Lately I’ve been “burning out”. I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to launch new content simultaneously in English (for my Internet audience) and in French (for my local audience). It got to the point where my head was constantly buzzing with a low-grade headache, and my patience was in short supply.
Then I received a morning thought from Heather Frey, a fitness trainer who I follow on Facebook:
You are unfinished. Yet everyday you race, scramble, and pressure yourself to be finished, which is both impossible and exhausting. Your life is a beautiful project, not a task. It is not to be completed and put away but rather relished, enjoyed and learned from. Your life is not one day after another, it’s a span of time with rest in between where you get a chance to grow and build momentum. Your life is suppose to be joyous and your “project” is to figure out how. Stop trying to “finish”.
Stay CLEAR…stay FOCUSED…and it will be yours…
The moment I read Heather’s message, the buzzing stopped, and I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders.
In the U.S. culture of achievement, efficiency and logic are prized. In the Italian culture of aesthetics, the artful scam has its place. America acts in the belief that life is linear and leads to the realization of goals. Italy idles in the belief that life is circular and objectives an illusory distraction from pleasure.
Are objectives really an illusion? Did I get so wrapped up in the linear pursuit of trying to “complete”, that I started driving myself to exhaustion chasing the impossible?
For goals to have meaning, they need to be connected to what is most important to me: my personal mission, my vision of the change I wish to create in the world around me, and my beliefs about my talents, strengths and abilities (my “permission”). The point of having a goal is to orient my energy and provoke movement. Whether I reach the goal or not is, in the big scheme of things, “unimportant”.
I define “success” as creating an experience of life that allows me to explore my full potential. The moment a goal urges me to take a step, my perspective about the goal changes. Whether the step is forward, or back, or to the left, or to the right, I’ve accrued a bit more experience, a bit more knowledge. This new experience causes me to reevaluate the goal – how is the goal still relevant to the experience of life that I wish to create, a life that allows me to explore my full potential?
It could be now that I’ve shifted where I am, that the goal is no longer as relevant. Or that it’s even more relevant. No matter, the objective is to be continuously reevaluating the goal, treating it as something dynamic rather than static.
If I am too focused on a static end-goal, my project ends when either I reach my goal, or the goal escapes my grasp. The end of a project is a little death. This is why goals need to be dynamic, always under reevaluation. Because the only purpose of a goal is to move me to action, so I can live an experience.
A linear life ends up being singularly focused on completion – and the ultimate completion is death. A circular life is focused on experience, and the experience of exploring my mission, vision and permission need not end… The circular life can go on forever, because it never needs to be complete.
For more information
The essay that got me thinking about “linear” vs “circular” lifestyle: “Florentine Choices” by Roger Cohen, NYTimes.com, 11 Mar 2010
Direct link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/opinion/12iht-edcohen.html
Image credit: “Six Blue Circles” by qthomasbower on Flickr. Link to author: http://www.flickr.com/photos/qthomasbower/
Link to image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/qthomasbower/3835549101/
Used under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 licence