Change is Hard
If you’re like me, you have trouble setting and keeping goals. Improvement is hard, yet we all crave it. I doubt there is a person on earth who wouldn’t like to do something better. There are a lot of things I’d like to change about myself.
One of the biggest problems I face in setting goals is wanting to change everything all at once. I look around and want to sweep the house, do the laundry, keep my site up, take care of the baby, edit for other people and do my own writing all at the same time. Then, once I’ve listed all the things I’d like to do, I’m so exhausted by the thought of it all that I do none of it (except take care of the baby; that’s a necessity). I can’t even set one goal. There’s so much I want to improve that I don’t know where to start.
Goals are like a Rubik’s Cube
This isn’t the first time in my life that I’ve felt this way. For those who don’t know, I am a Mormon. From October 2012 to April 2014, I served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines Urdaneta Mission. It was awesome, but often then, as now, I got overwhelmed with just how much I need to do better.
While in the Philippines, I discovered a metaphor that helped me wrap my head around what I needed to do and set one goal at a time. Think of goals as a Rubik’s cube.
Well, now that you’re even more stressed out, let me explain. When solving a Rubik’s cube, you can’t solve the whole thing at once. There is a certain order to it. When you look at an unsolved cube, you might find yourself overwhelmed with it. There are so many colors, and they move weird, and every time you move one into place, another one gets put out of place, and there are over 43 billion billion ways to do it wrong (no kidding; look). It’s stressful for sure.
That is, if you don’t know how to do it.
When I got my first cube, it came with a handy dandy little guide with tips and patterns to follow to solve it. Some may say that learning to do it this way is cheating, but I’ve learned lots of things from a book, and no one has a problem with those. Anyway, the first step was to decide which side was going to be the top.
Yup, it’s that simple. Which side is the top? (I usually pick white.)
After that, you solve the cube layer by layer, not color by color. Following the patterns, it was easy. After a while, I didn’t need the patterns anymore; I could do it easily. Sometimes without even looking while I moved the squares in their memorized sequences.
“The first step is to pick which side is the top.”
Set One Goal at a Time
Setting and meeting goals is like solving the cube. First you’ve got to pick the top. Which goal is your top priority? If you’re writing, which story do you want to work on first? Or is it that you need to establish a daily habit or work on a specific part of the craft that is harder for you? Whatever it is, choose just one, and put it on top.
After you’ve set one goal, work on it. Put all the white squares on top.
One thing about working layer by layer on a cube is that you don’t actually ignore the other colors while you are focused on the white. Each square has more than one color, so you do have to make sure the ones that are white and red go between the white and red sides. But that’s secondary. The focus is getting the white done. After that, you move on to the next layer.
While it’s not a perfect metaphor, thinking of goals as a Rubik’s cube helps me not to panic. I can take one of these many things I want to improve and build it up until it’s where I want it to be. Then, I work on something else. Do things slip from time to time? Of course they do. But you have to move the white squares to get the second and third layers into place. As long as you’re paying attention, those habits will last.
So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the progress you haven’t made, just remember that you don’t have to do it all at once. Set one goal, take it layer by layer, and you will solve it eventually.