Monday, November 12, 2012

Feminine Goal Setting at Mid-Life

“In this culture we are told to set goals. We are supposed to know where we are going and then take specific steps to get there. But this is not always possible, or even wise. It is the male model of linear, rational thinking. But the life process of women…is more chaotic and disorderly, more circular and intuitive. Sometimes we can’t see the next horizon until we step out of the old life. We don’t yet know where we are going. We may not know the place until we arrive.” —Joan Borysenko A Woman’s Journey to God  

I received an e-newsletter from coach Jan Carly, all about how goal setting sometimes trips us up. It really made my heart glad to read this from a coach who uses goal-setting as an important tool. Personally, I have some large perspective very big goals that are sometimes a bit vague, and several smaller detail oriented or focused goals, but I don't always find it possible to sit down and plan my day or week with a calendar, in fact my brain resists this kind of linear thinking like crazy (by going foggy and nonfunctional). I have the luxury of structuring my days by following my intuition (most of the time), on which projects are calling me or are my priority. And yes, I do have appointments, meetings and other people's calendars to deal with too.

But something about goal setting really rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps its the rebel in me, but I in spite of my circular paths and methods, I do manage to get a lot done. I have discovered that I need to leave a lot of room for spontaneity and last minute changes - like this morning for example. I had planned a cleaning day at my chalet - my niece was going to come with me. Our contractor had also picked this day to fix some shingles, inspect water damage and do caulking (it's a nice sunny day here, no rain in sight). But I was also dead tired after a very full weekend, with two supper parties and a full-day retreat I facilitated yesterday. So....although my goal for the day was set a week ago, in the end, my niece cancelled due to a hospital emergency, my contractor still hasn't showed up and is sick at home himself, trying to round up a crew to come here, (it's 11 am as I right this), and instead, unplanned,  I spent the morning listening to soothing music and writing my evaluation of the retreat, and perusing my SoulCollage(R) cards.  Which felt really 'just right' and just what I needed today.

This doesn't mean the shingles won't get done, or the caulking (I hope), but my schedule usually flows like this, and when I flow with it, I am a lot less frustrated.

Here's something that struck me from Jan's newsletter:  "Achieving a goal is a finite moment in time. The real living is in the journey. Success lies in being fully who you already are. Do you want to define yourself by one external moment? If you have the mindset that nothing is worthwhile until you reach a goal then what is day-to-day living really all about?"

Exactly! The day-to-day living in the moment, enjoying the circular, labyrinthine journey while remaining grounded, connected to the steps I am taking and the earth I am walking on, is paramount.  I find that, especially in mid-life, women discover they can't multitask successfully anymore (and new brain science tells us that our brains can really only focus well on one thing at a time anyway). I do need to promote my work, get out and meet readers at live events, plan for writing time and research time, but I don't see it happening in straight lines, from point A to point B. It works with synchronicity, spreading my web of contacts, woman to woman, attending conferences and workshops, remembering the local community I am living in and offering my services there. I can jump in my imagination to some far-future goal of being a famous author, and despair at the low number of book sales, or I can enjoy the journey.

So I make it my goal to be centered, and work with flexibility. Going in circles or spirals, doesn't indicate lack of forward motion. It is just a more intuitive way of working. Time is an illusion anyway, and the boxes we like to build around time usually get knocked down. You will know the place when you arrive, as Joan says. Allow your feminine wisdom to guide you, even while you are setting goals.

Have a great week,

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