Liz Frencham

A girl and a double bass.

A girl and a double bass.

Fool's Goals

I started out this winter with the purest intentions.

I read, dream-scaped, and questioned. I engaged with as many of the open loops in my life as I could handle. I planned, listed, mind-mapped until I had some goals. I even worked out a series of next actions as a clear path to those golden destinations.

The first month went well. I exercised and meditated daily. I decluttered and tidied and organised. I ate sensibly and as a result lost 3kg. Work goals were a little more elusive, but still I crossed a major project off my list and began in earnest on a bigger one. I felt pretty invincible. Maybe I was finally getting this goal thing?

But then July gusted up like a storm front. I started the month with a weekend of interstate performances involving a series of long exhausting drives and the meditation and exercise was the first to fall away. I began to comfort eat at the first sign of stress- not really for the comfort of food but more for the comfort of habit. Sweet/fatty/rich food = instant gratification. But what always follows is the slow developing guilt, sapping my self esteem, leeching away at my energy.

The projects I engaged were now taking MUCH longer than I had hoped. I started to succumb to a cold/flu but denied it's existence. Instead I pushed and pushed to try to reassert my goals. Social occasions and unexpected commitments pushed me further behind. I began to have trouble sleeping which in turn meant I got started a lot later each day. Less got done, stress increased. I got sicker instead of recovering and by mid month I ended up in bed for most of a week.

I completed the month a physical and emotional mess. I had gained the weight I had lost. I was broke from impulsive spending (not too mention an expensive series of osteopath appointments to put my neck and back in order after stress and tension had played havoc with my posture). To top it off I succumbed to a ridiculous jealous meltdown which resulted in a terrible fight with my husband and a long, sad, scared look at myself in the bedroom mirror.

Back to the present and I find myself impossibly at the end of the first week of August. Do I dust off that golden goal plan to salvage what I can in this final 3 weeks? Or... wait.

Something new is happening.

I'm having the first day off I have had in... well, I don't know how long! I stayed in bed and read my favourite blogs. I lingered over my coffee. I began a review of all that I have learned in my tap dance course, step by step, making sure everything was clear in my mind and my feet before continuing the next lesson. I played my bass just for the love of it, playing through some of the solo arrangements I had almost forgotten. I'm writing this now at a local cafe in front of a roaring fire and I'm marvelling at the fact that my jaw is totally relaxed and floating in my face. Everything seems richer, slower, more appealing. I'm even enjoying the random teenage radio fodder coming over the less than perfect speaker system. I'm.. I'm okay.

What good is being the most organised, super achiever for any amount of time if the cost is my health, my relationship and my self esteem?

Dear Leo B, the only blog post that you ever wrote that made my brow furrow and my jaw clench was the one about letting go of goals. Instead, you suggested we live each day in the present and to listen to our heart about what to do in each moment. I remember my reaction clearly- that's not for me- I have ADHD! I am handicapped, distracted, unfocussed, impulsive. I HAVE to have goals to keep me in line, to keep me on the straight path to success in my life.

But today I say "What straight path?". Who said there's only one right way to live a day?"

Today I think I understand you, Leo. How can I ever develop any self esteem if I can't trust myself to be able to spend a moment well. To be able to choose the who/what/where/why of every day based on my true values and the instincts of my heart. Not to mention choosing what to let go of just as freely.

This is only the start of this idea for me. I have no idea what this will look like, how to incorporate my commitments and long term projects into the idea of being goal free.

Time to go back and re-read that post of yours, Leo.