Monday, March 12, 2012

Goals, goals...the magical fruit....

                Goals, we all have them.  These little gems are the alleged back bone of a successful life.  We build our futures one goal at a time.  Is your goal to big?  No problem we can just break them up into smaller more time sensitive ones.  We even spend agonizing hours thinking about them while hunched around the almighty Facebook (or Twitter…or both for all of us truly addicted simpletons) typing our little selves into a corner with our new year’s resolutions.  There is even a tiny sub-genre of book authors who devote oodles of time to helping you, yes you, come up with these little ditties.  Each year we declare our intention to achieve and each year we fail at a few of them.  We are the masters of aggressive mediocrity by hitting a .300 average when it comes to meeting our goals.  One has to wonder, do they really matter?
                 Despite what it sounds like I’m not really bashing on them because they do actually work.  I just question whether they are the Holy Grail we’d like them to be.  I wanted to ride 1500 miles last year and I declared this to everyone who mattered.  My sister-in-law challenged me and together we set out to hit our goal and we did.  (She kicked my butt by hitting 2011 miles while I topped out at 1800.)  When I hit the fifteen hundred mile mark I did it on a ride that destroyed my bike.  (I mean this literally).  The bike was so tweaked there was no riding it ever again. Topping that off was the fact that it was a ride that I didn’t even finish.  Yet, I’d hit the magic 1500.  I should’ve been happy, elated even.  I should’ve danced a jig and thrown my arms up to the heavens.  I didn’t.  Only a few knew I’d done it and even fewer cared.   I wasn’t stronger or faster and I certainly hadn’t morphed into Lance 2.0.
What did I expect to happen exactly?
I’m not really sure to be honest.  Do we ride all year, strive to get out and hit the pavement as often as possible (with the rubber side down of course) and rack up the miles no matter what?  To what end?  To see the numbers pile up on an excel spread sheet?  (It is pretty cool though)   Some people focus on a race or a series of races.  Do they magically change with success or is it simply enough for them to ‘Do It’?  I wish I knew because as I stare at the pile of pages in front of me and realize that the goal to finish a manuscript of novel length is gone like a great puff of smoke I’m sort of left with the eternal question, ‘What now?’  Certainly it’s not going to get published simply because I wrote it.  (I’ve got a pretty big ego but it’s not that inflated)  Sure it’s an achievement not everyone can claim and yes I agree it is a start.  Many people say they’re going to write a novel and never even get this far.  But now what?  Editing?  (I’ve already started) A new goal maybe?   
Or perhaps it is the journey that is the important factor.  It’s not the goal as so many self-help Yoda’s would like us to think it is.  It’s not the perfect body at the end of six weeks or after a week of the latest vegetable cleanse.  Maybe it’s the journey that gets us to the goal that is important.  The goal isn’t the life changing moment but the journey that gets us to it.  Was it the 1500 mile mark or the many rides it took to get there, good and bad, that were important?  Not too many parents look at their kids and think ‘Just wait till they get to eighteen and then we’re done.’  (Although I’m sure when I was sixteen that thought floated around the evening dinner conversation on more than one occasion) For me it’s the journey to eighteen for my kids.  The years, month and days that it takes to get to eighteen is the important part.  This is even more important when like me you have an unconventional schedule where I’m little more than a part-time Dad for much of the time.
As I begin working on writing as something a little more than a hobby, goals will be made almost by default.   I will probably even strive to hit my riding/writing goals this year. I’ll get the ‘Project that can’t be named’ edited and maybe even a second draft completed.  I think though that I, along with many others, have to stop putting so much stock into our goals.  They are important to have but they are not the greener grass on the other side of the fence.   We don’t magically change simply because we attain them.  We need to remember to focus on the journey that gets us to a completed goal.  Goals are important for sure but we need to keep our selves focused on what they really mean.  The goal should not be the end all and be all of our existence so that when we attain it we end up with a letdown and then the dreaded stagnation because the heavens didn’t open up and the angels remained mute.   As with all things goals and our striving to attain them must be tempered with moderation.  Don’t give up though it’s not all bad.  Continuing the earlier baseball metaphor, we need to keep stepping up to the plate, keep swinging that bat for better or for worse because once every now and again we’ll smack a deep fly ball that just squeaks over the center field wall, just don’t forget to enjoy the sound of the crowd going nuts and the feel of the bases under your cleat.  The home run will just get added to the stat line but the experience is the thing that we’ll take with us when we can’t play anymore.

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