I first visited the Grand Canyon nearly twenty years ago. It was love at first sight. Deep in the emotion of discovery, I chose a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon “before I turn 50” as a goal. It felt like more than a goal; it was a passion and a soul-promise I made to myself.
I turned 50 last February, without making that hike. Failure tasted bitter.
Without knowing my feelings of failure, The Sweetheart (my significant other of the past couple of years) decided we should all go on a rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon as a family vacation this summer. His suggestion brought up a lot of ‘stuff’ for me, including a very deep look at my relationship with goals.
I spent most of my life avoiding setting any kind of goals, which is one reason this rim-to-rim thing was so surprising. I just don’t set goals, and that particular goal is a doozy for almost anyone. Go big or go home?
Missing the goal felt like a colossal failure. As it turns out, that is why I have avoided goal setting for most of my life. I had this idea that if I didn’t achieve whatever goal I set for myself, I had totally failed. Failure had never felt good to me.
Suddenly, I was faced with the opportunity to do something I had been wanting to do for over 15 years and I nearly turned it down. Yes, really. I had already failed in my mind, so why bother? I came very close to saying, “No,” to his invitation.
Somewhere in my pre-pubescent mind (that place where childhood wounds live and wreak havoc on current events), it was too late; I had missed doing it before I was 50, so there was no point. My adult self piped in with logic that neither the Grand Canyon nor my relationship to it had significantly changed in the past year. The child-mind holds a strong grip on how we react to things. My inner child believed she had failed, and nearly derailed the now.
I am self-aware enough to know when I’m being manipulated by my child-mind. I started exploring travel options, and things moved like greased lightning. I found rooms for the four of us at Phantom Ranch on the Canyon floor, though we had already been told it was impossible on short notice. Our backcountry passes were approved in less than four hours when the website says to allow weeks. Even our plane fare was available at incredibly low prices. It all fell together. For The Manifesting Diva™ in me, that is a sign I am on the right track.
While the plans were falling together, part of me was falling apart. The judgmental child kept saying, “Too little, too late.” My adult self argued there is no such thing. My Sacred Self (the wise, loving part of me) stepped in to intervene, as no amount of logic will ever soothe a child. The child self (Scared Self) needs to experience compassion to find peace.
I share my process because I know others can successfully use the same technique. Basically, I choose to inhabit a couple of different aspect of myself, and observe how they resolve an issue. In this case, I chose to compassionately interact with my child self from the viewpoint of my Sacred Self.
While holding a space of compassion where no thought or idea is wrong, I found that my Scared Self was holding a belief that goals are Pass/Fail propositions. If I completed the goal perfectly and before deadline, I passed. If I missed any aspect of the goal, I failed. That is an unforgiving standard. No wonder I didn’t want to participate!
As I continued to work through this with my own Life Coach, (yes, coaches need coaches) my coach lovingly challenged me to set a goal for myself for that week. As expected, I resisted from the place of my Scared Self. When my Scared Self found only compassion, resistance melted away and I set a goal I was certain I could meet.
Then, my coach asked me to set a stretch goal. “No way!” my Scared Self screamed. In her typically brilliant way, my coach amended the request to follow the stretch goal with the words, “and/or renegotiate the agreement with myself if necessary.” As I am always able to renegotiate, I was comfortably setting myself up for two things. One, my Scared Self knew I would automatically get a Passing grade. Two, my adult self would experience what a goal is truly intended for… experimenting with reality in a way that allows for the measurement of results and modifications as necessary, based on those results.
Goals were never meant to be something for me to beat myself up with. The same is true for you. Goals are simply meant to be one way of checking in to see how this ‘Experiment’ called ‘Life’ is working, so we can make the experience even better.
What inner conversations are you having? What goals are you setting for yourself this week?