I never used to think about long-term goals. From the time I was a kid to about ten years ago, I was short-sighted and I was lazy. I wanted things to be fun, and if they weren’t I was done. Piano lessons? No thanks, too much work. A paleontologist has to go to school forever? Nope. Cross that one off the list. If the rewards weren’t immediate, they weren’t worth the effort.
I know this is a normal attitude of youth. The desire for instant gratification, the lack of foresight, the thought that your world as it exists at any one moment is all that matters. It took me a while to shake it off. I realized the importance of forethought a bit late, after I was an adult, out of college (when it seems one would naturally consider the future), married (again…) at the exact moment I had a child.
When I became a mother, the future lit up like a flare, demanding attention, calling me to move toward it with intention. With thoughtful motion rather than haphazard “we’ll just see” passivity. I don’t mean that I didn’t contemplate who I was marrying, or that I gave no thought to what I wanted to do as a career, but the full gravity of the now on the later didn’t hit me until I saw those little blue eyes. Suddenly everything mattered. How I dealt with anger, expressed love, took care of myself, spent my free time, disciplined and protected and nurtured my son. My new career, the first one I was certain I wanted to have, became mothering. I took it seriously. I read a ton of books (which was good and bad), and threw myself fully into my work. I focused on what I wanted for my kids twenty years down the road and my actions followed.
Last week I attended Donald Miller’s Storyline conference in San Diego (goodbye below freezing temps, hello palm trees and time to think about the future) and was struck by the desire and the encouragement to do this for my other career – writing. The last ten years have been primarily spent on momming, with the occasional trip to the gym or morning “off” to write my blog. And it will remain my most important gig until my children are grown. But it was good to be reminded that little choices I make each day, little spurts of work, matter. That bit by bit I can aim toward a goal that may not immediately gratify. The results might take years to see. Just like being a mom. And that’s ok.
My kids’ character development certainly isn’t an effort for which I expect quick results. Lily’s tantrums have yet to stop, Luke is a bit of a spaz, Mae is nearing three and sure she’s the boss of the world. But my goal is not to raise perfectly behaved children. It’s to raise functioning and flourishing adults. I’ve often expected my writing to be perfectly behaved though. How confining, and scary, and silly. So, as Bob Goff described at the conference, when pilots need to land a plane they pitch, pick and point. Pitch the plane toward the ground, pick a spot to land, and point the plane toward it. I need to do the same with my writing. As best I can. Bit by bit.
Sounds like a pretty good way to approach all of life. I wish I would have done that a lot sooner, but instead of wasting time regretting my lazy, “whatever” attitude, I’m going to change things now. This blog is the pitching part – at least I’m headed in the right direction. Now for the picking and pointing. Screw perfection, I’m just going to try to land.