“It’s a guide, not a god!”
I first heard that catchy nugget of advice in a Weight Watchers leader training video over a decade ago. It was a highlight reel provided by the Weight Watchers corporate office of some of their most engaging and successful meeting leaders and I was watching it as part of my leader training. This particular leader was from New York and had a very pronounced accent, so it sounded more like, “It’s a guide, not a gawd!”
Both the truth of it and the sound of her voice has made it stick in my head for years now. It’s a reminder to not be too rigid, to be willing to flex a bit this way and that way as part of the process of growing and learning.
This phrase flashed into my mind this past weekend, but instead of “Its a guide, not a god,” it popped in as “It’s a goal, not a god.”
I love setting goals. They motivate me and help me get energized to move forward. They also have a way of sparking my imagination and creativity. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to set a goal to help me get serious about writing every day. I would publish a blog post every day in October! It was a textbook SMART goal…specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based. I felt good as a I charged ahead with it and I was trucking right along… writing each morning, taking notes when ideas occurred to me and being willing to hit the publish button even when it didn’t always feel like it was just right.
The goal setting was doing its job. I was writing every day. I was writing more than I had the previous three months. I was also getting a good jolt of energy and creativity for a work project. Win/Win all the way!
Then comes the weekend. The tricky routine disruptor that we all need and want and yet…the flow stops, the routine gets hijacked by an exciting excursion and much-needed time outdoors to take in new sights and sounds. Ahhh…loveliness!
And yet, there’s this goal. This goal that is important to me. When I missed one day of publishing, I sensed the “What the hell” effect starting to swirl around in my head. You haven’t heard of this? It’s a legit psychological cycle where you indulge in something and instead of getting right back to what you need and want to do, you continue indulging because, well, what the hell? You already blew it anyway right? Might as well just keep going. The real kicker is that your brain is in on the game and does its level best to rationalize your behavior.
After getting home too late last night to get a post out, I was really starting to think about restarting my publishing-a-post-a-day-for-a-whole-month goal next month. November would be better anyway. I could do a whole month on things I’m thankful for and I could start planning it now and really be ready. I could make a post-it note wall calendar and have three or four blog posts written and waiting in the pipeline so weekends wouldn’t be a problem. See that tricky brain of mine rationalizing it all away?
That’s when I started to think about how weird and kind of horrible my life would be if I allowed the “What the hell” effect to push me around…
- I forget to floss my teeth one night, so I’ll just never floss them again?
- I drop an egg on the floor while making breakfast, so I’ll just break the rest of the eggs on the floor too?
- My baby boy fell down on his first attempt to walk, so I guess he’ll be a crawler the rest of his life?
- I ate off my food plan, so I’ll just completely blow off my goal of achieving a healthy weight and instead plow my way through nutrient void processed food for the rest of my meals until I die?
All of those sound absurd and they are, so why turn my writing goal into a god? Nope, I won’t do it. No need to wait for November to keep writing. I’m back at it today.
Weekends come around every week. Spouses surprise you with fun adventures when you least expect it. Fatigue can overtake the most energetic of us. I may not have a perfect thirty-one day publishing streak, but the goal is writing not streaking. And today I’m writing.