Keeping your goals when life happens…


As we all know, life has a habit of getting in the way of our best laid plans. This was perfectly illustrated yesterday when I went to the gym (and no, my take-away isn’t “don’t go to the gym” – read on!). It was one of the rare days when I leave in the morning and am not going to get home until late afternoon. (Usually I’m home working and I have a routine about things.)

Anyway, yesterday I left early and had several meetings and appointments. I went to the gym at around 3:00, and I knew walking in that I was a bit dehydrated. Because dehydration is a big migraine trigger for me, I’m usually hyper-aware of it; when I’m at home I make sure I drink enough, but when I’m out and not really in control of my environment, it’s hard. So sure enough, I start my death-by-elliptical cardio interval workout and, at exactly 12 minutes, I start to get a migraine. If you get migraines, you get to where you can distinguish between the “this is livable, carry on” headaches and the “this is going to be bad if you don’t stop now” headaches. This was the latter, so I stopped.

My plan, of course, was to get the workout in. It was written in my day timer and I’d texted my husband about it. I’d planned my dinner around it. But life happened. I got off the elliptical and left and ended up not even needing any meds after I pounded a bottle of water on the way home. Now, in times past (all of 2012), this seemingly small incident would have derailed my day. I’d be mad and frustrated that the new-to-me phenomenon of chronic migraine was once again derailing my day. Maybe I’d try to push through and end up with a doozy of a headache that put me in bed by 6:00. I might decide to just bag the whole schedule for the day. You know the feeling.

What I learned in 2012 was that I need to just shake off setbacks. I need to do what I can do, celebrate and embrace it, and shake it off when I can’t do something. I need to do the next thing (we call that “TNT” in our house) and carry on. In other words, stick to my “it’s enough” motto.

You’d think I’d know this. I’m 47 years old, after all! I’m reminded of teaching my daughter to drive. She’s a big perfectionist, so if she’d do the slightest thing wrong, even if it wasn’t her fault (like hitting a pothole that she couldn’t possibly avoid because of other traffic), it would ruin the rest of her driving time. Everything else went downhill while she stewed over her “mistake.” On several occasions I had to tell her to pull over and change drivers because she was being unsafe — NOT because of the first problem, but because of her reaction to it.

I told her, “You don’t have the right to drive, you have the privilege to do it. And you’re in a heavy, moving vehicle that can kill someone. If you can’t focus and get past a problem, you can’t drive. Period.” It was a really good lesson for her because she had to learn to move past a less than perfect outcome and carry on living. It helped temper her perfectionism so that it doesn’t paralyze her.

I am just now learning this lesson, I guess, at least as far as my own expectations go. I am the only one being hard on myself; I need to give myself a break. Now, I’m not talking about simply being lazy (which, as a Florida girl, I’m prone to do) or slacking off for no reason. We should be learning the art of self-discipline all throughout our lives. But when life happens, when things outside of our control change our plans and our ability to meet our goals, we have to adapt and move ahead anyway within the reality of the new situation.

You might get the flu. You might get blessed with unexpected house guests. Maybe a storm comes (literally or figuratively). One can always hope for an unexpected trip to Paris or somewhere great. Or you start to get a migraine on the elliptical machine. Whatever comes your way from life, you have to put it aside and move on. Don’t obsess about it (my personal favorite). Don’t post it all over Facebook and Twitter and email your friends about how big a screwup you are or how helpless you are in the situation. Simply evaluate what’s going on objectively, adjust your expectations, and do what you can. That’s our motto now, right?




Filed under Writing

4 responses to “Keeping your goals when life happens…

  1. What I’m really enjoying about the blog posts on my reader this month is that they are full of realisations, or good habits – people looking forward, doing a better job with being kind to themselves. I love your phrase: shake off setbacks.

  2. January is a positive month – I hope February doesn’t devolve into a lot of “oh my gosh I’m a loser” blogs! šŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

  3. Jennifer Szescula Flanagan

    Oh! I so sympathize with your daughter. I went through the exact same thing (though I didn’t really want to drive because I wanted to drive per se – I wanted to drive so I could have some autonomy. If I could have hired a driver, I would have). It’s funny, my mother used the opposite approach with me to get me to drive after the first time I failed my driving test and refused to drive. She pulled over on the way to school and said “You aren’t going to school unless you drive us there” and got out of the car. It was because it was such a dangerous thing that I didn’t feel like I should be doing it if I screwed up little things.

    I am learning too. That is my most extreme moment but there have been others that luckily I do a bit better now at putting in perspective.

    • Perfectionism is HARD!! When she was little she would agonize over what to order at a restaurant because she might make the “wrong” choice (between mac and cheese and spaghetti!). We’ve worked on it a long time, but she’s really doing well now. She’s still hard on herself, but mistakes don’t paralyze her (or the fear of them!).

      Thanks for reading!

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