What Being Sick Taught Me About Achieving Goals
I was 29 days into my new routine of tackling all my most important goals every day when suddenly — it all stopped.
I got sick.
Maybe it was just a coincidence, or maybe I caught the bug that’s apparently been going around.
But it could also be that I pushed myself a little too hard right out of the gate.
I went from zero to all of it, all of a sudden. Maybe I wasn’t quite ready.
I’ve spent the last four days at home, resting, staying warm, and trying to get feeling better.
For those first couple of days, I just felt plain exhausted. I had no energy, a pounding headache, aches and pains, a sore throat, chills, a stuffy nose and a foggy brain.
While that part wasn’t much fun, something good did come out of it.
Being sick (and therefore being forced to take it slow) made me realize a few things about the way I’d been approaching my new goals and routine.
Here are some of the realizations I had this week:
1. Missing a day (or a couple of days) isn’t important. What matters is that I keep going when I can.
Even though I was physically and mentally in no position to do any writing that first day I was sick, I still felt bad for missing a day. I felt like a failure, because I’d set out to do something every day for a whole year, and only 29 days in, I’d already abandoned ship.
What I realized, though, is that nobody but me noticed that I missed a couple of days. The world didn’t fall apart because I didn’t post something that day. It just kept on spinning and life kept on happening while I was wrapped up in blankets on the couch watching cheesy Christmas movies (and enjoying it!)
I’m writing for me — not for anyone else. Therefore, I’m the only one that gets to decide if I’m a failure or not.
And as the Dalai Lama has said, “The only way to fail is to quit.”
Whether I miss one day or five days, the only important thing is that I get back up and start again as soon as I can.
2. It’s not a race to the finish line, because the finish line doesn’t exist.
If writing is something I want to make a permanent part of my life, then why this sense of urgency?
Looking at the big picture, missing a couple days of the year isn’t something to get worked up about. If I keep up my daily writing habit for years to come, this little blip of “sick time” will be totally lost by all the progress I’ve made since.
Chances are, I won’t even remember it.
No one post is going to be the be-all and end-all of my writing career (even if it does really well or goes viral and somehow makes thousands of dollars!) Thousands of dollars is not enough to live on for eternity.
So even if that does happen someday, it’s not going to be “the end.” I will still write the next day, and the day after that, because writing is a part of me.
There is no rush to get anywhere, and being sick and taking that necessary “downtime” helped me see this.
3. Sometimes it’s better to start slow and ease your way into something new.
I’m usually guilty of this one. I start off with way too much on my plate, and then inevitably, get tired, burn out, and eventually quit.
I started off November with some pretty hefty goals: wake up at 5am every day, do an hour-long morning routine, write a minimum of 1,000 words per day, and publish a new post on Medium.
This worked for the first few weeks, but pretty soon it caught up with me. I was going to bed too late to sustain my early rising, and my body quickly forced me into rest mode by slapping me with a nice head cold.
While I think it’s important to set goals and keep challenging and stretching yourself, I’m learning that it may be better to do it slowly over time, rather than trying to do everything all at once.
That’s why, going forward, I’m going to try taking a less rigid approach, in hopes that I can keep it up longer!
4. We can plan all we want; but life will always be in charge.
I can say I’m going to do all these things for the next 365 days, and I’m going to accomplish this and achieve that. I can declare that a year from now, I’ll be in a certain place with my writing or with my job and I’ll have this much money in the bank and this many followers, or that many published articles.
And I’m not saying that any of that is wrong, or not worth doing.
The thing is, life may have other plans for me.
These last few days, for example, life wanted me to rest. Otherwise it wouldn’t have made it nearly impossible to get up, focus, and write something coherent.
Often, I think we ignore what life wants for us, because we’re too busy telling it what we want from it.
But maybe by doing that, we are missing out on the lessons we could learn from simply listening for awhile.
Maybe it’s best to let life show us the way, rather than fighting against it to get what we think we want.
We may end up getting everything we ever dreamed of — just not in the way we planned.