Minimalism Has No Place in Goal Setting

The idea of minimalism is really appealing. To skin your possessions, and your commitments, down to the bare minimum and be left with only the stuff that is most important offers what seems like a beautiful escape from the consumerism that surrounds us. The phrase “a full life” is warm and fuzzy; it’s something we all aspire to. But when you have a full life that doesn’t feel like your own the situation can be more cold and hard than warm and fuzzy.

Wake up early, shower, wake up your family, get them cleaned, fed and ready for the day. Take everyone to school, go to a job and do work you don’t love so that you will have money to pay for a house and a car and nice clothes so that society will know you are successful. Leave work, pick up the kids, take them to practice whatever they are practicing at the moment, rush home, try to do a little cleaning, cook dinner, clean up after dinner, make sure there are clothes and food and supplies for everyone tomorrow, pass out in front of the TV exhausted by 10. Then do it again. 

If that is the loop you are caught in, with no time to really talk to your kids, or your spouse, and certainly no time just for yourself, to think or pursue the things you love, you probably long for a more minimalist approach. Or to win the lottery.

For possessions, minimalism is probably a wonderful approach: pare down what you have to pay for and maintain, and you won’t need to work quite so much. But, when it comes to setting goals, minimalism is not the answer. For years, I tried to focus on one goal at a time. It makes sense to think that if you put all of your energies toward reaching an important goal, you’ll get there faster. When I worked in an office, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to set up and run my business. I figured that once I got it going and had a regular income, I’d move the bulk of my attention to getting in shape.

Of course, when you are running a business you neverget to the point you can focus the bulk of your attention to anything else. There is always another milestone just out of sight. You always need a few more clients, or to write a couple of more blog posts, or to sell a few more items.

What I learned is that pursuing multiple goals at the same time can give you confidence and  momentum. Right now, I’m working toward a whole bunch of super exciting things, and any time I have success in one area, the enthusiasm and excitement transfers to the others. Here are some of my current projects:

  • With a wonderful partner, I am preparing to launch a new company.
  • I am participating in a weekly creative writing group that requires writing, researching, and critiquing.
  • Finally, after years of talking and thinking about it, I’m writing a novel.
  • If you are a regular reader, you know about the interviews in the Independent Writing Series, which are part of a broader self-education on the publishing industry.
  • After thinking about it for two years, I have committed to a half marathon training program.
  • With several other family members, I am building a big garden, relearning how to preserve food, and learning about bees.
  • As always, I am working hard to build Smiling Tree Writing into the kind of business that will support my family and help my clients reach their goals for years to come.

That is a long list, especially when broken down into an actual, daily schedule that includes a little bit of everything. Smiling Tree is my top priority because it pays the bills, and because I love it too much to risk letting it go into a decline. But, launching a new company also requires a tremendous amount of time and effort, and writing a novel is a notorious time-suck. Throw in working out, learning about a whole industry, and gardening, and you have a full and busy life – with all the warm fuzzies anyone could ever ask for. That list doesn’t even include my highest priority of all: spending time with my husband and children.

When I interviewed Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, we talked about how working 70 hours a week doing work you love is an entirely different proposition than working 70 hours a week at a job you don’t hate. I certainly don’t work 70 hours a week, but I understand now what they are talking about.

What are you chasing right now? Have you ever found that working toward more than one thing at a time propels you forward?

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