I am going to try to explain something here, and am going to do it clumsily. Your best option is to read this essay by Joshua Fields Millburn – a complicated, smart, pretentious, moderately sexist advocate of minimalism whose book Everything That Remains got me thinking about my life and my choices. Damn him. Anyway, it is a better use of your time to read his essay, but I am going to proceed anyway…
I track things. I have as long as I can remember – in notebooks, then in Excel, now on Google Drive. I set fun and not fun goals for myself. Stretching back as far as I remember. The summer between my 7th and 8th grade year, I set a schedule for watching reruns on TV. I like structure. Maybe it isn’t that I like it. I am addicted to structure. Yes, that seems right – addicted.
I could tell you that setting goals works for me. But that is total bullshit. For most of my life I have wanted only one thing. To be thin. I have never achieved this. I have achieved being slightly less fat on occasion. For a few days I was even more than slightly less fat. But almost exclusively I fail at the things I track in notebooks, or Excel, or Google Drive. If I could get back the time I spent tracking goals I didn’t achieve… But I can’t. And now I want to be happy and healthy – screw thin. So maybe now it is time to stop tracking shit I want to do, and let it go or just actually do the things.
Here is what I was tracking (until this morning)…
* Completing my skin care regimen every morning and evening, as well as flossing
* Giving myself a manicure every week
* Completing 3 sessions of the couch to 5 K program every week
* Completing 3 sessions of kettle bell workouts every week
* Eating six servings of fruits and vegetables every day, drinking six glasses of water every day
* Tracking what I ate – just to be clear – I tracked what I ate and then tracked that I tracked it. Seriously. Not kidding.
* Blogging seven times a week
* Finishing a quilting project every week
* Finish a book every week
* Walking my dog twice a week
Well, that’s a humiliating list. And other than finishing a quilting project every week, I never hit any of them. I would read a book and constantly check my page count to make sure I was making enough progress for the day. I would skip a workout, telling myself that I could make it up before the week was up. I would size up my bag of carrots in my lunch to determine if I could count it as 1 serving or 2. I managed my spreadsheet – moving through scenarios to see how I could get an “A” for the week. I always got a D – once a low C.
At best the goal spreadsheet was a failing extrinsic motivation. But, really, to be completely brutally honest with myself, it was a total waste of time. Months after reading Joshua Fields Millburn disparage goal setting, I finally am ready to admit that I need to give up the ghost. So I am running without a spreadsheet. Today I did 30 minutes on the treadmill, and I will get no “credit” for it. There is no box to check. Whoa.
I am not sure what cold turkey looks like. Probably a lot more of listening to myself. I put the things I do still want to do (exercise, blogging, giving myself a manicure) on my calendar. It still is a bit Type A, but I am new at this. Baby steps. That will not be tracked anywhere. Whoa.