I went to yoga this week and had that familiar voice in my head during the first 10 minutes of the practice, "This feels SO hard. I am really tight. Ugh, this is so uncomfortable, why did I come? Why don't I do this more often so it doesn't suck so much in the beginning. Maybe I should just ignore yoga altogether. Ugh....". Inevitably, as the class goes on, it gets better, the moves get easier and it starts to feel.... well, good. Yes, I needed to come to class to practice flexibility. It turns out, Im typically more ready to work on getting stronger but I tend to forget (or resist?) practicing flexibility.
Setting goals and creating a plan to reach those goals is something that I have done for many years as a way to get from where I am, to where I want to be. I think many of us have learned this as a skill to move forward in life. In fact, as part of A Year of Wellness, we do a lot of goal setting and creating detailed plans on how to get to those goals. And goals are wonderful to have! They keep us moving forward, motivated and challenging ourselves. Accomplishing those feats can be a great boost for self confidence. We can share these achievements with others and they are recognized, sometimes with great celebration, when we reach that hard earned target. To me, achieving goals feels like I am getting stronger.
However, I am given the lesson over and over that while goals are wonderful guideposts and the strength it takes to pursue them is a true asset, practicing flexibility along the way is essential. This is an area of constant challenge for me- just like sticking to my physical practice of flexibility. I don't know about you but I have to constantly remind myself that strength and flexibility go hand in hand. Looking towards what I hope to become and hope to accomplish must include the strength to face the challenges as well as the flexibility to adjust my path as I go. But, knowing when to stand strong and when to bend not an easy thing to do!
My old programmed response to a road block on my path towards a goal is to get frustrated, angry or indignant. How could this happen? This isn't in the plan! I don't want to fail! Why does this feel so hard? I would continue to use an inordinate amount of energy being upset with the person, thing or circumstance that is getting in the way. Or even worse, I would spend too long feeling sorry for myself. It took me having a few well laid plans blown out of the water to realize the energy wasted on being rigid and inflexible. Here is where flexibility and creativity can enter in to save the day.
I am continuously learning that when a plan gets derailed on your way to your goal, it can be an opportunity to think about alternative ways to move forward. We can ask, "Are there other ways to answer this problem?" or "Is there some other knowledge I can gain to get over this roadblock?" Maybe with enough resistance to moving forward, we can ask ourselves, "Is this goal still a priority?" Admittedly, I even sometimes enjoy the chance to be creative in the problem solving challenge.
If we decide to change directions or even change our goals, its OK! It is not a failure to adjust, change or drop a plan or goal. In fact, its smart, if you find that you are losing precious energy hitting road blocks over and over. Perhaps, you have learned new information that tells you your direction needs to be adjusted. Don't be afraid to question your initial intentions or goals. It is not a loss! I have learned a few times that when I felt dejected about a plan "failing" to move ahead, it just turned out I needed to gain another set of skills or understanding before I could commence on my path towards my intended end point. Other times, in the process of moving forward towards my goal, it became clear that my priorities have changed and therefore, my goal needs to be adjusted. In these cases, I have humbly found that the destination truly wasn't the most rewarding part but (at the risk of sounding cliche) it was the journey. Focusing less on forcing forward movement and more on where can I find flexibility has made all the difference. Yes, it still feels hard every time I do it. And yes, I am still a novice when it comes to practicing this on a daily basis.
As part of A Year of Wellness, I work on helping my clients develop the strength and flexibility it takes to make the changes they want to make. It is not uncommon that we adjust these goals as we go because we have more insight after we have worked together for a bit. Several times in the process of moving forward, my clients will realize that the goal they set in the beginning is one they thought was important. However, as we work together, they find a more rewarding direction they want to head in. By practicing flexibility and adjusting their goals toward something more personally meaningful, they are open to making strides in ways they could never have foreseen.
It is wonderful to have goals, but the strength to be flexible in how and when you get there is (debatably) a more important skill. Ill keep working on it if you do. :-)
Have a wonderful week!
PS: For those of you who would like to think a little more creatively about goal setting, here are some awesome TED Talks about thinking differently about goals. They have inspired me and I hope they inspire you as well!