Everyone is talking about goal setting again. It’s that time of year: a perfect time to discuss the reality of goal setting in my life.
First, there’s the voice in my head telling me that I need goals and need to accomplish these goals and even what the goals need to be: a voice that sounds an awful lot like my mother.
It has taken me a decade of therapy to figure this out, which is really the most expensive way possible to learn a lesson that should have been obvious from the beginning.
My mom would not consider herself a “goal setter”. She would describe herself as a “hard worker”. Someone who “gets off their ass to make sure they are not broke” vs “setting goal”. My mom would roll her eyes at the word “goals”. For my mom, doing things is what you are made for. A few weeks ago I was making fun of her for not having any fun in life and she said she has plenty of fun….. cleaning the kitchen.
There are lots of complicated reasons why my mom thinks the way she does.
She was raised to make sure that even if she were poor, she would not be dirty. Roaches were the sign of moral failure, not the consequence of living in poverty and all that comes with. She was also raised to work or starve. Naps are not allowed in my mother’s presence. Her entire family had to work to make sure they had food and could survive. She began working in the fields of the Texas Panhandle when she was four years old.
She raised me with that mentality even though my childhood looked nothing like hers because she worked hard for me to have a different life. It never made sense to me that she both worked so I could have a different life and expected me to act as if my life were the same as hers.
I am rebellious though, always have been. That is sometimes a good thing and other times – most times if I am honest – it is not a good thing. I refuse to plan anything. But I feel like I am failing. So, the conflict for me is that I am both failing and giving the “old way of thinking” the finger.
It is complicated, hence the decade of therapy.
Do not get me wrong, I want to set goals and accomplish them. I enjoy looking back over my year and checking off all the things that I was able to accomplish and look at all the things that were not even on my radar that turned out awesome. I love every single kind of Year in Review there is.
I just also feel like my mother is hovering over me telling me that I do not do enough. Because she was told that if she did not do enough that her whole family would starve.
That, my friends, is generational trauma. It is triggered every year from December to February when everyone is talking about New Year’s Resolutions.
It also happens a little in the middle of the year when people begin selling products to “close this year out right”.
I think this is why God gives us Advent and Lent, by the way: He knows we need to detach from the idea that everything is under our control if we just buy enough planners, stickers, calendars and apps. So much is not in our control, and when we fail to realize that is the reality, we end up making dumb choices out of denial.
In 2017, after my son’s suicide I began learning a different way. What is it that I want to accomplish (another way to say “what is my goal”) and how do I cooperate with God in doing it?
Then, I hold up every choice I make to that and see what it is that I need to choose. Will this cooperate with God in accomplishing my goal or is this my own thing?
The beautiful part is that I now can appreciate all the things my mother taught me and use those lessons to do that things that God asks of me. I can also change the reason we do them which is to cooperate with God and not to make sure that people do not think badly of us. Now I can sit down and use a planner as a tool of accomplishing what it is that God wants of me rather than seeing it to be perfect or to make sure the nothing bad happens.
In the year of our Lord2020, I hope we all learned that there is no planner able to do that.