When Goals Come In and Out of Focus

Serpentine pathway stones on a park lawn - Photo by Graphic Stock Images

I started the year without any written goals. You, too? I’m glad to not be the only one.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to accomplish anything this year. I am. I’m publishing my first novel Flowers of Grace next month and hope to finish the sequel before the end of the year.

But I will admit that I only bring out these goals on weekdays when school is in session, I’m not at the doctor or I am finished Googling symptoms of my health crises of the moment.

Basically, I haven’t gotten around to goal setting yet this year. Or goal achieving.

Having a chronic disease takes resources of time, money, energy and thought that distract or prevent me from a whole lot of activities that used to drive me.

And that makes me—a highly passionate, driven person—pretty sad.

Losing sight of my goals is the biggest everyday struggle that living with cancer brings to my life. Pain and physical discomfort are up there, but they certainly do not top the list—they change it.

The list and order of priorities in my life is far different from a year ago. While I’m still a writer, my approach to all the facets of a writer’s life have to be different.

Translation? It’s certainly not going to be a Type A approach anymore.

But that’s not all bad. My mom often referred to herself as the tortoise. Like in the Tortoise and the Hare. She isn’t in a start and stop race in her life. She is steadily moving forward all the time.

Barriers like these may confuse our way but part of the adventure is finding the solutions.

Unexpected Time Commitments

The  number of doctors’ appointments last year saved my life but started a bad habit. I returned to my “one thing a day” mindset. If I had an appointment, I mentally did not plan anything else. Very quickly, this pattern took my goals out of focus for the day  and possibly even longer if I let a string of those days accumulate.

Whether you or someone else is sick, an appliance breaks or a blizzard keeps everyone at home, unexpected commitments appear to steal our time for the things we would rather accomplish. Technically, they do require more time. But I’ve also discovered that I also use that lost time to excuse my need to be productive in the hours or days before and after the disruption.

Rescue the time not spent directly preparing for, carrying out or following through on unexpected commitments and use it for something productive. 

Emotions that Shift Priorities

A life threatening or chronic illness has a way of obscuring plans for the future. On particularly emotional days, how I feel—whether that’s anxiety or discouragement—can actually change my capacity to visualize my pointed direction, or even worse, cloud me from seeing any direction at all.

Whether it is a bad grade on a test or a lost job, disappointments seem to alter our future course. If  emotions rule the shift rather than clear, constructive planning, our priorities and plans to reach them will bounce all over, never settling into a sure and steady course.

Plan or replan your day, your schedule, your goals and your life at a time when emotions are level.

Responses that Block Progress

Just as I need caretakers and doctors to help me to heal, an audience made it possible for me to publish my book last year and will be critical as I cross over into the self-published fiction world this year.

We meet our goals with the assistance and support of other people. But just like I can’t demand that people read or like what I write, we can’t control how other people will receive, respond or participate in our goals.

That sounds obvious, but think about parenting. You make a decision about a schedule for the family and present it to them. They react negatively. Then what? Do you scrap the schedule? Fight for it? Pretend it never existed?

Well, sometimes, you shelve the schedule until you can gather support. You may modify it and bring it to the front. Or you may persuade everyone that it will be good as it is after all.

The supportive response or lack of it can cause an objective to come in or out of focus as we try to discern how to proceed.

Treat people are individuals, not objectives by forgoing negativity about their response. Rethink your route to a goal rather than giving up on the person or the goal itself.

Even when I’ve written down my goals, I’ve still wasted time, had a meltdown or blamed others. At those times I wouldn’t be able to see the most cleverly crafted, stylistically designed or poetically written statement of purpose if it were glued to my hand. My goals become blocked by those barriers.

But what’s great about a new year isn’t that I think I will miraculously be cured of cancer or I will suddenly have a best seller.

It is simply to recognize what’s preventing me from going where I want to go or becoming who I want to be, and then overcoming it.

I don’t have an unusual amount of energy, resources, or even perfect health, but let’s still go for it.







1 Comment

  1. Rebecca
    Jan 15, 2015

    Somehow I missed this post!

    Once again, your struggles parallel mine, but you have the solution figured out where I don’t. I’m so grateful you write this down for me. It IS for me, you know. 🙂

    I have felt so very down about my inability to accomplish anything, about how my days are ruled by the one big event of the day. It’s so depressing.

    Being the tortoise is not in my nature, but I’ve been feeling nudges from Heavenly Father, trying to teach me that it’s ok to approach things differently.

    Just haven’t figured out how to be happy approaching things so differently.

    This helps.

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