Monday, 18 January 2016

Forgetting about goal-setting

I read somewhere recently that goal-setting is demotivational – when you don’t achieve your goals, you feel like a failure. I immediately thought about the goal-setting we indulge in (and torture ourselves with) throughout infertility. We set arbitrary goals – "I want to be pregnant by the time I’m <insert age here>" - or we look at milestones, and say, “I want to be pregnant/have a baby by next birthday/New Year.” Is it any wonder that when we don’t reach these goals, we feel like failures?

It's almost inevitable, I think, that we take this feeling of failure into our new, no kidding lives, and then set new goals that may or may not be achievable, setting us up for more failure. Or perhaps, we feel cast adrift, lost and alone, when we don’t even know which goals to set. I know though, that since I have decided to try to appreciate the good in my life, even in the difficult times finding joy and love and knowledge and understanding, life has been easier. As a result, I am better able to cope with, and perhaps, better equipped to achieve in other areas of my life – just without too many of those demotivational, arbitrary goals.

14 comments:

  1. This is an interesting observation. I still believe setting goals is important in life, but you're pointing out that they should not only be for things we can control AND that they need to be set with the idea that they can be modified. Too often we make goals hard and fast, as to motivate us towards achieving. But we fail to recognize how painful not meeting those goals are when the inability to meet them is outside of our control.

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  2. I have a love/hate relationship with goals. On one hand they can provide motivation but on the other hand they can lead to the feelings of failure that you describe. I was previously guilty of setting goals like "I'll be pregnant by my next birthday" but I eventually I realized that I have no control over that and some other things. Other goals I find to be very healthy and motivating for me, like setting a reading goal or an exercise goal. So basically when I set a goal for myself I ask the following questions: 1) Is this something that I can control? and 2) Is it realistic and achievable? For example I can't control losing weight but I can control exercising. And exercising three times a week is realistic and achievable but exercising seven days a week isn't.

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  3. I know if I don't set any goals, I don't get much done, even if it's just the mundane I want to get done in a day. I am prone to procrastination and distraction. However, when I spent a big chunk of my life setting the goal to get pregnant (and not succeeding) it just drove me into a depression.

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  4. Interesting perspective on goals - I understand what you mean, but I also (as BentNotBroken said) have a love/hate relationship. I'm not sure I could ever give them up, but happy to hear it's working for you. :)

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    1. I haven't given up goals. I just don't set too many, especially unachievable ones.

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  5. I definitely feel that way about time sensitive goals. I try not to set them because I end up getting anxious as I try to race a deadline. Whereas open-ended ones? Ones that I take a when-it-happens-it-happens approach? Those can help focus me. But I don't think they can be applied to the goals that are so completely out of our hands; like peace of heart or family building.

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  6. I think there's a place for realistic goals your have control over. But there's so little we actually can control when it comes to IF, and many of us have unrealistic expectations going back to childhood. (Adults saying things like "when you grow up and have babies of your own..." as if it were inevitable and effortless.) All that to say, it's great that you're resetting and thinking about goals in a new way.

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  7. Like others have said, I never set goals for things that are completely out of my control. With respect to family building- I certainly hoped that I would have a second child by the time I hit 40, but I never would have set this as a goal, as my history certainly indicated that it was unlikely to happen. I thrive on real, achievable, measurable goals though- like losing 5lbs in 8 weeks, or saving X amount of money by the end of the year. These are things that are well within my control, and I therefore find them motivating rather than discouraging.

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  8. Like many other things, I think goals work differently for different people. So they are workable for some. On the achievable/unacheivable goal setting. I think most people would think that setting a goal of getting pregnant within 12 months was achievable. Pretty sure I felt that way initially! So that is a tough realisation, that it isn't as under our control as we thought

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  9. Loving to hear your thoughts again. I do try indeed "to appreciate the good in my life".

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  10. I like setting goals, but like Cristy, I like them to be things without time limits unless I know I can achieve them. I hear you on the arbitrary infertility goals. I was terrible at that. I am doing much better with living life as is and not setting timelines that are beyond my control with adoption, but I was an obsessive due-date-calculator, maternity-leave-planner (when I wasn't pregnant)...and I used to not fill out my planbook dates for time that I thought I should be pregnant and out on leave. Never did it work. It's hard to shift that mindset of thinking though. I just try not to obsess on it, even though I am constantly doing magical imaginary math in my head. :)

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  11. So true, goals can have a dark side. Failed multiple fertility treatments and other efforts to get pregnant completely severed my cause and effect understanding of life. It's only recently, two years after stopping treatments, that a few goals have organically come into play. I'm glad they are things I really care about and not mindless actions to avert me from feeling the void I now feel. And, I hear you on appreciating the good which is part of being in the moment, goals can definitely take us out of the present if we're not careful.

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  12. I waver on goal setting. Sometimes it is helpful and sometimes it is too much pressure. But, I can completely understand feeling lost and adrift without setting some kind of goal or not knowing what to do next. Sounds like being on either end of the goal setting spectrum is not good and balance is important.

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  13. Totally agree on this. I've pretty much given up on a lot of goal setting as we never know what life will bring. Post cancer/infertility I've definitely not had too many goals beyond things like "Be a homeowner." or "Pay off debt". Things that are broader and most likely achievable.

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