I’m goal oriented—meaning I aim towards setting goals. And then I nail them. Find the right medication for Tourettes, run a 50K, score a new job; these are a few from the past year, all complete. The year before that had a few as well: publish a book and quit drinking are a couple of the larger ones that come to mind.
I can be annoying to live with. As soon as I achieve something, some long-term project, I immediately announce the next. And then I channel most of my energy into completing my new thing. I become obsessed, and I don’t settle down until I’ve finished my new goal, finally relieved of the pressure. Only to start again. My never-ending cycle.
This week, I’m at a crossroads. Last Monday, I accepted a new job—replacing my job of eleven years. The next day I left on vacation. Many people set resolutions at the New Year. I have a habit of setting mine while on vacation. It’s an opportunity to slow down, to think, to reflect, to decide what’s important to me.
The other day, while bobbing over waves in the surf, Susan asked “So, any big thoughts this week?” She knows how I work. She’d be shocked if I said no.
This vacation, in Culebra, Puerto Rico, is slow. There is essentially nothing to do here except go to the beach. There’s no shopping, no downtown to hang around, no mini-golf, no where we can really walk to. We’ve been to the three restaurants we hoped to try (one of them three times). There is wireless internet, but it sucks. It’s virtually impossible to stream any sort of video (especially while my kids are trying). I set three vacation goals: read, write and hang out on the beach (See? Goals! It’s a nasty habit).
When I’m writing a lot, my goals easily form. Writing’s an introspective activity. I make self-assessments, and then I try to improve. But I’m working to avoid too much self-assessment this week. I’m trying to “sit” with the big change in my life, my new job. This is one of Susan’s Buddhist terms… sit. The way I understand sitting is to let something wash over you, like a wave, without struggling. Just see where it takes you.
Eli’s been doing a lot of this in the surf. He allows himself to float about until he winds up in the breakers. And then he gets pummeled into the sand. He wades back out into the deeper water and starts again.
I’m planning on trying the same thing. I want to spend the next phase of my life sitting. I want to stop trying to direct my life. I want to see where it heads on its own. My life is pretty good, but it’s not perfect. And this is after years and years of exerting full control over every aspect of my being. Now I’ll sit. I’ll go with the flow, with the surf. And if I wind up in the breakers? Well, that’s the point of the game.
Not-sitting is steeped in judgment. It’s making a conscious decision about what’s right and wrong; what’s good or bad. Now is when I start to live each day without judgement. Judgement about the quality of my life, about myself and about others.
Instead of trying to steer every action in my life, I’d like to just react to it, enjoy it. I’d like to take each moment as it’s offered to me, and see where it leads me.
So yes, I fully understand I’ve just set a goal. A goal to be less goal-oriented. But now my challenge is to follow that desire. To see how my life changes (improves?) without the heavy hands of self-direction and judgement.