Goals: The forming, avoiding, and completion of such mental ideas

I am not doing dishes. I’m also not packing, sorting, crocheting, paying bills, balancing my checkbook, calling my grandma, calling my sister, planning my week or cleaning the gerbil home. I am, in fact, writing a blog and monitoring my 3 main websites for updates. (Check.)

I could also be planning my Nerd Fitness challenge and Puerto Rico challenge. Or hanging out with some of the many friends I know I will be missing soon. I should call Tina and JJ, too…I know I’ll be missing them TONS once hangouts are not so easily acquired. (Check.) But nope…I’m blogging. The attempts at writing for writers who don’t actually have the drive/confidence/dedication to finish their book ideas! lol Or at least that’s what it is for me at times. (No judgement to other bloggers!) (Check.)

My friend Josh came by today, and we had fun hanging out. We talked about goals a bit. I have many, but am currently working hard at my denial and procrastination phrase. If you’ve ever seen Under the Tuscan Sun, think of this as a batch of brownies. (Check.) I haven’t been working on goals very much lately, and talking with Josh reminded me of my old goal work.

I learned to set goals in 2004/2005 while I was in the day program. (Check.) We had group classes on goals. The key lesson they focused on was setting achievable goals. But those goals, obviously to my expert 18-year-old mind, were for bitches and straight people, of which I was neither. I wanted big goals! ALL THE GOALS! I would get my degree (in four years, no less!), and would own a house by age 30, and would have backpacked Europe by age 23, and would never get married and have a million lovers strung across the globe just waiting for me to visit them and tour exciting sites and own a panda that I could ride like a pony. (Check.) Oh yeah…I was the goal master. I mastered goal setting! I could set so many damn goals, people were like, “Hey Brit, that’s some badass goal setting.”

The problem with my 18-year-old “wisdom” was that setting goals is only about one tenth of the goal process. The working-towards-the-goal bit, and the completion of the goal take the rest of the process. But process, smrocess. I didn’t want their stinkin’ process anyway. (Check.) So I didn’t meet the short-term goals the required us to make. Things like:

  • go walking three times this week
  • call my best friend to chat about non-abuse topics for one hour this week
  • write in my journal for 2 pages every day

Those goals were sucky anyway, so I didn’t really do those. (Check.) I had bigger fish to fry. Have you ever tried owning a panda? That is hard to do, and it made sense that my efforts always went towards my most extreme goals. (For those of you who know me, see any patterns yet? lol)

Thanks to years of training and the raising of teenagers in his personal life, my group teacher-person didn’t lose their cool with me. He just suggested that I might feel more confident if I set myself up to achieve goals on purpose.

What a hack, right? Setting yourself up to win HAD to be cheating. Who does that?! Not me-I was a cool kid. Cool kids win due to sheer coolness. Besides, I had all the confidence I needed! I wasn’t inpatient anymore, big win there. I also wasn’t so depressed that I didn’t get out of bed, big win there. I rocked healing. I was gonna be done and over by spring break, go back to NOLA and maybe even graduate college early. I hadn’t decided yet.

Week three of class rolls around, and the rest of the group has been setting bitch goals. They walked their dogs, they cleaned their houses, they spent time with their kids, etc etc etc. Oddly enough, much to my discomfort, they all seemed really…proud. They had set a goal, and had completed said goal. However I, for the second time in a row, had not completed any goals. And I had started to feel depressed again. My puffy confidence started to deflate a bit…when the teacher-person came by to help me set my short-term goals for the week, I didn’t know what to set for my goals. It didn’t matter, because I wasn’t going to do them. I was teh fail.

This is a common BritWhit problem. My eyes are too big for my stomach, and I’d rather have Disneyland than a fun day at the local swings. The bigger, the better, right? I wanted, nay, I needed-more than everyone else. I would not only be good, but I’d be the best! Mwha ha ha ha ha! (Check.)

Only I wasn’t the best. Actually, I was the worst. (Except for this one guy who was doing electroshock, and so he couldn’t really remember much. He was more there to be social than process his healing.) And that made no sense, because I had set the best long-term (in my mind “real”) goals out of the whole group! Bah-stupid group. Stupid teacher-person. Stupid goals.

Get ready for a shocker: I was wrong. It took me about 5 or 6 more weeks of class to realize this, as I am quite stubborn. After much failure and hitting an all-too-familiar level of zero confidence in myself, I finally set some bitch *ahem* short-term goals for myself. I wanted to get out of bed every day. I wanted to help around my aunt’s place for three hours over the week, and I intended to wash my hair at least twice. Those are some bitch goals-who doesn’t want to get up? I mean, really…but it was hard then, so those would have been achievements at the time.

***Quick Side Note*** There is nothing wrong with being in a place where getting up is a goal one must work towards. I’ve been there, and may well be again at some point. No shame, no blame, no judgement. I hope that if you find yourself in such a spot, you treat yourself with gentleness and patience. ***End Side Note***

The following week, I hadn’t met my goals. I stayed in bed one whole day, and didn’t even try the house help. I did wash my hair, but that was more out of grossing myself out than wanting to complete a goal. Still, my teacher-person counted it as achievement. He even made a point to have me announce that I’d achieved a goal in front of the whole damn group. I felt dorky and lame and…kinda good. Almost proud, even. I set new short-term goals and asked what I should do next. My teacher-person suggested that I work on them a little everyday. I’ve heard that from teachers my whole life with homework, so I logically ignored his advice. (Check.) This led to more unfinished goals. I did this for a long time.

Over the months, I learned that goal setting was ok, but not fun. My fun goals never panned out anyway. :-/ Achieving my short-term goals DID make me feel good, but they were always so small and made me feel like Queen of the Underachievers. It was until post-Katrina that I started to work on goals again.

I realized pretty quickly during my evacuation from Katrina that I needed to be getting help for my crazy, ideally from a trained professional. I decided I would start therapy at school as soon as I could get back to NOLA. As many of you know, that didn’t happen for months. I ended up at LSU for the short-term, taking my Fall 2005 semester in Baton Rouge. Thankfully, I didn’t let this hiccup upset my goal. I still needed help, and LSU had a therapy for students thing just like UNO (and most schools) offer. I went to the office place and met Erica.

I had no idea who this woman was, but she had a nice smile and looked kinda like a family friend of mine. She was also a bit overweight, and had that you’d-be-fun-to-hug look about her. I decided (not FELT, but chose very purposefully) to trust her. During my first session with her, I told her that I had been inpatient for botching my suicide attempt, and about the incest and rape, and about Katrina and how my local family didn’t believe me about my past. It was a lot to dump on some chick I’d never met, who (in hindsight) was probably just a grad student and not experienced with years of trauma work.

Instantly, I felt better. Erica didn’t wave a magic wand. In fact, I don’t even remember anything she said/did those first few sessions. I just mostly explained how freaking nuts I was, and told her I needed her help. And she just listened openly, and probably went to get her own therapy afterwards. lol

I felt better because I’d really achieved my first serious short-term goal. It was hard to set-it was not something I especially wanted to do. My one-on-one therapy in CA had been a terrible experience. I could do group work, but it was too general and rarely about dealing specifically with childhood sexual abuse. But I knew I was floundering, and I knew help wouldn’t hurt. At the point when I set the goal, I didn’t know if help would help, but I figured it couldn’t make things any worse. Then I had to re-commit to my goal once I knew going home was not possible. I had to search online to find the resources, and go to the office to make an appointment. I then had to attend the appointment. Even more-I had to be up front and honest with a complete stranger about my insanity. Whew! But afterwards, even before I started to get help from Erica, I felt better. Proud. Confident.

If I needed help, I could go get it. If I had something I wanted to change, I could. It might suck, and it might take lots of annoying little steps, but it WAS possible.

I continue to learn more about goals now, and have been progressing since 2005. I’m about to complete one of my first long-term goals of traveling in three weeks! 🙂 I didn’t make it to Europe by 23, and I’m probably not going to own a house in the next three years, but I am much better at being realistic with goals now. And granted, being realistic DOES mean I had to give up my panda ownership ideas, but it also means I figured out that some seemingly impossible things are possible. 

If you ever find yourself having goal issues, or just want to try some ways that worked for me, my goal tips are below. I wish you all many achieved goals, and ideally some panda ownership one day! First we gotta set a short-term goal to breed them like crazy so they aren’t going extinct…

***Brittany’s Goal-Setting and Goal-Achieving Tips***

  1.  Set some bitch short-term goals first. It feels way less cool, but trust me-baby steps come before marathons.
  2. Get support! Involve your friends, family, strangers on an online forum, whatevs. This is hard, no matter how “easy” it might seem. Make sure you have some cheerleaders. (If you do not have a cheering section, see my website for ideas on self-motivation and self-nurturing.)
  3. Get a reward system going. I used stickers for a while (cheap stickers on your planner or on a notebook paper in your work folder helps a lot…). I upgraded to a $10 prize every two weeks as work situations got better. (For just $10 or less you could get this, or this, or one of these!) Now I get some variety therein, as money is tight again. The idea of positive re-enforcement is the key.
  4. List your steps to achieving your goal out, so you know what to do. It was always hard for me to know HOW to make it go. For example, with me getting therapy, I needed to:
    • find how the school offered therapy (if they even did so)
    • find where the office was
    • make an appointment
    • set an alarm to wake up for the appointment
    • go to the appointment
    • talk to the stranger in front of me
  5. Be gentle. This isn’t as easy as it looks, no matter what any 18-year-old may think. It’s hard. It takes time and practice, and then more of both. Be gentle with yourself.
  6. Keep trying. It took me years, and trust me, I’m still NOT an expert! Case-and-point: I am still blogging and not packing my apartment. lol
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