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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!

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