Goals, Life Balance, and Overcoming Problematic Beliefs

At the end of 2018, I opened three years worth of goals journals and read through them. I was searching for trends, for answers, and for guidance as to where to go next.  I discovered, to my surprise, that I had achieved many of the goals that I set myself at the beginning of 2016. I was, according to that book, already living ‘my dream life’.
Personal improvements aside, there was one reoccurring aspect of my dream life that remained unfulfilled. I am not yet a published writer, and, at the time of reflection, could barely lay claim to being a writer at all. I wrote one short story last year, Dandelion, and though I am quite proud of it, it is not a part of any of the longer works of fiction I hope to complete.
So I attempted to delve deeper than before and gain a better understanding of my values and the aspects of myself that inform them. The website below provided some good stimulus for this and lead me to discussions with my psychologist about how to best set, and meet, goals.
Monica talked about finding ways to make goals ‘non-negotiable’. Monica talked about ‘the negotiator’, that voice in your head that chimes in to renegotiate goals on the spot and leads to procrastination or the completion of non-critical tasks as work avoidance. She suggested creating goals that were achievable and then creating time for the negotiator to have their say. For example, ‘These goals are non-negotiable for this week, but I can change them as necessary on Sunday.’ This is the goal setting schedule I am attempting to follow.
Change Your Thinking by Sarah Edelman has been useful at drawing my attention to some problematic behaviours I have that need to be challenged in order to meet my goals. I am now aware of and am working on challenging these behaviours:
    •    I have a tendency to give way to distractions and complete low-priority tasks instead of the task I am working on.
    •    Without high pressure, eg, imminent deadline, I have a low-frustration tolerance and a tendency to question the validity of how I am choosing to spend my time.
    •    I am a perfectionist when it comes to writing and can become obsessive about writing things the best possible way. This can slow me down and lead to frustration as my own standards are impossible to reach.
    Monica and Change Your Thinking suggest challenging these by coming up with shortcut phrases, things to say to myself to validate what I am doing and disrupt the problematic way of thinking. I am still developing these phrases, but here are some I believe will be useful, and that I will display around my room / in strategic locations.
    •    This (specifically writing and reading) is a valid use of my time.
    •    It’s okay to be less than the best and to work at becoming a novelist little-by-little. Many authors take a years developing their works and, as I earn enough money to support myself through other means, I have the luxury of pursuing writing slowly, over a long period of time.
    •    Perfectionism is not necessary to make a real and lasting difference to other people’s lives. J.K. Rowling

In addition to establishing non-negotiable goals and challenging my problematic beliefs, I also recognised that I have a tendency to become anxious when my day’s schedule is unknown or subject to change. I am presently working as a casual teacher and freelance television operator. These jobs mean a changing schedule and, casual teaching often means that I don’t know if I’m working on a particular day until the afternoon before, or the morning of. This uncertainty is an obstacle to setting myself up for writing in the morning. I tend to think ‘why bother, at any moment you’ll get called in’, and I end up using my mornings stressing about what might or might not happen. To overcome this challenge I’ve created schedules for what my day will look like if I’m teaching, or if I’m not teaching. I have scheduled a consistent wake and sleep time. This way, I hope to lessen and eventually overcome any anxiety over my scheduling. My schedule now looks like this:

Not Working (Weekdays, except Wednesday due to morning ballet)

0600 – 0620    Meditate
0620 – 0700    Breakfast
0700 – 0900    Writing Session 1
0900 – 0930    Break / Snack
0930 – 1130    Writing Session 2
1130 – 1230    Lunch
1230 – 1430    Reading / Research / Other Projects
2130 – 2200    In bed, lights off by 2200

Wednesday if not working
0600 – 0620    Meditate
0620 – 0700    Breakfast
0700 – 0845    Writing Session 1
0845 – 1130    SDC Ballet Class (time includes cycling to and from)
1130 – 1230    Lunch
1230 – 1500    Writing Session 2
1500 – 1530    Break / Snack
1530 – 1630    Reading / Research / Other Projects
2130 – 2200    In bed, lights off by 2200

Weekdays if teaching
0600 – 0620     Meditate
0620 – 0700    Breakfast & Ready for School
0700 – 0800    Writing Session 1
0800 – 0830    Travel to School
0830 – 1530    Work
1530 – 1600    Travel to Home
1600 – 1630    Snack and Exercise / Meditate / Stretch / Jog (Clear the mind)
1630 – 1730    Writing Session 2
2130 – 2200    In bed, lights off by 2200

If possible, schedule a 2 hour writing session, but weekends are personal time and I am allowed to spend this time with friends, on hobbies, and with loved ones.

And that’s about it really, the only challenge to face now is that of actually sitting down in the chair and writing. I’ve cleaned up my desk and cleared it of clutter and I’ve allocated myself the time to do it. Tomorrow is day one and, honestly, I’m nervous. Nervous, but I think I can do it. I just have to remind myself that it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be honest. That’s all anyone can expect and its more than many have to give.

2 thoughts on “Goals, Life Balance, and Overcoming Problematic Beliefs

  1. Hi Andy was glad to see your post and that you are writing your blog, but that you are now in the process of scheduling your time and allocating priorities as well as down time and important self time. I think last year was full of generating, “stepping into the light” and showing yourself and the world who you are and becoming. I think you did amazingly at all of it! Congrats. Plus you can now look at things and decide what’s next…well it looks like writing. It’s great the way you have broken things down in your process of shedding some of the old beliefs for some new more valuable ones. There is a certain resignation to the persistence of doing and finding the shifting balance! Look forward to witnessing what you do.. but apart from that let’s dance! Cheers P

    1. Thanks, Paul. That’s an interesting idea, that last year was about ‘stepping into the light’. I think you’re right. Last year became about testing and exploring what I could do, and challenging myself to face fears and put myself out there, to be vulnerable. In this, I succeeded tremendously, but I think I was able to do that because of the strong support network I had around me. Yourself most definitely at the centre of that. With writing, it is a much more solitary pursuit and I am not as well supported as I am in dance. It’s going to be a challenge maintaining belief in myself, but I’ll do my best and will try and remember the achievements of 2018 in dance. Thanks for reading and commenting, Paul. And yes, let’s dance too.

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