Make Eye Contact With Your Goals

“What does your system look like?”

3, 2, 1… crickets.

The truth is something I have separated into categories. Like grocery lists that label the must-haves and deeply-desires and only make room for the latter when the budget says it’s a-okay.

Truth #1: My work is dedicated to reminding people that truth is strong and binding and hope-inspiring. That truth brings us together as human beings.

Truth #2: My personal life is dedicated to ditching the truth like I’m taking the last exit before the tollbooth charges me for trying to push forward into my honesty.

Truth #3: These two truths are in direct conflict with one another.

I sat down with Hannah lovely-girl Brencher on Monday night to sort out my life. She does these things called Brew Sessions for big, mind-spinning ideas. And originally, I asked her to help me move forward on something huge and, frankly, scary that had been sitting in my head for months. But a week before our session, I started to see how anxiety-inducing that big ole project was.

So we brewed a better way to put my life into those grocery list categories.

The scariest part of beginning something is setting goals for it. I used to be this champion of goals, always pushing pushing pushing toward something bigger. I used to write my goal times for the 800-meter dash, 5k mile splits, my place on the cross country team. I used to own a planner dedicated to how many medals I’d take home each May and whether I’d learn how to do ten back handsprings on the high beam without falling or whether I’d stick a layout full on the TumblTrak.

I stopped consciously acknowledging those goals when they didn’t come true. When time and my mind got me in a chokehold and I had to go home a failure.

I ran dozens of races in the three years I was on the high school team. Only two ever felt like flying. Only two ever let me take control and forget about my thumping heart or my numb legs or the ache in my thighs when the hill with a name was just too high to tackle.

Hannah’s session scared me into remembering that goals need to be set if ever we want to see progress. I had stopped writing them because then I could never say I failed. But in doing so, I also couldn’t say whether I succeeded.

I am not the world’s greatest storyteller. But I went to school one morning in April 2007, and before the first bell rang, I leaned over to my best friend.

“Last night,” I said, “I decided to write a novel.”

Six months later, I had finished it. Two years after that, I shipped pieces of it to agents who requested hardcopy samples. I do not have a book deal. My writing was far from ready. But I learned a lesson that I keep avoiding eye contact with: that we can commit to something massive and see it through. That those weeks I spent writing until two a.m., sending chapters off to a friend, kept me accountable.

There is nothing good in not setting goals. There is no self-satisfaction in how far you’ve come. We are measurable creatures with measurable dreams. We must, must, must see them through.

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