You can’t always get what you want…

I’ll bet if you asked any random person on the street what aspects of their lived they’d change if they had more time, more money, or more energy, they could easily come up with a list on the spot. Heck, I know I could, couldn’t you?

I’ve been thinking about change a lot lately. Specifically, the changes I would like make in my life, what those changes would look like, how I could go about making them, etc. I find myself crafting elaborate dreams of What If and If Only. When I realize that many of these dreams are unrealistic, I become frustrated and depressed.

In other cases, I announce that I’m going to make some grand change, but it isn’t until later that I realize that I’d set the goal far too high. Again, this sets me up for more frustration and disappointment.

Last week, when contemplating what goals I wanted to set for May, I remembered a column by Martha Beck in a recent O Magazine, about how to set goals that reflect what you actually want: experiences rather than events. In it, she points out that most of us set goals as a noun-verb statement, as in “I will lose 20 pounds.” In this statement there is no indication of how I will feel when I’ve lost those 20 pounds. The problem is that we set these goals expecting to be happy once they are achieved, but we rarely are.

She suggests that instead of noun-verb goals, we set “adjective goals.” She argues that adjective goals engage our emotions and make it more likely that we will achieve our goal, as well as make it easier to focus on what will truly make us happy. “For instance, if your New Year’s resolution is to lose ten pounds—a noun-verb goal—but your adjectives are strong, confident, and healthy, you might realize that your actual aim is to get fit.” Where a goal to lose 25 pounds may take months to achieve, a goal to feel more fit can start paying off within a week or two.

I’m tired of big goals that feel too hard or too far away to make me feel confident of reaching them. I don’t want to spend my time disappointed or frustrated or anxious about some goal that I set arbitrarily. So, instead of setting some lofty goal, this month I’m going to spend more time thinking about what my goal life looks and feels like. And then I’m going to start doing more of those things, now.

My preliminary list of adjectives includes:
– sun-kissed
– relaxed
– confident
– physically healthy
– present
– connected

My goal for May is to find ways to lean towards experiences and activities that support these adjectives, and lean away from those that do not. “Putting all your attention on those aspects of your life will make you happier right now and help you create future situations that fulfill your true desires.” That’s what I need.


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