Some people want to climb the corporate ladder. Me? I just want to get to the top of Maslow’s pyramid-shaped hierarchy of needs.

Maybe it all started in psych 101, the first time I saw that pyramid. The truth is that I’ve always wanted to become the best possible version of myself, ever since I was a little girl writing in her journal and sitting in the forest, pondering the meaning of life. I knew from a young age that I wanted something different out of my life, something that didn’t even seem like a possibility at the time. I couldn’t see what I wanted, but I knew it was out there.

I am introspective by default, critical by nature, and so analytical I’m surprised smoke doesn’t occasionally pour out of my ears. I assess, I reassess, and I take careful steps. Sure, I leave space in my life for play and spontaneity, but I am so goal-driven that it can be, quite frankly, detrimental. I’ve worked myself so hard, burnt the candle at both ends, that I’ve run myself into the ground before. And even that I analyzed until I’d seen each slide of my decisions under the microscope.

I meditate, do yoga, read Martha Beck articles on Oprah.com, do numerology, read up about my astrological sign, Feng Shui my home so often I’ve earned the right to use Feng Shui as a verb, and frequently peruse books by Deepak Chopra. I know my Myers-Briggs personality type (INFJ, the idealist or protector, and the rarest type). We’re dreamers, but we’re also hard-nosed. We love goals. Repeat: Love. Goals. Personalitypage.com writes of the INFJ:

INFJs place great importance on having things orderly and systematic in their outer world. They put a lot of energy into identifying the best system for getting things done and constantly define and re-define the priorities in their lives. On the other hand, INFJs operate within themselves on an intuitive basis [that] is entirely spontaneous. They know things intuitively, without being able to pinpoint why, and without detailed knowledge of the subject at hand.

Do you know your Myers-Briggs type? How does your Myers-Briggs type influence your approach to your goals?

One of my favorite things in the world is to be productive. Just hearing the word gives me butterflies. I love organizing my dresser drawers; I find a sense of fulfillment in cleaning the stove. I crave the safety net of having a savings account for a rainy day. I don’t always need to know where I’m going, but I need to have a plan and goals in mind. Growing up, I wasn’t the kid who asked, “Are we there yet?” I asked, “Where do we go next?” “Why are we on this road?” “Is there a better way?”

I have faced personal challenges in life, like everyone else. When prolonged illness derailed me from my goals (among my top goals: being a writer), I climbed my way back up and kept going. I used my experiences to fuel my art; I took all of that rubbish, made a compost heap, and used it to fertilize the garden of creativity.

But I have to watch that I’m not pushing too hard. Some days writing is going slower and that word-count goal feels mocking. I missed my March word count by a few thousand words. I’m trying not to feel guilty about it. After all, I still wrote somewhere around 25,000 words—not too shabby. And hey, I was sick for a week, my hubby was sick for two, and I traveled to both N.C. and eastern Virginia during that month.

I’ve had to remind myself that self-actualization is not necessarily a destination. Like happiness, it’s a part of the journey, not an end in itself. Some days you’ll get there. Other days you won’t. Some days you’ll be tired, sick, depressed, hurting, doubting, stuck. Some days you’ll be so busy you won’t have time to stop and smell the roses.

I’m glad that those moments of reflection are such a crucial part of who I am. It’s necessary, when one is an artist of any type, to be in touch with ourselves and to be careful listeners. In the last few years, I’ve made hard decisions that have made me a harder person. Stronger, maybe, but wary. My faith has been shaken to its roots.

But I’m still standing, and so is the tree. Those roots are still drinking up water from the deep earth; the trunk is still there for me to lean against; and the branches and leaves provide shade and shelter for the many wild things of this world and inside me.

I’ve always been a fighter. I’m learning to let go. Sometimes to make a piece of writing strong, we have to let the words flow and trust in our own creativity to take the art where it needs to go. We can be the editor and the critic later. Sometimes in life, we have to let go of our goals to reach them. We can’t keep running to a destination. Sometimes I do yoga, or I curl up in the sunshine or the shade, or I sit in a space lit by candlelight or moonlight, and I just breathe. Today can be a good place to just be.

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