I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that goals can have such a motivating, yet disempowering effect on my life and why is it that I can so easily turn what I love into an obligation, the moment I set a definite goal around it.
I’ve been talking about this with many people over the past few weeks and have received some great ideas, insights, and reflections. I want to share with you some of the things I’ve been thinking about.
It is ok to choose to change our minds, redefine, restructure, postpone, or even quit completely at any time. We don’t have to place these things under the umbrella definition of failure. We can instead take back our power and choose them.
Constant conscious choice.
Each moment we are choosing. When we choose to do or not do something it is not because we have to or because someone or something is making us, it is because we are choosing to do or not do it. If we recognize that we are choosing our action or inaction in each moment we can see that the “have tos” and “shoulds” are really invented concepts, a giving away of our power, and an escape from taking ownership of our lives.
We can also choose a different attitude, a different way of being. A different way of looking at our choices. When we choose to procrastinate or to eat a lot of chocolate or to not go to bed early or to not do any of the many things on our to do list that will lead us to completing a goal (not that I do any of these things, of course), we can acknowledge that we are making a choice and accept it instead of being frustrated. We can choose to empower each choice in each moment.
Cultivate it. Let it in. This is closely related to flexibility and choice. Instead of fighting against our human needs such as sleep, exercise, love, and connection, we can allow ourselves the option of choosing what we need in each moment. We can have some compassion for the fact that we are human. We can hold our choices with love. We can cultivate a little more of that love for the choices that others make, and we can let others do the same for us. Compassion eliminates the have tos and instead gives us permission to be who we are and need what we need.
More of it. Taking away rigid structure and adding some flexibility. Taking back personal power, and empowering each choice. Having some compassion for self and others. All of these things are impossible without trust. Trust in ourselves, trust in others, and trust in the journey. Trusting our choices and trusting that voice that tells us what we need makes room for a whole lot more flexibility and a whole lot less have tos.
Let it be.
Not everything can be understood and explained. There is no right or wrong way to do goals, or life (as I so hoped there was so I could figure it out and do it all perfectly). What I’m learning instead is that sometimes trying to figure it out is the problem. Sometimes exactly what we need is to not know the answer. Sometimes what we need is to not even know what it is that we want to know.
I’m learning that letting go of my desire to understand, control and predict my life, actions, time, and the future requires a lot of trust. And that the space that is created when I do is amazing. So I’m going to stop trying to figure it all out…at least some of the time. Breathe a little more deeply a little more often. Let it be.
Where does all of this leave me?
There is immense value for me in each of the above. Each of the conversations I have had with people over the past few weeks has chipped away at the lens through which I see goals, and more broadly, life. I’ve realized the way things are may not be. They may simply be the way I see them. I’ve found some flexibility and choice, more trust and compassion, and an openness that I was not previously in touch with.
Although I wish I could report that the above are the solutions to the problem with goals, I cannot. Not because the above are not solutions. But precisely because they are just that: solutions. Solutions only work if there is a problem to be fixed. And I no longer choose to label what I have been struggling with as a problem to be fixed.
Goals are not a problem to be fixed.
Life is not a problem to be fixed.
Through all of my conversations with friends, family, and colleagues one idea keeps returning. An idea that encapsulates something bigger; something mysterious; something incapable of being understood, fixed, or controlled.
The seed was planted a couple of weeks ago when I was out in Victoria. And the idea has returned twice more since then, in different conversations, with different people. In fact it came up in three separate conversation with three people who inspire me, who have lived and are living great lives each day, and who I am so grateful to have in my life as mentors.
The idea is this: trees.
I have been thinking a lot about trees. I've always liked trees. I used to sit outside at my parents’ farm and draw trees when I was younger. I loved having dinners in the field during harvest under the big oak tree at the top of the hill on the home quarter. On my trip to Africa two years ago, out of all of the amazing things I saw, some of the most beautiful were the trees. And there is really nothing better than climbing a tree, or hanging out under a tree with a good book, a drawing pad, or an ipod filled with songs.
I have been trying to understand what it all means, why trees have come up repeatedly in my conversations about goals, and what I can take away from it all. And just this morning I realized I’m doing it again – trying to figure it all out.
I don't really want to understand trees. Trees are that something big. That something mysterious. That something incapable of being understood, fixed, or controlled.
So instead I've decided to write a poem. A tribute to trees.
A Tribute to Trees
by Danielle Rondeau
Grounded and billowing in the wind.
Taking a stand for time.
Weathered and worn, not weary; withstanding life's storms.
Solid, and filled with space.
Deep rooted and wild.
Stretching upward, outward, and deep within.
Source of Life. Air. Shelter. Beauty. Power.
Growing, renewing, and changing.
Swirling experiences ring upon ring.
Telling a story with wisdom and grace.
Strength. Peaceful sage.
Whispering and creaking; leaves rustling in the wind.
Homely and shaded yet open and free.
Growing, reaching, twisting, inviting.
Enveloping and encapsulating each moment.
Connected and present yet distant and aloof.
Wonder filled darkness.
Untamed creativity and passion.
Tall, bent, fallen, and spikey.
Beacon of inspiration, of hope.
Rough, tough, and rooted.
Majestic and musical.