Time to aim a little higher? How about 72 floors higher?!
During my two-week holiday-at-home at the end of June (I’m increasingly coming to see this holiday as a kind of watershed between one half of the year and the other, given the extent of the changes that have occurred since then – as was originally intended but not quite on this scale!) I had one day where I let myself “off” music and just sat with my journal for most of the day and thought about things. At the time, with songs backed up and a load of ideas for things to do, I dithered over whether it was a bit of a waste of time – but as always, taking a day to just sit back and reassess everything in my mind from one perspective, one point in time, does seem to have really helped me. In the safe context of being relaxed and not having too many pressing responsibilities, I also allowed myself to slightly freak out a bit at the magnitude of my goals! And I started to imagine the kind of person I would need to be in order to achieve the things that were dearest to my heart, a kind of super hero version of myself in attractive tights with a power belt and lazers shooting from my eyes! How on earth was I going to be the kind of person who got strong enough to workout 6 days a week, and have the discipline to do it even when I was tired? How on earth would I manage the logistics of a diet without easy, practical starches to hand? How could I be the girl with enough guts to walk into a recording studio and demand to be listened to and recorded and taken seriously? How on earth would I fit in the rehearsal time? Etc. etc. etc. It all seemed impossible looking back at the leisurely and tentative pace of the first six months.
On that day I was looking at my goals and my progress, what I’d achieved so far, and what I still hoped to achieve to the year end. Remember how I had that really complicated list in January, of daily/weekly/monthly and ultimate goals? Yeah that’s gone out the window, but the basic premise and objectives are the same, just simpler. It’s odd that going through my goals and setting them out in such detail actually gave me a very simple headline of priorities that have stuck with me and guided me well all year. I have discovered two things since January: (1) there is no way I will accomplish all my goals in their entirety, but I can accomplish some in their entirety and others to an extent, while writing-off or postponing the odd one or two. (2) I can only really FOCUS on one priority milestone or overcome one major obstacle at a time. Most of the things on my original list involve ongoing commitment on a daily or weekly basis, and the ideal is to have balance and push everything forward when the circumstances allow – but I can only have ONE priority at once to which all the others bend, because life happens in between and also mentally, my actions are more effective if I am mostly focused on one goal. Knocking these things down in order like dominoes, is a quicker way to accomplish them than to try and do them all at once over a very long period – I get bored and unmotivated that way. The order is already determined inside myself in terms of priorities – I’m thinking Maslow hierarchy here but basically it’s an instinctive response about what comes in which order. No matter what I plan, my objectives are already set internally and I will act in accordance with those objectives – so in those terms my role is to really learn what my inner priorities are and work WITH them, and that’ll gain me the most momentum.
Now that I know these things, I’m able to see my progress in the first half of the year in clearer terms, and also make clearer goals for the second half of the year. One more theoretical factor to mention here (before I move on to the actual goals) is that there are two levels of aspiration – the basic, realistic one, and then a wild dramatic one. You’ve got to dream big and expect that great things will happen! Sometimes they actually do! But if I don’t even believe in the possibility then my performance will be limited to the baseline, if that’s the only line, which could be an underestimation of my achievements. So I’m throwing in some “unrealistic” targets but not to beat myself up. The baseline though I will beat myself up over a bit 😉
The Domino Effect
It wasn’t until I stopped and took a step back that I could see what my priorities had actually been for the first half of the year. Yes, I did lose a bit of weight, and I did just about finish writing most of the album (potentially) – but I didn’t get as far with those goals as I’d imagined, and my progress was inconsistent as the months passed. It seems like the following things were what my inner voice or driver needed to be settled first:
- Paying off our debts – this was really restricting our lifestyle and aspirations and we were putting a lot of effort into it with cutting back day-to-day spending. As soon as it was done I felt this massive release of mental and emotional energy freed up to apply elsewhere.
- Sorting out some job stuff. I think I’d started the year a bit indecisive about whether I was going to stay where I am or not, whether to stick on my professional path or just coast along. June ended in a meeting with my boss about me getting promoted (which will put me salary-wise out of reach of other companies for similar roles) giving me more varied and interesting work to do due to structural changes (increasing my interest and engagement) and having ongoing support for my studies (I finished and sat F9 which was definitely the hardest topic so far, after being stuck at that point for two years!). I am studying at a very slow pace but with the change in job roles I’ll have the experience as well as the exams to get Chartered by the end of 2015 – it’s no small thing and especially as my safety back-up career, the time I spend at work seems to be worth the pay-off for now.
- Something else has also clicked in me about our longer-term plans. If things go to plan and we do get the chance to have a kid (and raise it the way we want to) then I will be taking a career-break within a year or two of qualifying, which could be five years long at least. So during that time (if music isn’t paying for itself by then!) I will need some kind of sideline or cottage industry to ensure I have a separate income stream of my own, something I can do while raising a child. ALL of this is completely dependent on things beyond my control (especially my husband’s income) and funnily, I am absolutely FINE with that. If it doesn’t come to pass there will be other fulfilling things to take its place. And that kind of lifts the pressure – I can only work on the things I CAN influence. But I need to bear in mind, when I’m striking this deal to sell my soul for financial security, that this is not the end game and my needs are going to change in the mid-term future.
So I have come that far, so far! My next milestones/obstacles to kick down are:
- Weightloss. This is my current focus and the results have been beyond anything I expected. Obviously the goal is just to lose as much as possible in as quick and sustainable way as possible – but by making changes I can live with being basically permanent in the long-term. That’s what seems to be working at the moment. I am almost at LWY now on the middle line. I have various other goals – sub-200s, 180 (out of obesity), 165 (my doc’s target) and 140 (ultimate goal) – and I need to get through them all on the bottom, middle, and top lines (the middle line is the one I’m taking to measure progress on but obviously my top line needs to come down for it to be meaningful and the bottom line gives me encouragement!) I have three main time milestones – the end of September (end of 3Q holiday), the first half of November (big family gathering + my husband set me a target to reach) and obviously the end of the year. What I can hit at what time on which line remains to be seen and obviously there’s a matrix of various possibilities, but at the rate I’m losing right now, I should be able to hit somewhere between 180 and goal the September holiday on the middle line, and 165 on the top line by the end of the year. We’ll see. The strategy I’m using for now and hoping to perfect by the end of 3Q so that it feels natural and permanent is to rule out starchy carbs wherever possible and to workout 6 days a week. I feel confident of good progress now that it’s underway and know that however far I get this year, it’s going to make a massive difference to my life.
- The last remaining goal is to get as close as I can to building a viable music career. No idea how far I can get with this but losing weight is helping with image and so on so that’s a prerequisite. I’m rehearsing for the album recordings and have lots of big dreams about how awesome that COULD be. I’m building my own sound and listening, learning and experimenting with lots of other people’s songs as well as my own. I’m still writing a bit and always trying to improve my technique. My wildest dreams would be: to record finish the album and have it be so utterly awesome that everyone who hears it loves it, to research open mics and then actually play live at some point somewhere, no matter how small. If those two things happen then there’s no telling what MIGHT happen next year – but all the scope at least is there for me to start gigging regularly, and for the album to get to number one 😉 and to earn enough to shore up our house deposit and all the other things we need good money for. A lot of this is just a matter of conquering my own fears – about performing, about perfection, about my image, about being interesting to watch and listen to, about my lack of charisma, and my lack of skill. If I can get over THAT lot then nothing will stand in my way!
I feel like this is a year of paying my dues, in a way. I have always wanted to recover my life and get back to where I feel like I should be but never had the guts to pay the price. Financially, we had to repay our literal debts to the credit card companies. My next one up is to repay the health debt of having had unhealthy eating habits and being inactive and turning to food as a way to deal with – well – everything! Once that’s repaid I can focus on the last milestone, which is paying for the career decisions I made that took me away from the thing I should have always been doing. If I can raise at least a semi-viable income from a second career in music, then my life will be much closer to where it “should” be and I think – with reference to my very top goal for the year – that barring any major sudden disasters, I’ll be far enough out of the grip of depression that it’ll never drag me down again.
These past three weeks, I do feel like I’ve become (or started becoming) the hero I imagined I would need to start being. I think it helped yesterday, being at the top of the tallest building in the EU and feeling (quite literally) on top of the world! I’ve stuck to all my workouts, all my food, all my practice targets – and the results have been better than I could have imagined, so far. Whatever happens, I’m fairly sure this will be my last year of living this way, with the weight of unpaid “debts” and unrealised dreams. Next year WILL be different!
The view’s a little different from up here!