September 13, 2012

charting my passions

I am an idealist. I have more ideals than I can even remember or keep track of all at once. So whenever I choose to focus on one particular ideal or passion, it is easy to grow discouraged about the rest of them. For years, I have made resolutions, set goals, created lists of all that I aspire to achieve and experience. Here are just a few of them:
  • speak fluent French (have been learning for many years, still not there)
  • read one volume of Proust's In Search of Lost Time collection each year
  • move past "beginner" level in my yoga practice
  • learn to make great pies
  • finish decorating our apartment
  • write back to all of the emails in my inbox
  • finish knitting something I can actually wear
These are only ideas right off the top of my head. I stopped because I realized the list could keep on going forever. Literally forever. This list does not even begin to include the usual "everyman" goals like eating healthier, being more organized, and exercising more, and of course these are on my lists, too. 

But as I have reminded myself often in these posts, it is important to remember that I can begin anywhere. It might just be this year's official theme for me! (And maybe next year's too, and maybe my lifetime....!) I can begin in the middle of a month. I can begin with just a few goals. I know that my idealist self can go too far, can push so hard for growth in one direction that I feel an even bigger failure in the rest. 
As I focus my attention, energy and goals on my writing in new ways this month, I am in danger of losing balance in my daily life. It is so easy to forget the value of balance. Yes, I need to write more, but I also need to take care of myself in other ways that will help me to feel hopeful and proud of progress. The creative journey can be one that is so hard to track. I love check marks and progress and items crossed off lists, and I realized that I needed to find a way to give myself this satisfaction. I need to put pressure on myself in my writing, but I don't think it is healthy for ALL of my idealistic pressure to ONLY be directed into my writing. 
I remembered reading about Gretchen Rubin's "resolution charts" in her wonderful book The Happiness Project. She had mentioned in the book that her charts were available for free download on her website, so I looked them up and printed out a few copies of the blank chart version. I filled in the first eight goals that came to mind, trying to make sure they covered a wide range of my ideals and were not all just about my creative practice. When I practice my other life ideals, they often provide such important inspiration for my writing, and when I get tunnel-vision and only focus on writing, I can lose that richness, texture and contrast in my daily life. My goals for the rest of this month are not lofty or complicated, for the most part. They are simple and clear, easily achieved just with a little intention. And it helped a lot that there were only eight boxes, it kept my idealistic impulses a little bit more realistic. Some of the goals, like "morning pages," might already be a normal part of my daily life, but I felt it was important to continue to practice consciousness in these goals and celebrate them each day.
I have only been using the charts for five days now, but already it feels great to be checking off columns. The check marks are fun but I might need to get some cute stickers to use instead to make it a little more colorful and fun - any suggestions? I am trying to be gentle with my expectations - I am not going to achieve every goal every day. So my goal instead is honesty and ambition. Some goals are really clear and measurable, and some are very vague, but I know deep down whether or not I achieved each goal each day. I want to be honest and accept what I truly did or did not accomplish each day, and I also want to be ambitious about starting each new day fresh and believing in my ability to accomplish as many of those goals as possible. Whatever goals I do not achieve would definitely not have been achieved anyway if I had not made my goal-chart, so I am no worse off! And anything I do achieve can help me feel proud of my efforts and successes. It is also encouraging to see the patterns... I might miss several goals one day but achieve all of them the next, and it is good to see that this is simply the nature of aspiration. Sometimes you will achieve it all, and sometimes you will not. But the next day is always a new chance with a new possible outcome. It helps me to see the flow of possibility and not focus so hard on any one given day! 

My daily creative writing is on my chart as one of my goals each day, but it is just one of eight boxes that need to be checked, and this helps me to be gentler with my creative self and not put as much pressure on those ambitions! I am thinking a lot about goals lately and will probably post about this more in future... how do you keep track of goals? How do you choose which goals to reach for next? Have you found any systems or motivation that works for you? I would love to hear how goals work for you!


  1. Thank you for sharing so much of your journey and process, Cayt! I love checklists. It is such a challenge sometimes (all the time?) to strike a balance between goals and giving yourself the grace to just be. I don't remember who said it, but I've always loved the saying: "Life is not a struggle, it's a wiggle." I have yet to find a system that works for me, but I keep tweaking things and experimenting and that keeps things fresh. :) I have a core goal or belief that guides me, which is to "live a life of connection." The first connection is to myself. If I can't be connected to myself, nothing else flows very smoothly.

  2. Chris- I LOVE that quote!! So, so true. I am inspired by your goal to "live a life of connection," the first connection being to yourself... Will need to ponder that one a bit - what a timely concept in my journey!! Thank you SO much for sharing and reading, and keep me posted as you experiment with systems of your own. :) xo