The Weekly Spark: Keeping Track


Most of the time, our goals are actually multi-part affairs.

I want to be a nurse, we say.  And, well, that takes getting our science pre-requisites in, getting into nursing school, etc.

I want to run a marathon.  Well, that takes many more than 26 training miles– lots of weeks, maybe some organized runs starting at the 5k level and working our way up, etc.

Most times, when we fail at a goal, it is not because we didn’t really want to do it.  It is because we got overwhelmed by the parts or failed to plan for the parts that make up the whole.  Goals, after all, have to be achieved like climbing a ladder, rung after rung strung together over time.

For example, every year, on my birthday list, I set a goal to read as many books in the year as I am old.  I can’t complete the goal when I am five books or 20 books in.  I have to keep going, often for the bulk of the year, to get there.  Several years ago,  I was an endurance cyclist and was doing relatively long rides every weekend to prepare for big rides or tours– crossing 110 miles off in a day, doing a week of long rides every day along the North Carolina coastline.  So I put in the time with these goals and then made a note in my corresponding reading or wellness journal in order to keep track and see my progress build to my ultimate goal.  Oftentimes, that chronicling of a goal, the celebration of the journey that it takes to reach a goal, is really the difference maker in achieving it.

Many of us know about the more traditional ways to keep track of a goal– a running log or reading list or wellness journal, etc.  Today, for this week’s spark, I want to introduce you to a less conventional tracking tool.

In the summer of 2011, a couple of my dear sweet friends from book club had taken on a yoga challenge of doing 50 hot yoga sessions in something like 90 days.   50 yoga classes can feel like such a hard thing to keep track of and each class down can feel like such a small drop in the proverbial bucket, and so Ashley came up with the perfect way for she and Jen to keep track of and focused on the journey (as opposed to reaching the destination- a point that all yogis reading this will appreciate), she went to a jewelry making store and got them each a simple leather cord bracelet and 50 little brass rings.  Basically, she wanted them to have a kind of abacus for their wrists that was really about more than the numbers.  As each ring, symbolizing one more completed class, was added to the bracelet, what Ashley and Jen saw was their dedication to a goal, their progress, their process gaining depth and breadth and texture and even a little bit of music as those rings clamored together.

A big goal can seem so far away but when you put just a small amount of energy into it every day or other day, it all really does add up.  Sometimes, it is not just the goal in our head or the written log that we need to help us move towards our goal.  Sometimes, we also need a visual.  Maybe the visual is a piece of jewelry like it was for my friends.  Maybe it is a jar that you drop something into each time you get one step closer to the goal.  Maybe it is a goal board that you add something to with each step.  The visual ways you can keep track are plentiful,the key, though, is to do it.

That said, this tool is only productive if it can be used in a positive way and not as a tool that will lead to judgment or obsesssion.  Only you know if paying attention in this way is a gift or a trigger for you.  Only you know if this tool can be a celebration of your growth, a tool that allows you to further enjoy the journey towards an authenticity-enhancing goal you’ve made in your life.  I don’t suggest it as a measure of success or failure but instead as a way to recognize that you are living the life you imagine right now.  That the journey really is relevant in everything that we do.

Can you see yourself using a tool like this?  If so, in what ways?  For what kind of goal?

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