Yesterday, I finished a draft of a book. The project had a tight deadline and required my full concentration. Finishing was a big deal––a cause for true celebration. So, what happened the minute I reached my goal? My mind leapt to all the other things, you know, all those things I hadn’t been doing because I’d been concentrating on the book.
Fortunately, I caught myself in the middle of my “yes, but” thinking, and I remembered to stop, to celebrate what I HAD done, rather than focusing on all that I hadn’t finished. I don’t always catch myself, though.
In fact, I do this kind of bait and switch thing all the time. Here’s how it goes.
- I set a goal for my day.
- Sometimes, the goal is reasonable and I reach it.
- If I do reach my goal, total amnesia sets in about the agreement I made with myself.
- As I close my eyes to go to sleep, I scold myself for the laundry list of other things that are still undone.
The trouble is there are ALWAYS more things to do. Emails are always arriving in your inbox. Your laundry is being worn and becoming dirty. Your body is burning up the calories from your last meal and soon it will be time to shop for groceries and cook again. Don’t get me started on the dishes. Your dog is splashing around in mud puddles and tracking dirt into the house and your cat is shedding. Dust-bunnies are gathering. One assignment is done, and the next shows up.
It’s kind of funny––the way we demand the impossible of ourselves––but it’s also not funny at all. Because what’s really going on here is that we’re breaking trust with ourselves. We’re wearing down that strong inner muscle that allows us to achieve goals in the first place. Think about how it would work with a child. We ask the child to make their bed, and then when they proudly present their neatly-made bed, we point out their mid-process art project strewn across the desk. “Why didn’t you clean those up?” Because they were busy making the bed!
How motivated is that child going to be next time we ask them to make their bed?
We break trust with ourselves when we set one goal and score ourselves on another.
Too much broken trust, and I feel lackluster, ho-hum, meh. I can’t drum up the energy to reach for another goal. Of course I can’t. I’ve taught myself there will be no joy in the achieving of that goal. All there will be is more work. To me, that sounds like a recipe for a meaningless trudge through life.
So, today, I’m thinking about my trust-muscle, and how to develop it. How can I celebrate what has been done? How can I learn with my heart (not just my head) that when I’m doing one thing, that means I’m not doing any of the others? And how can I create systems that help me adjust and rebalance quickly after I’ve blocked out the world to reach for a really important goal?
One way I do this is to think about the six main areas of my life: core, commitment, creativity, connection, cultivation and casting dreams. I wrote about them a while back, and will probably write about them more soon. For now, maybe I’ll figure out a way to celebrate by investing time and attention in one or two of the areas that hasn’t been tended for a while. Maybe I can spend some time with a friend (connection) and make something just for the fun of it (creativity). Yep, that sounds like an excellent way to celebrate.
How about you? Have you baited and switched on yourself recently? What might you do to re-build some inner trust?