Today I want to reply to some of the comments I have had in response to my last blog post, to those of you who claim you wouldn’t be able to function without goals or to-do lists. You know what? Neither would I.
I have no choice when it comes to list making. There was a time in my life when I could keep track of everything in my head. But that ability left me along with my youth. And like everybody else, I have schedules and deadlines that I must adhere to – most related to pursuing my passions, but some simply the consequence of being a human being living in a complex society. So I use the calendar on my iPhone to keep track of appointments and meetings; I have a teaching schedule posted in my piano studio; and I refer to a short list of morning and evening routines around housekeeping and exercise every day. But I don’t think this is contradictory to living freely.
Because at this point my big-picture goals are so much a part of who I am that I can’t NOT pursue them, whether or not they are itemized on piece of paper. No matter what else is going on in my life, no matter how busy I am, I somehow find time to create every single day, whether it’s making music with my students, writing in my journal, or designing a new piece of jewelry. It’s what makes me feel alive. But I want to remain open to adventure and possibility. And I can’t do that when my every waking moment is accounted for before I get out of bed every day. After functioning that way for many years, I reached the point that I almost didn’t WANT to get out of bed. I was so burned out NOTHING brought me joy. And that is no way to live.
Yes, I dream of being a published author, and I realize that dreaming about it isn’t going to make it happen. But since I have abandoned daily word count goals, I am actually writing more – and better. Monday, for example, I got stuck on a paragraph and wound up laboring over it for a long time; as a result, my total for that day was less than 200 words. Tuesday, though, the words were flowing, so I kept working until my first piano student arrived, at the exclusion of everything else, and I added over 3000 words to my manuscript. Previously, I would have stopped the moment I hit my randomly selected number for the day, whether it was 500 or 1000. Then yesterday I had brunch with a friend and spent the rest of the morning running errands and I didn’t get around to writing at all but I was okay with it, whereas before I would have beaten myself up for missing a day.
I understand that every writer’s process is different and I’m not suggesting that anyone else should follow my lead. And that applies to everything else, too. What practices bring YOU closer to fulfilling your purpose on this planet? For me, it used to be New Year’s resolutions, short and long term goals, and a rigorous daily schedule. Now, it is simply waking up every morning, listening to my heart, and following its path.
I wish you joy on YOUR journey!