Why You Need a Goal-friend

I’m working diligently to set out and begin the execution of my plans for the year. In truth this has meant a couple of genuine new year’s resolutions. My favorite new aphorism “keep to your organization, because otherwise you no longer are” is an effort to curb my bad habit of switching organizational and note taking tools. I’ve even made a fitness resolution in the form of several fitness goals. And taken time for making two kinds of maps of my goals, and one visual-enhanced list to hang on the wall so I will see them everyday. However the Most important thing I’ve done is get myself a goal-friend.

I was talking to an old friend who was feeling a little lost just at the time I was feeling a frustrated if well directed, and it occurred to me that we could help each other out. We were talking about life-coaching and other unspecific “consultants.” It seems from the outside like a situation where you pay someone to nag you about your goals. And I thought “Well, I can do that!” Now I don’t claim to be qualified or even well versed in methods for defining what will make anyone else happier or more fulfilled, but I can definitely provide the social pressure that is sometimes required to follow through on private goals. And that is all too often the difference between success and failure. When someone else depends on my work, I am far more inclined to get it done in a timely manner.

So out of that conversation with my wandering friend, we defined goal-friending. A simple concept and system for reporting goals and projects and then maintaining regular check-ins to keep each other honest. First we both plotted out maps of our goals for the year, and shared them. Now we have begun writing daily emails listing simply what we have done in pursuit of those goals during each day. The expectation that at the end of the day someone will see what I have accomplished or at least attempted, begun, or planned is greatly curbing my tendency to avoid accomplishing things, and giving into my resistance.

Lots of people who work in a vacuum as freelancers, or hoping to change fields, or striking out on their own with a new business will benefit from this dynamic. But for the many people who work in offices and other work-groups, this kind of feedback and socially-engineered motivation is built in. Often though, its personal projects that require the biggest infusion of energy to get started. So I suggest you give this a try. Tap someone else who is making a change or learning something new in their spare time, and everyday, or a few days per week, shoot an email off stating what you’ve done to further your goals. Then once a week or once a month make time for a phone call or meeting to get more in depth. I think that the phone call/ video chat/ coffee date/ working lunch provides the deepest motivation. Often it is in vain attempts at time-shifting that we cross from great intention into insidious procrastination. These face-to-face moments cannot be time-shifted like emails or journals and provide much greater need for accountability.

In the last two weeks I’ve done as much meaningful research, learning, planning of my upcoming endeavors as I did all last year… that may not be accurate. But with my goals freshly mapped and clearly prioritized I’m able make more effective use of my time. And now that I have a goal-friend on the other end of my status reports… I’m actually doing it.

Abuse and Relief

Its been a long couple of weeks, and most of that time I have devoted to the work I consider unimportant to me. For the sake of making money I have two part time jobs in retail environments. Far be it from me to belittle the work that retail people do, I have seen it first hand and done it myself for a few years. The experience of working in retail is atrocious, and to that point I think EVERYONE should do it or some other service-oriented job dealing with the public at large. A huge amount of often tedious work constantly interrupted by people who believe they are the most deeply wronged, ferociously inconvenienced and fantastically important of all. Retail is not without its bright spots but these are the exception to the rule. And for those who find this rewarding, fun, interesting, and they wish to do more of it, I say, “More power to ’em.” But for me I cannot wait to get out in part because I simply don’t like it, but mostly because the other projects I’m developing are far more important, and deserve more of my time.
I’m sure many people have been in my shoes, but I know I do an exceptional amount of beating myself up about it. Hence the title of this post, when I’m “at work” I am often being abused by the public, when I leave home (where much of my real work gets done) to “go to work” I abuse myself for the waste of my valuable energy. Since deciding back in March to move at the beginning of next year I have been reporting to work for someone else 6 days a week, and the relief does not come easily. One day per week spent relaxing means that I will have wasted my once weekly opportunity to get some serious work done. This is no way to accomplish anything. But for now, until I have my tribe, my collaborators, my virtuous circle of inspiration near and accessible I will have to just deal with this frustration, and work harder until all my moving costs are covered and I’m ready to settle into dirt-bagging for my real purpose.

Not long ago I wrote about Motivational Love Letters, the little spots of writing that build up your confidence and provide positive affirmation for your dearest pursuits. These have become extremely important for providing myself the much needed relief from my grind and drab view of the world that closes in on me. But these too might give way to the pressure of a terrible question they beg me to ask myself, “If I’m so great, why am I still here?” There are no easy answers here, but there might be a few good ones. They will as always depend on just who you are as an individual, but for me this question has given me the opportunity to look at the yin to the Love Letter’s yang. I’m referring of course to the easy to write, hard to listen to, even harder to admit making use of, “Light a Fire Under your Lazy Ass, Tough-Love Letters.” Though its probably best to make use of these very sparingly I have found that lately with so many other things sapping my energy, these have been instrumental in helping me to hang on. While the world whips me around on its frothy sea of spite and joy and begrudging admiration, I am desperately gripping the edge of my life raft and hoping the change that falls from my pockets will be put to good use. And so it is that the cycle of abuse and relief continues. Praise, motivate, hurt, motivate, scar, heal, abuse, relieve.

In these last couple of weeks I have also decided it would be a good idea to return more seriously to my running practice. After all, who couldn’t do with a little extra meditation and blood-energizing exercise? Especially when in the throws of a struggle to maintain one’s own identity, subjugating the real work of your life to the false idols of money and expediency. But again, running has been teaching. There is such wisdom in the runner’s high. Its as if in lieu of inventing a time machine, or workable unifying theory, universally applicable philosophy or useful religions, truly virtuous savages gave us their wisdom in our genes, in our sweat, in our blood and literally in our hearts. There is a moment when you hit your runner’s high, and you know you’re back. I have not been running much lately and just yesterday had the fantastically invigorating experience of feeling more prepared to run faster and harder just as the effort necessitated i work harder to keep up. This cycle did not wear me down but instead built up my faith, my excitement, my speed, my freedom. Simply put, there are times when the harder you’re breathing, the faster you can run. Its like Pat Robertson always told you, the more you give away the more you’ll have to give. Except that I don’t want your money for my congregation/ TV Station. Just remember that your emotional life and your imaginary world, and at least your perception of your physical energy are as boundless as time and your will to explore.

Even on the trail, and along the beach the cycle continues. Abusing your feet, wearing down your legs, working your lungs, the air relieves it all, and your smile will rebuild your strength. Take that moment and remind yourself to go out and spend your time in the ways that you are the virtuous vagabond, the dirt-bagging hobo king. Light your fires in the dustbowl-refugee jungles of your day, and give away your fear and self loathing, your frustration and your joy will bring you home. Tell your stories, and scar and heal, shock and comfort, abuse and relieve.