choices · goals · habits · keep trying · who are we

Goals – trying to create new helpful habits

I have been trying a new experiment in setting goals. It’s eight days in so I am feeling somewhat weary of all the targets that I have given myself and questioning whether this will truly be the beginning of a more productive lifestyle or another doomed attempt to get my bottom up and off the sofa.

Gretchen Rubin, in her brilliant book about habits “Better Than Before – Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives”, talks about how important it is to understand our motivations before we can try to really introduce new behaviour patterns into our lives. This makes total sense to me but has left me with a quandary since I read the book last year – namely that I am a self-identified Obliger. I am rubbish at making the effort, or time, to do things which are solely for my own benefit but I will find a way to gather the proverbial moon on a stick for another person. We Obligers are supposed to harness this personality trait by tying our goals and habits with other people, therefore monopolising on our need to help another and in the process, almost by accident, help ourselves.

This makes total logical sense but what if you are an Obliger but your current goals and aims are in no way related to those of the people who you care about? They are supportive but their lives are just caught up doing other things. Does this mean that I will always be doomed to creating new schemes and goals and then running out of any sense of obligation or momentum and crawling back under the duvet?

Let me explain by demonstrating my current theory. It was the night of the 15th July and I was feeling pretty low. No real reason, just an accumulation of life’s little knocks and too much time spent doing things which were fun at the time but not helpful to my life in general. I was reflecting on how I have been out of work for two years now and even though my mental state is much better, there was little to actually show for the time that had passed. I was always busy yet doing nothing of note. I was burned out and yet also dreading the upcoming week as it was pretty empty of anything.

I may get burned out quickly but I also am not good with too much time spent on my own; I tend to wallow, eat too much food, watch too much television and generally get depressed. So, I decided to try and put into practice all the lessons from all those books and make a plan. I made a list of the ten things that I thought I would like, and reasonably could, achieve over the summer. I then arbitrarily decided that starting on the 16th July 2016 – the next morning – was an auspicious moment and that I would devote two months to my new goals. I decided that a summer of focused activity, the summer 2016 plan, was the answer.  16th July to 16th September would be 9 weeks, or 63 days, with my 39th birthday conveniently in the middle (and yes, I am aware that a lot of my current over-thinking is related to my birthday and the fact that it means I am ever closer to the big four zero).

Next I divided out tasks into weekly and daily chunks and it all seemed very positive and manageable. If, or rather when, I stuck to this plan I would be able to look back on this summer as the one when I got my act together; I would have finished the novel that I have been hacking at on an infrequent basis since November last year; I would have revived my daily yoga practice that made my back and leg aches go away yet I have ignored for the last five months; I would have lost weight through more daily exercise; I would have got on top of my finances; I would have finished reading a few of the large scary looking novels which have sat on the side for years… Well, you get the idea. I went to sleep all energised and positive at a job well done.

Waking up on the morning of the 16th July was a slightly different matter. I managed most of the daily tasks that first day – I had to, it was day one, but some were a bit of a fudge. Well, it was a learning curve and I would improve. Yet as the days have gone on I just feel like I am wading in treacle. If I achieve some of the things, others get ignored. Even on a good day, I am left wondering how I can sustain this and if it is worth it. Everything in my life is ruled by lists. I resent items, even the ones I put on there for fun. I find myself desperately trying to make social arrangements but then hating myself for allowing distractions away from these goals.

These goals have been my intentions for months, years, even. They are all things that I am capable of doing and when I actually do them I find rewarding if not enjoyable. When I try to visualise the version of myself that I want to become they are all there. So why do I find it so impossible to actually live my life in this way and enjoy it? Is it the knowledge that even when I do these things nothing really will have changed and I will be left with no real other ideas on how to make my life work properly? Or is it a simple fear of change? Or am I just really lazy? I guess the only way to know is to keep trying and keep forgiving myself when I don’t quite manage to tick all the boxes that I have created for each day. If nothing else, doing half of the things will be better than none of them and maybe one or two of my goals for the summer will have been achieved.

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