i believe in goals

September 7, 2011

in which i argue with leo babauta
i LOVE the blog zen habits. leo’s posts are often beautiful and always make me think. but yesterday he posted something that just made me cringe a little, and i wanted to respond:

here are his suggestions, and my thoughts . . .

forget about getting organized. according to leo, you should choose to simplify instead so that your world doesn’t require any true ‘organization’. ie: a near-empty closet; a spare desk; a day without appointments [or with only one or two]. i’m so glad that this works for him, but i think that choosing to be busy and active is an equally valid option. choosing to have enough shoes to put into a rainbow has its merits, too, at least for me. finally, there are [important! valuable!] careers where having “1 or 2 appointments” in one’s day just isn’t an option — we’ll just take medicine as an example. perhaps this is great advice for a freelance writer or someone who need to spend much of the day in deep concentration, but i’ll hold on to my planner, thanks.

don’t keep an idea list, because if it’s a REALLY great idea, you’ll act on it immmediately! again, this may be possible in the lifestyle of a freelance writer. but for those of us with more structured jobs, i don’t believe it to be necessarily true. furthermore, some of the ideas that i like to list AREN’T big ideas — they’re little ones. day trips to take, books i want to read, restaurants to try, movies to watch. not only do they come in handy, but for me keeping lists like this is actually FUN. why stop?

hey, i’ve gotten to 2/4!
minimize your goals leo suggests that instead of 10 that 1 or even none* [shudder] is preferable. i actually think he has a point here, despite my predilection for numerous new years resolutions. but i believe that what actually works best for me in practice is dividing larger goals up into smaller ones to make things feel more manageable. and this sometimes means more of them!

*and don’t even get me started on this ‘no goal’ business. for me, setting, working towards, and meeting goals truly does contribute to my happiness. caveat: those goals must come from within [ie: not a construct of society or what someone else wants for me]

don’t bother with tracking yourself quote: “If I focus on tracking the running (mileage, speed, VO2 max, intervals, etc), that takes the enjoyment away from the activity (running) and focuses on the results.” interesting, because for me tracking absolutely makes things MORE fun. i love to create and follow training plans and it’s so much fun to watch myself improve. i don’t think that i would enjoy running an UNTIMED marathon.

i can’t believe i used to be able to do this
to-do lists are overkill. choose one or two things you’d like to get done, instead. again, i am happy that this works for some but if i don’t have the motivation of a check-box there are certain things i am NEVER going to make myself do. i fervently stand by my lists!

super old super-list!
there’s no need to give yourself breaks from ‘work’ because you should only be working on things you love. i’m going to use medical training as an example again, since that is what i know.

perhaps one’s goal is to become a surgeon, or say . . . a pediatric endocrinologist. there are days that are incredibly rewarding, and the light at the end of the tunnel shines bright: the ability to practice medicine competently and independently in a way that is rewarding for both the practitioner and the patients.

but the road is long. it involves a million [or so] tests to study for, rotations in the ICU that perhaps DO NOT align with your ultimate goals [but are required!], sleep deprivation [never fun], and then years in a research lab [perhaps not your cup of tea]. is leo really saying that every day i am supposed to get up and LOVE what i do 100% of the time? if everyone followed this tenet, i am pretty sure there would be NO physicians-in-training left. and i consider myself one of the lucky ones, often heading to work with a smile.

so in conclusion, while i love reading leo babauta’s thoughts and ideas, i do not always agree with him [and in this case, disagree pretty much 100%]. what are your thoughts?

as promised
i did end up trying this tracey mallett workout dvd yesterday.

when i first started it, i was worried. tracey was bright and cheery and . . . well, more than a little bit cheesy to start out with. we were marching in place to begin and even josh turned away from his computer screen for a second to send me a dubious look. but 35 minutes later, i had worked up a mild sweat, definitely got my heart rate elevated, and worked my upper body without killing myself à la the shred. the ‘cardio’ moves are low impact, so think about grapevines and box steps instead of jumping jacks.

i’d say this dvd was at the level of intensity of a brisk walk, with a bit more action for the butt/thighs [good amount of plie squats]. but it was more interesting than going for a walk [at least it was the first time] and there was some upper body work with light weights that was at least SOMETHING more than i have been doing recently! and — i’m sore today, for whatever reason. so, i will definitely be doing it again!

are there better DVDs out there? probably. this is the only one i’ve tried! i’m thinking of also checking out the summer sanders workout, as well — and will report back. i also have a prenatal yoga dvd on its way to me [jennifer wolfe] that i can’t wait to try!

comfort dinner
ezekiel english muffin. salmon salad [with celery!]. melty provolone. DINNER.

oh yeah, and some pickles too
gratuitous melted-cheese shot!


  • Reply Kristy March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    i agree with YOU 100%. while his ideas are nice they are not feasible for me. i love my planner and i love my to-do list. and many of us are not fortunate enough to do what we love for "work", so breaks from "work" are necessary to do what we love (does that make sense?).

  • Reply christine March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    I agree with everything you wrote about goals. I love checklists and goals and productivity!

    As for pregnancy workouts, I never found a DVD that I liked, and I tried many. They were all way too easy.

  • Reply Kristin@Wounded Fawn March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Hello! I just started reading your blog and am loving it! I don’t know if you have already answered this but what is the organzier you use that is in the first picture that is on this post? I love writing on squared paper!

  • Reply Ameena March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    First off, congratulations on the baby! I haven’t been around for a while so I had no idea. I am so thrilled for you!

    Secondly, the pregnancy DVDs I cound were all too slow paced. I ended up doing kick-boxing and running and I was totally fine until close to the end of my pregnancy.

  • Reply Kari_PBTachy March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Love how you snuck the pickles in there.

    I was really glad to read this post. I felt like I could hear your confident opinions right out loud and it just reminds me that just because someone (Leo) is an "expert" on a given subject, doesn’t mean I have to agree. Sometimes I forget that, especially as a 3rd year student where I’m completely surrounded by people with more authority than me – I have opinions dang it. Thanks.

  • Reply claire March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    I loved reading all of your thoughts in this post (especially about the yo-yo life of a physician in training, which I am feeling today…) but what made me have to comment is your to-read list! Ender’s Game was my favorite book when I was a kid, and I’ve read it about 20 times since then. I was sad to find out that orson scott card is a little nuts, but I still have great memories of reading ender’s game on the bus to school. I also loved Never Let Me Go- Ishiguro is a fantastic writer. My favorite book of his is ‘The Remains of the Day,’ which starts slowly but is just beautifully written. You should check it out if you haven’t already!

  • Reply HotpotatoKate March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    I agree with you- I sometimes take time away from being "on" and Getting Stuff Done, but I find that day-to-day it energises me and makes me feel better.

  • Reply Atilla March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    I am 100% with you!

  • Reply Jess March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    What kind of la-la land does Leo live in anyway?

  • Reply Alison March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    I tend to agree with you, regarding many of the items on that list. I do think, however, that for people who don’t enjoy lists and goals and running stats, those things can be a huge barrier, and for them it would be liberating (and more productive) to be free of them. I also think that if at any point any of the above do start to hinder your true productivity and happiness, then it’s time to take a break. I am like you though – love my lists and schedules!

    I also 100% agree that it’s unrealistic to love every day of work. Even if your job is doing something you LOVE, there are times that you even need a break from that (good example: I work at a newspaper and sit right by our dining critic. You’d think it’s a dream job – she gets paid to eat at nice restaurants! And it is a fun, exciting job – but it’s still hard work and she still needs a break from it like any sane person). And there’s nothing wrong with working purely to support your family. In fact, I think it’s honorable to work hard at a job, even if it’s not glamorous or something you love, because that’s what you need to do to support yourself.

  • Reply KellyAnne March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    This made me SO happy! I am a huge fan of zen habits, and was feeling guilty for loving my to-do lists 🙂 I love your advice!

  • Reply Nico March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Ender’s Game is my favorite book ever, I’ve probably read it 20 times. And each of the others in the series at least twice 🙂

  • Reply @heatherhikes March 10, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Totally with you on this! Even if you love where you’re going, not every step along the way is going to be awesome. And especially if it’s a long path, a list can help keep track of things. Metaphorically speaking, this is why humans invented maps!

    Was glad to read your post as I’d been mulling over why Leo’s irritated me. And yours inspired me to write a response of my own, which was fun – thank you for the good idea 🙂

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