Avoiding (and recovering from) the Dreaded Goal Drift

DSCN0939Drifting.  It’s something we all do, I suspect.  We start out with plans or goals, and for a while, if we’re very motivated, we implement them.  After some time, new habits start to feel kind-of normal, and we think, “This is it.  I’m a changed person.  Look at what I’m doing these days.”  We’ve turned a corner and now we’re unstoppable.

And that’s when it starts to happen:  the drift–the sliding, ever so slowly, away from our original intentions.

It may be that we’d committed to eating better, and for a while we do.  But then, after a month or so, when we’ve shed a little weight and kale is our friend, we indulge in fries once.  Then twice.  Then three times a week.

In my case, I’d been waking up well before my kids for several weeks.  When my alarm sounded each morning, it felt wonderful, if also a little painful, to know that the sun wouldn’t be up for a while, and that I had loads of time to read, write, and pray.

But then, little by little, I started to shut off my alarm a couple mornings per week.  Sleeping in felt wonderful, too.  I began to want sleep more than I wanted to observe my morning routine.  Before I knew it, I was consistently using all of my reflective, alone time in order to sleep in.  This meant that I tried to grab that time during other windows in the day when it was much harder to protect.  I grew grumpy, as if this predicament were my kids’ fault (it wasn’t).

Furthermore, even with the extra sleep, I didn’t feel more rested.  I felt irritable.  I knew I needed to revisit my original goal.

These days, I’m waking up early again, and it feels great, just like it used to.  I’m reminded why I made this decision in the first place.  Instead of beating myself up about my previous drifting, I’m simply savoring the return to this happier (more disciplined) state.  My hope is that, if I pay attention to how good it feels to wake up early, the next time I’m tempted to drift, I’ll remember why I chose to do it in the first place.

Because, in the end, joy and contentment are better motivators than guilt and fear.

How to Survive Your Life As an Introvert

Are you an introvert?  A creative? A homeschooler?  Some or all of those?  It may be that you have a day job that doesn’t include your offspring, or it could be that you’re an extrovert and love tons of contact with people, your kids included.  Or maybe you are more of a math person and don’t paint or write stories or play music.  But just in case you are somewhat like the person I described above (who’s, uh, a friend of mine), I have a few survival tips for doing your work, loving your people, and keeping your sanity.

Get up early.  This has been my Achilles Heel ever since I gave birth to my first child and started worshiping sleep.  I hate to wake up.  I find it truly horrible most days, like coming off Demerol.  Truth is, I think I’m hardwired to be a night owl.  I love the dark quiet when everyone else has slipped into their nightly coma.  It’s my time to think and be alone.  It feels like cheating the system, somehow.  Unfortunately staying up late and sleeping in is not conducive to my actual life.  My kids want to get up and start the day, even as middle schoolers.  And if they do that, and I’ve only been awake a few minutes before they come downstairs, and I’ve had no time alone, no time to deal with personal stuff, I feel pushed and unprepared for the rest of the day.

  It never gets any better. 

So this school year I decided to get up very early and stare off into space, then read my Bible and pray, and then write for a long time, before I tackle my day job (homeschooling/mothering/homemaking).  This means that I have to go to bed earlier, which is hard.  So hard.  Otherwise I’ll be very tired the next day, which might be worse.  I’ve been doing this waking up early for a while now and I’m happy to report that it’s working.  All that alone time to think, to process, to pray, and work on my craft is balm to my soul.  I think it’s making me a better mom and a better homeschooler.  I think it’s making me a better writer, too, as it’s guaranteeing me daily time to write.

Take breaks in the day.  Introverts love people, but they find them exhausting and depleting.  We need to take time to be by ourselves and recharge throughout the day.  In college, I took bathroom breaks between classes, even if I didn’t have to go, because it meant a few seconds when I didn’t have to talk, smile, interact, etc with others.  Weird?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that being home with my kids can sometimes feel just as depleting as being at a party, even though I love them dearly and they’ve learned to avoid pushing my buttons most days. 

These days, I go into my bathroom (I see…a pattern) and shut the door.  I lock said door and I stare off into space or pray.  Sometimes I bring my laptop in there and check my email or text a friend.  (Sorry, friends, I’m communicating with you from my toilet).  I have noticed that if I take these five minute breaks throughout the day I feel tanked up to tackle math or endless discussions about Minecraft better.

Build in treats.  I soothe my subconscious by telling myself, and my kids, that we have fun moments planned for later.  By fun moments I mean time on the XBox for them, or maybe a trip to the library, and food items and Netflix for me.  This might not be an introvert thing now that I think about it.  It might just be a person thing.  Anyway, my kids and I know that we’ll work hard when we have to and then we’ll do treat-ish things, even if they’re small.  Sometimes my treat is closing my bedroom door and working on my manuscript a little longer.  Sometimes it’s driving to Starbucks by myself.  Whatever.  Letting my mind know that it’s OK to feel exhausted now, and that I plan to soothe it later, helps me as an introvert to keep going when I feel like disappearing into my hidey-hole prematurely.

Life is not easy, I don’t care who you are.  But understanding your personality and leveraging this knowledge to maximize your effectiveness in your daily life can help.

What do you do to recharge and replenish?