Wait a minute. Let's talk about methodology here for a moment. How do I go about setting my goals, and what factors do I consider?
What do I really want? I still find this to be an awkward and strange question to ask. I spent so many years reacting to other people's standards and expectations, it's hard for me stop and think about what I want to accomplish, what I want my life to be like. Every time I do it, I feel a giddy rush of excitement – "You mean I get to pick? Whatever I want?" – combined with a crushing anxiety – "Oh, hell. Now I'm responsible for making it happen." Still, I ask, and the answers bubble up:
I still want a professional writing career. I may be no wiser about exactly what shape it will take, but I'm still sure this is the direction I want to run in. I know I have the talent to do it. It still feels like the highest and best use of my time and abilities. I just need to do it.
I want to get control of my life. The interior struggle is still on the same battleground: manage my time, manage others' expectations, get a proactive grip on my life and stop running around putting out fires. I want to become a reliable person – someone that anyone (including myself) can count on to do what they say they are going to do.
I want to enjoy my life. Strange that I have to say it, isn't it? But I spent most of my life with a basic assumption that I should defer gratification -- that I should suffer now to enjoy later. But as midlife looms, I realize: there is no later. This is it. If I'm going to have the life I want, I'd better be living it right now.
What do I have to accomplish? Of course, as much as I contemplate the things I really want, I also have to factor in the wheels already in motion. I am not without obligations. I still have to provide for a family, fulfill my roles in the workplace and my community. As I recognize those obligations, I try to reconnect with the intentions that lead me to them in the first place: why did I decide to do this? How does this give me what I want and need? If I can make that connection, then it doesn't feel so much like a burden. Every day, I have to choose your life all over again.
How is it going to get done? Painful experience has taught me the foolishness of setting goals without a clear strategy for accomplishing them. If I promise to do something without scheduling reasonable time to do it, I am setting myself up for failure. So I'm back to contemplating the infamous Schedule – the all-inclusive calendar of all my time, and making sure I carve out enough to give to each aspect of my life. I dream of a miraculous day when I will never have to apologize for how I've spent my time.