Last night, my mind was so cluttered and loud I knew there was no way I’d get to sleep without a bath. I was being slammed in all directions and feeling this way about this and that way about that and everything else about every other thing. Yikes! I had to sort it all out.
I lit candles, filled the bath with almost hot water, sunk in to my chin and thought. No iPod, no other distraction. Just me and my head.
I identified three things that wanted my attention the most: 1) Who am I? 2) What do I want? and 3) Will I ever be warm again?
The answer to #3 is probably not until spring and #1 is an ongoing process, so let’s move on to #2.
What do I want? Well, the bath helped me see that I want things that I really don’t want, but it was late and I let it be and fell asleep. Then riding the recumbent bike today, I read the latest column by Martha Beck in O Magazine, “Words to the Wise,” and I pursued the question further.
Beck writes that we can say, “I want to lose weight” or whatever other goal we think we want to pursue, but the real question is why? What’s behind that goal or dream?
She suggests we first identify a goal. A typical noun-verb one. (If you’re playing along, make sure you pick your most ambitious one.)
Second, create a fantasy about what your life would be like if you realize your goal.
Third, identify at least three adjectives that describe this fantasy. As Beck says (and she’s right), this is not easy. You can’t say, “Well, it’s hard to describe” or “It’s hard to explain.” List three adjectives that you think will define your accomplishment at the end of your journey. What would happen and how would we feel if we really achieved our goals?
“They don’t have to be eloquent,” says Beck. “Use simple words like 'energetic,' 'focused,' 'delighted' and 'fine.'”
Finally, drop the fantasy you imagined and concentrate on the adjectives.
“You might notice that these three words bring your stated goal into shaper focus. For instance, if your New Year’s resolution is to lose 10 pounds – a noun-verb goal – but your adjectives are “strong,” “confident” and “healthy,” you might realize that your actual aim is to get fit.”
Ah…that’s the kicker. My goals often aren’t the goals other people envision for me, and I need to take back ownership of what I want. That’s what this exercise showed me today.
When I was in the tub last night, I realized there are many things I think I should want to do or be. But today, when I stepped back and gave them a noun-verb identification, some of them just rubbed me wrong. They didn’t feel right to me.
As I moved on to the fantasy, I felt the reality in my gut. Then in step three – the adjectives – most of the “whys” of my goals became pretty clear.
“So if you find yourself longing for some idealized goal, take a moment to go fishing for adjectives. Then use them to identify the aspects of your life that are already drawing you toward your heart’s desires.”
When I reflected on my adjectives, I realized many of the things I do in my everyday life already fulfill many of the goals I’d set for myself. They just don’t necessarily reflect what others think I should want to do.
The bottom line is that I like the way my life is grooving right now. I like the way things are working out. I like feeling who I am from the inside out. Adding other people’s goals to my agenda doesn’t feel right. Does this ever happen to you?
What’s your idealized goal (and you don’t have to write it here…just think about it)? Is it really something you want or does someone else (or society) want it for you?
This time of year is about peace. I’m choosing to find it within myself. That is my wish for all of you, too. Do what you want to do because it’s what you want to do, not because someone else says you should.