Here are three things that happened to me this week:
I watched a video about a girl who learned to dance in a year, and I decided that I should spend an hour a day for the next year learning how to become a funk dancer.
I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and decided that drinking only vegetable juice for a while would be a great way to super-charge my health.
And after having a lovely lazy weekend day, I decided that I should be more productive, and came up with a rigid plan for how to accomplish more in my business, professional development, French and Portuguese skills, novel writing, and artistic abilities.
Does that ever happen to you? Suddenly, you decide that you need to change how you are living.
In a huge way.
I have these kinds of thoughts a lot. And for a long time, they tormented me. Because they'd come to me, and I'd try to make them a reality...and inevitably fail.
But eventually I realized something. This type of thinking, it is fantasy.
I'm used to these fantasies when it comes to food. The thoughts are like an old friend coming to visit. She always says things like, Well, maybe this guy I just watched in a random video is right. Maybe I should go on a juice fast.
I spend five minutes or two hours with intense fantasies about how great my life will be when I only drink fruit and vegetable juice. I feel stuck in this loop of fantasy. I will be so clear! So creative! So amazing!
Yet, even as I’m in this reverie, I know that this is pure silliness and it won't last. I don’t actually want to juice fast.
But since I know this fantasy won't last, I don’t fight it.
I let it happen.
Slowly the idea plays itself out, loosening its hold on me. I remind myself of what I already know, deep in my core: Katie, you have a way of eating that you love. Sure, you could try having some more vegetables or even some more vegetable juice, but let's start with some small changes?
It took me a long time to realize that the same thing was happening in other areas of my life.
I'd get lost in fantasy, thinking the fantasy was reality. I thought that I should actually start trying to accomplish my goal of being, say, an extremely fit person who runs five miles a day (despite the fact that I hate running) or a professional painter (despite the fact that I don’t really paint).
And then I’d get disappointed in myself when I “failed” at implementing these things. I often thought oh, it’s too bad that I can never seem to actually make things happen. It’s too bad that I can never get my act together. It’s too bad that I’m so lazy and bad at follow-through.
I didn't see that the problem wasn’t that “I couldn’t get my act together.” The problem was that I confused a fantasy with a real goal or desire to change.
Here’s what I’ve learned, after a lot of trial-and-error:
A Real Goal is something that you are genuinely willing to work towards. Honestly, we can’t have too many of them, because they take up a lot of time and energy.
Right now, I only have two Real Goals: (1) to help as many people as possible eat and live in an authentic, luscious way, and (2) stay true to my internal compass in that process. I have other things I’m working on (learning Portuguese, for example), but I don’t pursue them with the same rigor and determination as my Real Goals.
On the other hand, a Fantasy is something that sounds delightful, but that you may or may not actually want to implement in your real life.
There is one key way of distinguishing between a fantasy and a real goal:
Real goals can be met with slow, steady progress. It is okay to mull them over, to ask if they are true. It’s okay – better than okay – to start with a small step when it is is in service of a Real Goal, or to wait a few months while you mull over the right path to take. Real Goals are often something you've been thinking about for a long time.
Fantasies, on the other hand, demand complete engagement now. You must give up all foods and go on that juice fast for 60 days, immediately. You must devote two hours a day to dancing, starting this second. Fantasies aren’t okay with just, say, eating a couple more vegetables each day. It is juice fast or nothing, goddammit.
Fantasies aren’t okay with just doing something so you feel good and happy. Dancing for ten minutes, because you feel like it, doesn’t cut it. If you can’t practice an hour and a half a day and become as good as that girl in the YouTube video, forget it! It’s not worth your time. And you are a failure.
Most of us, most of the time, don’t want to change.
And that’s not a problem.
That’s just reality.
If you’re not doing something you think you “want” to do, it might be because it’s a Fantasy.
Your challenge this week is to get clear on what’s a Real Goal vs. a Fantasy in your own life. What do you actually feel committed to and willing to do in a small way because it speaks to your soul?
Share your findings in the comments: What are some of your Real Goals and Fantasies? I bet there are some pretty amazing Fantasies out there -- Hollah at me if you are a juice-fast-fantasizer!