Whenever I do something that I know will be difficult or particularly taxing, like take my current level of stress and work and dial it all up a notch by deciding to participate in a month-long writing event, I like to set two separate goals for myself at the outset. Goal one is my realistic goal. It is something I know I can meet with a reasonable amount of effort no matter what happens. My second goal is more aspirational, something I think I can do but that might take more than just effort to make it happen. For instance, in NaNoWriMo 2021, my primary goal is to write in a book project every day. My secondary goals is to write 50,000 words in that book project over the course of a month.
While I know both goals are doable, I know that my stress level and general well-being as we enter the 20th month of this pandemic are not in an optimal place. Sub-optimal at best, if I’m being honest. Shit’s kinda fucked, you know? And, like, we just gotta live like this since it seems no one capable of doing anything about all that fucked-up shit cares enough to actually do something other than get their egos involved or enjoy a power trip. And I can’t even get any more specific than that without needing to take a break to browse a collection of wholesome memes I have saved for when the shithole country I live in gets me down with its bullshit politics. The version of this that you just read is the only one that I could write and then actually continue writing after.
So I try to be gentle with myself nowadays. I try to leave myself room in my expectations so that when something happens and I need to take time to cope with it, such as being hit with an extra $800 of vehicle and medical costs in the same week, I can still make progress on a goal without feeling like I’m side-stepping whatever accountability I’d set up for myself. All while not driving my stress levels so high that I have a breakdown when the stress finally lets up.
I know some people have an easier time than I do just working toward a goal and accepting whatever progress them make even if it doesn’t add up to success, but I’m still working on not setting nearly unattainable goals. Maybe some day I’ll feel secure enough in my progress to not need to a goal I can reach and surpass in order to feel capable of generating said progress, but right now I’m okay if I need some help. No point in making things any more difficult than they already are, you know?
And then there’s still the secondary goal. If I have the energy for it, if I can handle the stress, I can always push for that. Even though I’ve done fifty thousand words in a month before, I can recognize the challenge it will be this year to even just keep up with previous years or basic expectations. Most days, I get home after work and don’t have the energy for anything other than dinner, a chore or two (minor ones only) and then video games, a movie, or reading until bed. So if I can get a daily average of 1,667 words this month, then I have performed an amazing feat of endurance and gumption. Context is key.