Editing Your Goals

“For we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Before I tell you precisely where I’m taking you, let me give you the backstory that turned into a game changer when I learned how to work some practical helps into my life

Responsible people finish all their chores. Really? Prove it!

You know how people tell you to make lists so you don’t forget to carry out tasks? I make lists—lots and lots of them. Then I lose them, make new ones, find the old ones again and think, “Oh, here is something I forgot to put on my new list,” or, “Here’s something that would really put me over the top.” That list never gets shorter. Never.

I don’t handle lists the same way I used to. Experience is a hard teacher. When I first decided to be a good girl and work off of a list. I committed myself to carrying out everything on it. Then I could rest, safe in the knowledge that I, a respectable member of society, had done my duty.

After jumping on board with this idea, I began working with all my might to finish those chores, no matter how boring or difficult. I began tackling those things that would take away my burdens and make all my dreams come true. Executing this plan was like emptying a bucket of water, and every time you turn it right side up, there it is full again. New to-dos continually appeared at the bottom of my list, and whatever was undone carried over to the next day. I tried so hard to finish “the day’s work,” but after some days and weeks of this I was a complete wreck and the list was no shorter.

Now I know why people don’t finish their day’s work, let alone all their hopes and dreams. It can’t be done. And I suppose you could argue one way or another about whether it’s due to the complicated world we live in, time and chance, or our own incompetence, but I’m truly sure it can’t be done because I tried it. You’ll send yourself to an early grave if you keep at a thing like that.

Edit your entanglements

A sensible person would know, of course, that you have to choose your battles wisely. I had to learn the hard way, but I hope you don’t. Now I ask myself, “Is this a hill to die on?” If not, then I either abandon the challenge or leave it till another day. And, yes, I still make lists so I don’t forget major goals. About 10 years ago I made a note to accomplish several things, but the opportunity to do them didn’t happen until a couple of months ago. Only one item from that old list remains (that’s updating my passport—grunt work but not a major goal for me and not in the “hopes and dreams” category either). Goals lists are necessarily different than daily tasks, though they can take a lot longer to get to.

Altering, but not eliminating, my course

Time and chance have impacted my life once again. New opportunities have come my way, and now I must choose where to put my energies, how many ways to divide my time, and how to be effective at whatever I do. Now that I am being asked to participate more fully in other writing and research projects, I have less time to write articles for The Sea Pearl. With that in mind, I’m planning to emphasize the static pages of this site more than the posts, for that is where the abiding principles of excellence and purpose are spelled out most clearly.

And yet, there are so many amazing ideas that come my way constantly, that I didn’t want to abandon that hands-on touch just because my time is limited. I’ll just be posting shorter snippets (and more of them) on The Sea Pearl’s MeWe group. It has proven to be a clean format and perfect for so many incidentals that don’t require an entire article.

More important than working off endless lists

Which now brings us to the important point I wanted to share with you in the first place. I discovered a simple formula for accomplishing anything you are truly proud of, whatever your goals may include. You have to slow down from time to time, though, to appreciate how it’s all shaping up so you can make intelligent adjustments. When I lived off lists all day long, my life was a blur. I didn’t allow myself enough time to self-edit. If I had, many outcomes would have been that much better even if the number of things accomplished had been less. The formula I discovered is:

Art + Engineering + Nurture = Success

Whether your goals are art or engineering based, if you don’t discipline yourself to look at whichever component you tend to lack, the end result will be less than optimal. (Working harder and faster does not substitute for this discipline!) Discipline takes time and sometimes requires grunt work, but it’s well worth it in the end.

It came to me the other day that some people create beautiful ideas but execute them poorly. I see a lot of art that strikes me as sloppy, as if artists don’t apply themselves to developing a full skill set or learning to think critically about their artistic execution. And then there are engineering types who know how to make all sorts of things that truly improve life circumstances, and yet what they create is — ummm — how shall I say it? — UGLY.

After I learned the art of decluttering and saw how it applies on so many levels besides the merely physical, I saw that what I (art-based) really lacked all these years were simple engineering skills. It changed how I approached all my goals. My eyes were opened to see how my own sloppiness could turn my beautiful ideas into a huge mess if I didn’t learn to think like an engineer.

You might wonder why I added “nurture” into the equation. By “nurture” I mean something like finessing the thing, adding to what you already know, checking yourself constantly. If you have a skill or a talent, it’s worth nurturing and that can mean feeding (yum) or pruning (ouch!). In other words, you should allow yourself to grapple with negative as well as positive feedback, possibly eliminate something you worked hours on when the whole of your plan or design is better without it. (When I eliminate an idea or concept, it doesn’t always get tossed out completely. I may save it for better presentation elsewhere. It now takes me far less time to identify the unnecessary and get on with the rest.)

Crisco 1492, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

With that said, I will see you more regularly on The Sea Pearl group at MeWe, though you will see most of the latest updates to this site on the home page, as usual.

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