Avoid Unintentional Sabotage: Help Those You Love Support You in Your Goals

It’s Life List Friday and I’m thrilled to have Pam Hawley of the Life List Club guest posting with me today.  It might be the fact our lives seem like parallel living situations on opposite coasts (if by coast you mean the Mississippi River, right?), or it could be that she’s just a phenomenal writer whose honest words never fail to inspire me, but I think you’re going to love Pam’s advice about how to partner with your loved ones to best achieve your goals.  Enjoy Pam’s wonderful post and be sure to stop by Sonia Medeiros’ blog where I’m guest posting for Fear Factor Friday on how horror films impact our life goals.  Then you can check out more of the Life List Club blogs by visiting the writers in the LLC Blogroll in my sidebar.  We’re all guest posting today and we love hearing from you about your own goals and life lessons; stop on by!  Don’t forget, the party continues at #LifeListClub, open all hours and there’s none of that hand stamping that won’t wash off for days.  🙂

Avoid Unintentional Sabotage:  Help Those You Love Support You in Your Goals

I once worked with a woman who had been overweight her whole life. She was the “office mom,” the one who brought in donuts on Mondays to make them less Mondayish. She was the one who noticed when you were headed for a stress meltdown and surprised you with a treat. When she retired, we all felt a hole where her nurturing presence had been.

Before she retired, she set a goal of losing weight. Our little band of coworkers was more than happy to help her. We brought in healthy lunches so she wouldn’t have to watch us eat pizza while she nibbled on a Lean Cuisine. We took walks on our breaks and shared advice on getting fit.

Still, she struggled. One day, she confessed that she had a tough time sticking to her regimen at home.

“I’ve got the willpower not to buy junk food,” she admitted. “But I cave and chow down if it’s in my face.” When her hubby went to the store, he brought home Doritos, Coke, cupcakes, and their other favorite munchies. If he wasn’t raiding the junk food aisle, he was stopping by their favorite carry-outs and “surprising her” with subs or pizza.

As women are known to do when a man is being thickheaded, we called him all sorts of names. She defended him, saying ‘that’s just the way he is.’ In hindsight, I realize she was right.

Sometimes, our loved ones are impediments to achieving our goals. If we’ve chosen our friends and family wisely, this isn’t because they’re evil minions sent to keep the extra pounds on our bodies or our novels unwritten. But people are resistant to change and stuck in (or maybe just happy with) their own routines. When we start making changes in our own lives, we don’t always realize how we’re impacting those in our circle.

When loved ones seem to be sabotaging our goals, their actions are rarely malicious. In fact, they may just be doing the same things they’ve always done. Even in those rare cases where a friend or partner is truly acting in ways that are counterproductive towards our goals, their actions are usually subconscious.

A wife who makes snide comments about her husband “sitting at the computer all day” may be resentful of how his newfound focus on his writing has put extra household burdens on her. A friend who tempts you with invites to happy hours at all your favorite restaurants when you are dieting may secretly be feeling bad about herself. Or maybe she just misses spending time with you now that you’re always in the gym instead of hanging out with her.

My own boyfriend would often try to talk to me while I was writing. I was ready to pull my hair out, until I sat back and thought about it. He doesn’t write. He doesn’t understand the focus and silent reflection time I require when I’m working on my novel or a short story. So instead of just getting annoyed and sulking all night (obviously I’m not perfect either), I talked to him about it, comparing my “writing happy place” to the way he feels when he’s in the zone playing his guitar.

“You don’t want to talk to me about the bills or what we’re doing this weekend when you’re working on a song, right?” I asked. Suddenly, he could relate.

In addition to such simple communication, there are other things you can do to help your loved ones support you in your goals rather than hinder your progress.

  • Ask for what you need. We’d all like to think our nearest and dearest just “know” what we need, but that’s not always the case. Ask your mom or husband to take the kids out for a few hours so you can write. Tell your girlfriend you need her to stop tempting you with offers of gorge-fests at your favorite buffet, but that you’d love to go see a movie or hang out by the pool instead.
  • Make sure you’re being fair. When we’re focused on an end result, it is easy to get tunnel vision. You’re working all day, and writing before and after work. Meanwhile, your spouse has taken on all the household chores that you used to do, even though she works full-time too. You’re writing more, but she’s seething inside because she has no downtime, and eventually the situation will implode. Compromise is essential to keep the life balance you need to stick with your goals for the long haul.
  • Don’t be a bore. Your mom probably wants to know that you wrote 5,000 words this week. However, unless she’s a writer too, she probably doesn’t care about character development and plot struggles and your frustration with your over-use of commas. That stuff is fascinating to us writers, but not to anyone else. Network with others who share your goals. Have your lengthy and detailed discussions of writing or weightlifting or whatever your obsession is with them. You’ll save your loved ones from having to do the “polite stare and nod.”
  • Take time to live in the moment. The only guarantee any of us have is the moment we’re in right now. Time spent connecting and having fun with your partner, family and friends is never time wasted.  Don’t give up date night to write or study, or your weekly dinner at mom’s house to lose weight. Skimping on these special moments leads to resentment and loved ones who feel neglected. Cut corners somewhere else – a few more dust-bunnies under the couch or cereal for dinner instead of prepping and cooking a full course meal one night never killed anyone.
  • Give what you’d like to receive. If you want your loved ones to support you in your goals, make sure you’re doing the same. Don’t get so wrapped up in your own struggles and successes that you can’t see those going on around you. While you’re hitting the gym, your wife is working towards her degree. While you’re pecking away at the novel, your best friend is working up the nerve to do stand-up comedy. Know these things about your loved ones, celebrate their milestones, and pick them up when they fall down. Even when you are pursuing totally different goals a healthy dose of mutual respect, support and admiration can keep you connected to those you love.

Like our goals, our relationships need attention and flexibility to stay strong. It is easy to overlook that simple fact when we’re racing towards a finish line. Instead of running, do the marathon at a pace that allows those you love to walk beside you.

     Pam Hawley is a writer living in Baltimore, MD. When she’s not working at her day job, writing or in the gym, she can usually be found at her family’s pub, Hawley’s in Baltimore. So far, her new approach to achieving goals seems to be working – her first published short story, “A Wingding and a Prayer” appears in the July issue of eFiction Magazine. Pam blogs regularly at Hawleyville http://hawleyville.wordpress.com and is spending much of her free time these days happy dancing about the fact that the NFL lockout is over and she’ll have Steelers football back soon!

25 responses

  1. Great advice, Pam. It is always important to keep others opinions in perspective. Does the person offering the opinion really understand the situation? Would it matter if they did?

    Definitely take time to breathe, smell the “roses” and enjoy life.

    1. Thanks Gene! I’m working so much at learning to be better at “living in the moment” that I should probably add doing so to my Life List : ). Still, it is a very worthwhile venture.

  2. Excellent advice! When I fully commited to writing, I tried to explain the changes to my family. So far, they’ve been very patient and cooperative. It’s hard for the kiddos sometimes. I try to get up really early to get the bulk of my writing done before they wake up. But sometimes they wake up extra early too. It’s still a bit of a work in progress.

    1. I can only imagine how hard it must be for kids – I know when my guy has something he needs/wants to talk about, it is hard for him to consider “writing time” a good reason to wait – and he’s in his 40’s : ). That has gotten better since we talked it through, though. It is hard for someone who doesn’t write to understand just how all-consuming and precious that time is.

  3. It’s funny becasue I’ve faced the same thing with my husband and writing. He doesn’t really have a ‘thing’ where he can’t be disturbed. But we’ve agreed that three night a week I get to write uninterrupted. He’s actually enjoyed this becasue it gives him some alone time he didn’t have before. Great post!

    1. I get this. It takes time before the change becomes a welcome part of your routine. Before I started writing again, I felt like the one left out because my boyfriend is a musician. I hated how he had gigs all the time, and tuesdays felt so long because they were rehearsal night. Then I got used to it and saw it as an opportunity to make plans with girlfriends, get work done, or have me time. Now we’re in the opposite transition, him getting use to me having writing time outside of his rehearsal. But, we’ll get there.

    2. I’m glad Lee plays has a similar kind of “I-need-focus” thing with his guitar. Funny thing is, when he’s playing in the background and working on a more mellow type of song, the “soundtrack” behind me sometimes actually helps my writing. It tunes out the more annoying background noises and sets a kind of creative mood. When he’s not in the mood to play and I’m writing, the background noise in the house tends to be Xbox Madden Football – not nearly as soothing : )!

  4. SUPERB tips on how to balance our lives and our writing. I know that when I’m in the middle of writing a book my husband used to comment about me not spending time with him and being unavailable. He’s more understanding now and I am trying to make a concerted effort to not cut myself off by writing at night when my family is home.

    1. It can be so hard to find the balance, can’t it Patti? I know I guard my writing time – because sometimes it is so rare – like a she-wolf, and get really snappy when it gets interrupted. I value “our time” to do things together just as much, but am not as vocal about it because that time usually doesn’t need to be guarded. I imagine living with us writers, or other creative types for that matter, is a roller coaster ride for our loved ones at times – I’m not sure I would want to live with me!

      1. If Lee needs a weekend off, maybe we can trade partners. I’ll come over to your place for a writing retreat weekend and bring snacks and colorful pens and the boys can have a jam session and watch Orange County Choppers on the big screen. LOL.

        1. Jess, that would be PERFECT! Lee loves Orange County Choppers! And we can throw in some quality wine time to celebrate our writer’s getaway, too : )!

  5. Spot-on post, Pam! It’s so revelant for everyone of us. I am super fortunate to have a husband that ‘gets it’. I ‘get it’, too.So when he’s working on his website or just sitting on the posrch to get a few minutes alone to think, I don’t go barging to talk about one of the kids or whatever…I leave him alone. He’s wonderful about doing the same for me. We work in time for us to sit and chat . My granddaughters, on theother hand, are too young to get it, so I stop what I’m doing to be with them. They’re only going to be little for a short time…gotta live in the moment, like you said.
    Thanks, Pam.

    1. Hope you’re still having fun with the kiddos Marcia! Bet the girls will help you come up with more stories!

    2. You are so right Marcia – that age is only here for a time, and then their lives become filled with so many activities and friends that we grownups are asking for their time instead of the other way around. My 14-year-old niece has spent most of her summer working and learning at a horse farm – riding is her passion. My mom is so proud of her, but at the same time (my niece and sister live with my parents), the house often seems empty to her with J gone as much as someone who works a full-time job. She craved the peace and quiet, but now that its here it sometimes feels weird to her!

  6. This is good advice. I think I’ve been driving my loved ones nuts with my blogging obsession lately. It’s good to remember to find balance.

  7. Overuse of commas, well, now, there’s something I can, completely and totally, relate to, myself. I’m wondering, is there a self-help group, a local one, that could help me out with that, or at least try?

    This is good advice. My cat sometimes sabotages my work by demanding I pet her. I think I need to set her straight.

    1. Mark, did your cat help you type this?

    2. Mark, if you find that self-help group let me know – sometimes I wish I had a can of Raid that would deal with my commas the way it will an ant problem : ).

      1. LOL. Love it!

  8. Sometimes, it’s easier if we allow ourselves to mess up once in a while. It certainly gives us some cushion so that we can go on and do what we have to do.

    1. Very true. We all learn from our mistakes, and sometimes we do have to make them in order to move past them.

  9. Ohhhh I’ve been guilty of too many of these 😉 Especially the “don’t be a bore” one. In fact, just this week I went on a rant about how I go through phases of over-using various punctuation marks, and stopped myself once I realised all of my co-workers’ eyes had glazed over. Thank goodness there’s such a strong writing community where you can talk about commas all day and never bore a single soul.

    1. Hahaha, I do that. And then when I’m in a writing group I get really excited cause they will be too!

    2. I tend to go on my writing rants when I’m with family and friends at the pub, Carrie. My co-workers usually get spared, but sometimes I wonder if I’m the reason my friends rush to get that “one more drink” : ).

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