Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Decisions, decisions...

To unfriend, or not to unfriend...that is the question. (All apologies to Shakespeare; it was just too tempting.)

Facebook sometimes presents us with these dilemmas. I've got someone on my FB page who I accepted a friend request from a while back. But this person has taken to posting all this self-help stuff that is just driving me crazy. I know some people are into that sort of thing, but I'm not and never have been. I'm sure he means well (well, I think he means well; he occasionally also posts some pretty objectionable - from my point of view - political and religious stuff, but I've always believed that everyone is entitled to their point of view, even I don't agree with it), but these things are starting to make me twitch.

Just this morning he has posted something about how important it is to write down goals and review them weekly and, just now, something about how we all need to "get out there and create a new you".

To tackle the last one first, I've been hearing this sort of thing for ages, and my first reaction is always, "But I like myself the way I am just fine." For all the fact that I've been having some morale problems recently over the fact that I'm not finding work, I'm generally pretty comfortable in my own skin. I'm fine with improving myself along the lines of learning new things and getting better at the things I already know how to do. But that's a different thing than changing oneself because you think you aren't good enough or that the world will like you better if you conform more to what the culture thinks is cool. Taking the attitude that you need to "create a new you" makes it appear as if you think you aren't good enough.

Maybe it's a function of my upbringing. When I was child, being true to oneself was something that was valued very highly by my parents, and I was encouraged to be me, not what anyone else wanted me to be or thought I should be. And that was a hard row to hoe, considering the fact that I'm pretty much a geek, not something that was accepted at all in a female when I was growing up in the Sixties and early Seventies. But I learned to live with the fact that not everyone is going to like me, and I'm fine with that. Not least of its virtues, accepting that releases me from the obligation to like everyone. Sure, I'd like it if everyone liked me, and it would be great if I liked everyone, but the reality is that this is never going to happen.

The point is, while I value improvement, I'm not interested in a whole new me. Because, you know, that wouldn't be me any more.

The other post, the one about writing down and reviewing goals, might have gotten me into trouble, because I commented there on FB that as far as I'm concerned, taking the time to write down goals and review them all the time really only functions to take away time from actually working on accomplishing those goals. And, understand, I say this as a compulsive list-maker. I love lists. I love making them, and I love reading them. I've probably mentioned here before that I've never met a books of lists that I didn't like.

There have been, in fact, times when I've found lists very helpful. For example, when I was in the process of completing all my papers and projects near the end of my last semester before graduation at university, I found keeping a list of final assignments to be very helpful. As I got each final assignment, I wrote it down on an index card, and I carried that card around with me for about the last month of the semester. As I finished each assignment and turned it in, I got out the list and crossed it off, sort of as a visible sign that I was getting nearer the end of the semester and of school. But, I didn't write it down so that I would know what the assignments were. I knew very well what I had to get done, and when each project or paper had to be finished. I didn't need to pull out the card daily or weekly to contemplate it. Instead, I just worked on getting the projects finished.

But there is also the fact that, mostly, the people I know personally who do what the guy on FB recommends spend a lot more time reviewing their goals than they do working on accomplishing them. It has also been my experience that if you are working on so many goals that you have to write them down to remember them, you're putting too much on your plate. It's like the wisdom of ridding yourself of addictions - don't try to get rid of every addiction you have all at once, because it isn't going to work. Take them one at a time, and you'll likely be much more successful.

As far as I can see, it's the same thing with important life goals - one at a time is more than enough. Trying to do too many things at one time just guarantees that most of them won't get accomplished, and the ones that do get done aren't likely to get done as well as you are capable of doing them. Notice that I'm not saying that goals aren't important. They are. It's just that the journey to the goal is as important as the goal itself, and if you're only focused on the end-product, you're going to miss a lot of the lessons you should be learning along the way.

It's kind of like going on a vacation. Say, you're going to Disneyland. It's a road-trip, and it's going to take you a couple of days' of driving to get there. You haven't been to Disneyland since you were five years old, and you're really excited about going again. But, you know, you're driving through scenic country to get there, and if all you can think about is, "I can't wait to get to Disneyland. I just can't wait!", you're going to miss the mountains, the clear blue sky and that beautiful bird soaring on the wind currents. You're going to miss the Joshua trees in the desert, which really are amazing plants. Or, you'll miss the whales cavorting off the coast that you would have seen if you'd just taken the hour or two to get off the highway and go walk the pier at Pismo, where besides whales, you'd be able to watch the otters floating in the surf, then diving to catch their mid-morning snack. What you miss will depend on the route you take to get there, but whichever route you travel, you'll be missing lots of things.

You'll reach your destination, all right. You'll have great fun at Disneyland. But you'll have missed a lot along the way. It's the same with goals...You'll likely reach your goal, but if you spend all your time thinking of how great life will be once you get there, you'll miss some pretty great things along the way because you won't be paying enough attention to see them and to actually participate in the journey that is life.

All this is a life lesson I'm still learning, by the way. I've still got a lot of work to do to be able to be in the moment rather than always anticipating the next thing up ahead and how great that's going to be. But even though I'm not in a great place right now in my life, with no job and no prospect of one, there are still good things to see and do along the way to getting to a job and a better position in life. Spending time with friends, as I did on Sunday at Scriptorium, is just one example. Yes, the goal there is to produce illuminated awards certificates (they're not to be called promissories any more, as I learned on Sunday), but if we all just gathered and worked single-mindedly on getting the illuminations done, without really interacting, we'd miss out on the conversations we have and the stories we tell each other, and just being with friends.

It's the same with any goal, in my opinion. Arriving at the goal is a good thing, but we ignore the sights and sounds on the way there at our own peril.

I think I've probably come a long way from where I started this post. Tangents 101, we used to call it. But there is nothing wrong with that, and the question still stands: Should I unfriend the person who is posting things I don't find helpful to my journey, just because he's harshing my mellow? Or should I just continue what I've been doing, and hide this individual's posts so that I don't have to look at them?

Really. I'm looking for advice here. I've never unfriended anyone before, not even a passing acquaintance like this person is.

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