Friday, November 2, 2012

In Retrospect

I apologize in advance for this post, it's a bit more heady than what I usually write, so if you're going to skip reading a post, feel free to skip this one.

A lot of my life is organized on 3"x5" note cards. A couple of weeks ago, I was going through them trying to sort, reorganize, rewrite, and consolidate a few of them so that I could swap extraneous cards out for blank ones. One of the cards I keep in my planner lists the goals I've set for myself. I divide these goals up into groups as appropriate. Most recently, my cards have been divided up by:

  • 2012 Resolutions
  • Middle East Goals
  • Aberdeen Goals
  • "30"/"35" Goals
  • 2013 Resolutions
  • Life Goals

    When I look back through them, I tend to get disappointed at what little I've accomplished over the years. For example, by the time I was thirty, I had intended to accomplish the following:

  • kill a wild boar
  • own a Land Rover and/or BMW
  • be in better physical condition than I was at age twenty
  • be fourth year proficient in Arabic
  • own a dog
  • yomp the Falklands in 2012

    I didn't accomplish any of it. Some of those items have been on my list for five years or longer. It would be easy to get discouraged by that lack of accomplishment.

    At the same time, I look at where I am, and what I have accomplished, and where I have been over the last few years. And, when I think about it, I could have accomplished a few of those goals, but I chose to do some things that were more challenging instead. For example, I could have bought a Land Rover or BMW, but I elected to get a master's degree instead - something that will arguably get me more earning power in the long run, allowing me to accomplish this goal later on. I also could have gotten a dog, probably even years ago, but I elected to go to the Middle East, and now to Scotland. Once I get back to the States, I hope to be a bit more settled, which will be better on a dog in the long run. I have some legitimate excuses for the Arabic and the physical fitness, though I'm not happy with them. As I've mentioned, I hope to remedy both while I'm here.

    And when I look at what I've accomplished over the last few years, it's tougher to be too disappointed with what I haven't. Despite the various challenges and setbacks, my time spent in the Middle East was huge. And that was a progression that started with a trip abroad in 2003, which was followed by a summer spent abroad in 2004, and continued with a move a thousand miles away from home in 2006, a move to the other side of the country in 2007, and three years of hard work, patience, and focused frustration while living on the East Coast. Being here in Aberdeen, now, doing this, is something I couldn't have fathomed just three years ago. It's really amazing how far I've come in the last few years, and it's tough not to be proud of that.

    One of my failings is that my ambition often outstrips my motivation - not my aptitude, necessarily, but my motivation to accomplish what I could be accomplishing. That's a big part of the challenge I run into: I set goals for myself that are attainable, but very challenging, and then my motivation fails to get me where I want to go. I could stand to be less ambitious, but I could also stand to be more motivated. I'm working on both... But the motivation should probably receive more work than the ambition! All in all, I think - think - that what I'm set to accomplish in the next year should get me closer, much closer, to the sort of life I want to live during the course of my thirties and beyond, so hopefully that means that despite the setbacks, challenges, and failure of motivation, I'll eventually get myself to where and whom I want to be.
  • 1 comment:

    1. I have spent a lifetime setting goals. I love the potential in goals. I love the structure of them.

      In art there are artists who are product oriented and those who are process oriented. I am 100% a product oriented artist, and this truth extends out into my non-artist life as well. I never ask about the journey. I care purely for the destination. What I'm learning is that I actually accomplish more when I enjoy the process (or at least understand that process is the path to product.)

      The other truth I'm still learning is that sometimes goals change. I hold so tightly to goals I set when I was 19 and knew NOTHING about myself. It's like when I was five I decided I wanted to be an astronaut and then have spent the last 26 years angry at myself for not getting into space. (Although instead of astronaut it's filmmaker.) Sentimentality has no place in goal setting, but boy does it have a place in my sense of guilt.

      These ideas only relate to your larger discussion and not to your specifics. But I think about goals all the time, and I always gravitate toward your discussion of them (heady or not).