In the marketing material that I purchased recently, the creator quoted a study done at a business college at a major university. Of the graduates, 3% had written down their goals, 13% had stated their goals but didn’t write them, and the rest of the graduating class didn’t have any clear direction for post-graduation. When they were interviewed years later, the 13% group was making twice as much as the ones that had no immediate goals, and the 3% group were making ten times as much as the 13% group. Now, we’ve all been around long enough to know to take statistics at face value. It does offer some insight, and if you’re a life coach or business coach or athletic coach, sure, these results would fuel what you encourage your clients to do, which is to set goals.
In reading business material, they state over and over that in order for a business venture to be successful, there must by an overarching goal, then other targets broken down to quarterly, monthly, weekly, and even daily goals. Those of you who have been on a weight loss program or exercise program, you know that having a goal is important. If you want to run in a 10K, then the daily goal of completing the training schedule is critical. Even in Special Education (where I’ve spent the last 19 years), we have goals for our students, written behaviorally, and often include objectives so we know what will lead to meeting the goal. Once a year at the meeting with the teachers, student, and parents, we review the goals and write new ones. (I’ll refrain from any opinion here regarding writing IEP’s, though it is difficult . . .) For the last two years, I have written out both personal and professional goals. Many of them I have met, and others are carried over to this year. Some were more ‘pie in the sky’ dreams, and so I’ve dropped them from my large sketch pad where I’ve divided my life into sections.
If you’ve ever made a goal, even one as simple as to give up drinking soda for a day, then you can relate to how it usually makes us feel. We stress and strive and work and sweat, believing we will be rewarded in the future for all of our efforts. So many people then go a step further and attach an emotion to the outcome. “I’ll be happy when I lose 10 pounds.” “I’ll be so relaxed when I go on vacation.” “I’ll be ‘good’ once I get married.” “If I could just get that promotion, then I’ll be fine.” What this leads us to do is be miserable the whole way towards the goal, and then have a brief moment of sunlight, of “Ahhh . . . I knew I could do it.” And a few moments later, we’re on to the next goal, and back in the state of stress and strive. After years of this kind of living, we wonder why our bodies give out, and when, if we reach retirement, we’re too exhausted or too bored to enjoy it.
The people who I’m giving free yoga sessions to, I suggest, “Just stepping onto the mat is the pose. There is no perfect pose, everything is the road, not the destination. There is no posture that is stagnant or still. With every breath there is a relaxing, a softening, a giving in to gravity, and perhaps moving a millimeter deeper into the pose, but realizing that it isn’t about getting anywhere.” And that is the crux of our misery. There is a belief that we have to get somewhere, have to get something done, have to check things off our list. Why? So that we can be happy 🙂 Don’t misread this and think that I believe we should all just be blobs oozing and meshing into and over things. Certainly not. But what I want to offer is an alternative for your New Year’s Resolutions (see my blog written about a month ago), how you go about your day, but most importantly, your creativity.
Last year, I was striving for the transformation hinted at through the yoga teacher training program in which I was enrolled. About October, I started counting how many more Fridays were left, how I was going to get in all my observations before the end of the year, and then once I had graduated from the program, I would have so much time to devote to other pursuits, or, of all things, ‘to just hang out’. In the past, my expectations have gotten me into trouble, and this time was no different. Instead of ‘all kinds of free time’, I found myself in a funk. I woke up grumpy, spent the day angry for no apparent reason, was tired and frustrated with everyone and everything. After several weeks of this, I decided that it was enough. I had reached my ‘goal’ of completing the program, and now I was supposed to be ‘happy’. Me, a studious student of yoga, had fallen back into the trap of the ego. Why? I had made a goal, not an intention.
The past three days I’ve gone back to the beginning of my practice. Waking up early, I’ve done pranayama followed by a seated mediation. I’ve gone to bed with the intention of a good night’s rest, and woken up with the intention of a day filled with completing tasks in an easeful manner. I’ve attended a couple of classes at the studio where I’m reminded of the stilling of the fluctuations of my mind when I engage whole-heartedly in asana. And with that reminder, I was able to take my practice off the mat and into my life, where it really counts. There were still meetings to attend, lessons to teach, errands to run, and people to contact, but it was done with intention, not a to-do list or a goal of accomplishing the task. What’s the difference? Here is the billion-dollar answer: peace, ease, and harmony. Goal-orientated tasks are all about ‘getting it done’. And sometimes we need that ‘attitude’ to complete something. But, check it out for yourself, when we do it this way, we get the peace, ease, and harmony only at the end, not all along the way. And this brings me to creating.
After my third book was delivered and I began to fill the pre-publishing orders, in the back of my mind was the thought of when was I going to begin writing manuscript #5. If #4 was printed in March, then #5 had to be printed by June. A goal. A self-imposed timeline. I began to write, the story was there, the words flowing onto the paper, but I found myself too tired at night to write and oftentimes too busy during the day to pull out the spiral. I had done something I swore I never would. I made my joy, my creativity, something I HAD to do. It was awful. I began to doubt my writing ability, wondered if it made any difference, and my ego, ever at the ready, created one excuse after another to let day after day go by without much progress-joy-filled or otherwise-done on manuscript #5.
The funk had a firm hold, but I was miserable. I noticed, and I went back to what I know is true because I did the experiments. If I buy into the stories of the mind, set goals, then feel bad when I don’t meet them, it feeds the feelings that keep me stuck. Instead, letting go of the goal of sitting down every day and writing, I went back to intention. “Today, I intend to spend a good length of time with this story. I want Carli and Ethan back at the lodge, the poachers arrested, and to complete the reunion with Darla.” Will I get it all done? I have no idea. Will I feel horrible if I go to bed tonight and I didn’t get as far as I intended? No. Why? Because it is an intention, one in which I can marinate in the joy this creativity offers me, rather than view it as a pass/fail on my to-do list. And, I’m willing to bet some hard-earned cash, that if you attempt my offer below, you’ll find the energy flows more freely with intention, verses with a goal.
So, now it’s your turn. Do you create because you’ve written it on your calendar, and if you don’t accomplish your goal, do you feel terrible? If you approach your creativity with an intention to create, to allow your muse to smile, see if your heart isn’t a little lighter. Set the intention, that for the next few days, you’ll awake in the morning and say, “Today I intend to (write, paint, draw, dance, compose, cook, photograph, sketch).” If you feel you need to set a time, or a stopping place, do so. Check it out. See what happens. End at a certain place, or not. What was your intention? Were you filled with joy and peace all along the way? Or only at the end?
I’d love to read your comments! Let me know what happens with your intention. In the meantime, I intend to spend some time with my characters. I also intend to post another short story on my web site www.myjoyenterprises.com Oh, and the ‘goals’ for the sections of my life written in the large sketch pad? They’re written to keep me on track with the overarching intention of my life. The more energy of intention I direct towards each one, the more time during the day that I’m filled with peace and ease.