It’s an imperfect rhyme, and a tad sexist to boot, but it’s worth taking a moment to remember one of the principles of life: you are the reflection of those closest to you. Which means that you should look at the people you spend your time with, and every once in a while ask some hard questions:
- What are they working towards?
- What am I working towards?
- Are we helping each other get there?
These aren’t complicated questions. It’s pretty easy to tell whether your time with friends is leading towards a better job or a deeper understanding of the Real Housewives of Someplace Else. Leading towards finishing your novel or more frequent trips to the recycling bin with beer cans. Leading towards a better feeling of your body or a new pair of pants because ice cream tastes so good…
Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That
Please don’t take this as me saying that you have to live the life of a monk and cut off all outside contact in a feverish devotion to your goal. For some people that is the right path, but for others that simply means a life of missed opportunity (watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi for a good example of how monomaniacal mastery can destroy a family) (or maybe that’s just my interpretation).
No, it’s been proven many times that taking breaks from your goals not only gives you a chance to recharge but also gives your subconscious a chance to work on the problems. It’s the Eureka phenomenon, common to bathtubs, showers, long walks, or any other activity that engages a different set of motor functions. Friends are great for getting you out of your head – it’s just important that they, and you, understand that even the “down time” is in service to your goal.
Your Goals Won’t Go Away
I have a very dear friend, the talented writer Dr. Milena Radzikowska. She has an idea for a book, and I watched her face as she told me about it. It was a combination of anguish and excitement – because the book is a really neat idea, and it’s going to take a lot of work to do, and it’s pushing the boundaries of her comfort zone in terms of writing. That’s all the exciting part.
The anguish is that she also has a family, and friends spanning the globe, and a career, and other books and writing, and a thriving embroidery hobby, and – and – and…Now there’s this other thing: this goal, this book idea, like a monster perched on her shoulder whispering in her ear: Write meeeeee…
She can distract herself from it, of course. She can throw herself into other worthwhile projects, she can decide that she’s going to volunteer or take up a new hobby or even pull the old “Well, I will write, but first I need to learn more about plot…or dialogue…or bookbinding…or something that will keep me from having to face the actual blank page.”
I should note that I don’t think she’ll do any of those things – she’s too smart for that. Among other things, we both agreed that this is the kind of thing that won’t go away – that will come back to haunt her in the wee hours of the night. There are some goals that simply refuse to leave, and there’s no way out of them except through.
Which is why it’s worth looking at your life, and asking yourself: Are the people I spend time with helping me reach my goals?
They may not be, but that’s also possibly because they don’t know about them. If they are your friends, your family, then share with them what you want out of life. I know one person who spends the bulk of her days with her small children – and yet she’s come up with ways that they can cheerfully help her move forward in her process.
In other words, if your friends are distracting you from the work you were born to do, then enlist them as allies. Make them part of your team. Explain to them where you’re headed, and when you get there, it will make the achievement a shared joy.
And shared joy, as they say, always increases.