I spend a lot of time leading workshops, planning trainings and giving motivational talks. In all of these there is an emphasis on goal setting. It is a universally accepted truth that we need to have measurable, attainable goals in order to steer a straight course.
Goals are good and necessary things to have, but as with most of life, too much of a good thing can be bad.
This week while considering the many changes at my work, with coworkers leaving and the shuffling of responsibilities, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by it all. A little trick I’ve used through the years to cope with these feelings is to imagine myself on the other side of the challenge before me. Whether it is a trip to the dentist or learning a new skill for a major project, picturing myself as having gone through it successfully always makes the task a bit less daunting.
Trying to picture what the office situation would be like “on the other side” eluded me. There were too many unknowns.
I found myself whispering, “They will be done.” Immediately, I felt a sense of pleasurable anticipation, of actually looking forward to seeing and experiencing whatever God would make of things.
I read an article recently [on one of the websites I subscribe to on the iPad Currents app, either lifehacker or Good, sorry, I can’t remember which] about how much our anticipated pleasure or dread of a future event influences the way we perceive the actual experience of it. The example used was the way people feel about Fridays as opposed to Sundays. The anticipation of a full weekend ahead colors our Friday experience, making the workday more pleasant. The need to gear up for a week of work can cast a pall on the relaxation or recreation we enjoy on Sunday.
This is a powerful transference effect we can try to use to our advantage. It is a variation and validation of the “power of positive thinking” and “happiness is a choice” philosophies.
By turning the future over to God’s control, and trusting that whatever he does is for my good, I am able to anticipate and look forward to the blessing on the other side of my ordeal.
On the other hand, if I focus overmuch on my goals, and my many tasks to get through to reach those goals, I am letting them overshadow any satisfaction I may have in the process of getting to the other side.
My oldest son and his wife are buying a new apartment to accommodate their growing family. With three daughters, the last two under two years old, they outgrew their small, top floor walk-up apartment and sold it. In Italy, where they live, buying a new home is not as straightforward as in the US. The timing of things will require them to move into temporary housing for several months before their new home will be available. This is a tremendously stressful time, a huge hurdle to leap to get to the other side when they will be settled into their delightful new home. A seemingly impossible feat when you add postpartum depression and the sleepless nights of a new baby into the mix. Watching my son’s family find the humor in their situation, reading my daughter-in-love’s midnight FaceBook posts, gives me confidence that they are making every effort to keep thoughts of the new home uppermost in their minds.
When active anticipation of joy meets the passive depression of dread and gloom, joy conquers, every time.
We can each try to control how our own emotional winds of anticipation blow.