.

I’m not a perfect goal-setter. I still decide to do stuff with no action plan (I’m looking at you, Japanese driver’s license study guide). But from having bad goals, deciding to stop banging my head against the wall in pursuit of them, and examining why I thought certain things were or weren’t worth pursuing in the first place, I’ve learned a lot about how to achieve actual success and actual happiness. I’ve finished considerably more writing of better quality (though lbr the bar was low) by writing steadily, every day, on a specific project that had a brainstorming and outlining process that worked for me than I did churning out short stories right before the deadline in college. I gave up weight loss as an end goal, worked through some shit and am still working through some shit regarding self-image, and am in a place where I eat healthy and exercise because it genuinely makes me feel good (endorphins man, they’re great).

So if you went a little overboard and have to call it quits, that’s okay. Just ask yourself why, and how you can do better.

And also, don’t wait until next January. Come on, do your future self a favor and if it’s really worthwhile, get started now.

 

Productivity Tips for Functional Adulthood

A todo list, aka one of those 'duh' productivity tips

I have a love-hate with the plethora of productivity tips floating around the internet. They tend to fall into the realms of “duh,” “that seems a little silly” and “that’s excessive.” Some of them work for me of course, and though I don’t have the patience to start or stamina to keep up something like a bullet journal, I do like a good, categorized to-do list and have been known to bust out a Pomodoro timer when I’m really having trouble buckling down.

Still, most of these tips seem to make the assumption that we are all at some kind of baseline. A baseline that involves “not having a sink full of dirty dishes” or “not being out of food” or “definitely having the energy to do literally anything else after one load of laundry.” I have days that are productive as hell… that literally just involve taking care of my basic life needs. But dammit, I want a cookie for that. And more importantly, I want some of those beloved productivity tips to get me to do that kind of stuff consistently.

I think I sussed out a few, though. For those of you, like me, who are in a decent mental and emotional health space but just struggle sometimes to be assed, allow me to recommend the following productivity tips just for you:

1. Get out of bed on time.

Literally everything else after this will be easier, if you start off right. Not to mention the longer you lie around, the exponentially harder it gets to get up.

2. Just wash one dish. Just one. That’s it. You can do one dish.

Also try to forget that you are doing this to trick yourself into thinking “that wasn’t so bad” then doing one more dish until the sink is empty. And if you don’t trick yourself, and you just wash one dish, congratulations, you have one more clean dish than you had before.

3. Don’t buy things that you think will make doing the things you don’t want to do easier.

That planner won’t help. Or those fancy shelves. Or that special floor cleaner, or whatever else is supposed to make the thing you already aren’t doing with the tools you already have easier. All it will do is create more junk to take care of with the energy you don’t have.

4. Get rid of things you have to do, so you just don’t have to do them anymore.

Sell, donate, or throw away stuff. Boom, fewer things to clean and store and organize. Give up hobbies that you don’t really like or consistently do. Quit commitments that aren’t that necessary, especially ones that are self-imposed because you feel like you should or it’s expected but if you think about it nobody else really cares or is relying on you. Marie Kondo was big recently for a good reason. I find her method really straightforward and applicable to physical, mental, and emotional “things.”

5. Have a routine so that the doing of stuff requires less conscious thought, therefore less energy.

Tuesday after work on the way home is grocery day. Sunday is pack lunch for the week day. 30 minutes before you leave for work is wash the dishes in the sink time. If it’s just a thing that you do without thinking, then you save all sorts of mental energy better used elsewhere.

Good luck, fellow adults. Sometimes you do deserve a trophy for getting through the day.