I’ve been struggling to write this week.
I think part of it was that I took a trip home to visit my family and experienced changes to my writing schedule. I thrive on routine, and a change can throw me off.
But more than that, I’ve felt this building anxiety, a sense that I have so much to do and not enough time in which to get it done.
But I’m a teacher, and it’s summer. As always, I have a to-do list. But I have so much more free time than usual and far fewer hard deadlines (like third-period phonics class).
I have realized that all of these expectations are coming from me and only me. No one else is pressuring me to hit blogging or fitness milestones. It’s all me.
So why am I feeling this way?
I believe that goals are so important. For me, setting goals keeps me from becoming stagnant and helps me ensure that my life is passion-driven.
But when I’m constantly thinking about becoming more and better, I run the risk of missing out on the beauty that is my life today. There’s so much joy to be had here, and I don’t want to lose it because I’m dreaming about what could be.
Even more than that, the force of my expectations for myself is sometimes debilitating. And instead of reaching as high as I can, I freeze. I may even curl into a ball of anxiety and accomplish nothing. This is goal fatigue.
My Word for 2017: Simplify
In January, I wrote about how my intention for 2017 was to simplify my possessions and thoughts.
I’ve been doing well with the possessions part. Goodwills in both Kansas City and Denver are just teeming with my former belongings.
But my thoughts still feel messy and complicated, as they pretty much always have.
This is challenging because I’m writing about goal fatigue, and an intention is, in its own way, a goal.
But maybe instead of making this intention accomplishment-oriented, perhaps it can simply be a way to shift my attention to an area in which I need to show myself more care.
I’ve been reading about Zen in a book called If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break. In it, author James Ishmael Ford refers to James Austin’s advice to use the mantra “just this” with the breath while meditating.
I’ve found “just this” to be an easier way for me to sink into meditation than counting my breaths. Just this, my breath. Just this, meditation. Nothing else. Just this.
I would love to carry that mantra out of meditation and into everyday life. Not dreaming of a three-bedroom home with a backyard and a garden. Just this, my lovely, tiny apartment. Not always focusing on how fast my pace is. Just this, running around my favorite park.
Dropping my goals for a moment. Staying present. Noticing where I am. When I think about doing that, my expectations don’t feel so overwhelming.
What does this mean for life?
I’m not totally sure what this means for me yet. It’s not giving up on goals entirely; they’re important, and there are seasons of life when it fits to drive forward. But there are also seasons and moments for stillness and rest.
For now, I’m just noticing, figuring out what works for me, thinking about just this.
Have you experienced goal fatigue? What do you do when your expectations for yourself feel like too much?