Thursday, July 5, 2012


A comment I received on my last post (from a loyal reader who I consider an online friend) left me a bit uncomfortable and led me to dig a bit deeper into my motives in developing and tracking progress on my Intentions. I have to quote the comment here for context into what I'm going to discuss but I want you to know that I truly appreciated your thoughtful responses, and am not trying to "call you out" or make you feel bad for what you wrote.  One of the main reasons I write this blog is to engage in meaningful discussions, and that absolutely includes disagreements & differing viewpoints. Not everything I think about is logical or rational, and its healthy to get an outside opinion once in a while. End disclaimer.

"the process you go through these areas of self-improvement to grade yourself seems really harsh and not very healthy to me today. I guess this is a normal thing that women are supposed to do..... always actively try to be better, but why not just try living life and doing what you can and being ok with that?....That's not an "F" that's just reality."

This  definitely hit I pushing myself too hard, disguising self-loathing as self-improvement? Shouldn't I just be "going with the flow" and enjoying whatever life brings? Does trying to be better imply that I don't think I'm good enough?

I think it is the grading system that seems harsh. Definitely giving myself an "F" seems a bit punishing from the outside. Truly, I started using the grades because I saw another  blogger do this, and it seemed a useful way to track my progress...when I started, I kind of assumed that I would get poor grades in some categories and then I could focus on those areas and "bring my grades up" to end up with all As. Halfway into the year I realized that is not the case. There is a lot of ebb and flow to it...I'll focus on one thing for a while & then another, I can't possibly do it all every day or even every month. Energy & time put into one area obviously can't be put into another.

But. That does not mean its not worth doing or thinking about right now. There are times in life when you have to cut your focus down to one or two're in pure survival mode and everything else simply has to wait. I've had LOTS of those times. My entire 20s and early 30s was survival mode. Med school, residency, the difficult first year of fellowship, studying for 3 different board exams, moving, pregnancy, newborn phase... I didn't have the time or energy to even THINK about what I wanted in life, much less to make them happen. And that's OK. It wasn't all grim endurance, I tried to have fun, do things that brought me joy. I met my husband, we got married, we traveled a lot, I squeezed in a social life and exercise. I learned to cook, read lots of books, I lived life.

Then I found myself in my mid-30s, on the other side of all these "major life-changing events" and I was still living like I was in survival mode. "I don't have time for that" "Lets just make it through the weekend" and it was kind of...grim. I wanted something different & better...what was I waiting for? There wasn't something we had to "get through" to get to the life we wanted, we simply had to make it happen. So I thought about what was important to me & came up with these Intentions. By and large, I think I'm doing pretty good with them. I use them to make decisions about how I spend my time but also to shift my attitude from that of endurance to enjoyment.

These areas I chose to focus on are 100% my priorities in life. Others may have different ones. Getting up early to sweat on the elliptical may seem a bit harsh, but the endorphins & confidence that come from pushing your body...I need that. Staying up late to watch a movie I don't really love with my husband may seem annoying, but his appreciation with me for sharing something important to him & the closeness it brings...I need that. I chose these goals not solely to push myself or change myself, but to bring myself joy. The proportions might change over time but I need all the ingredients in my recipe for happiness.


  1. Hey, I'm all for self improvement. Plus, if you never reassess, then how will you know if you can fit in some of those activities you used to enjoy again?

    I don't know, the line between survival mode and all clear let's go back to normal life has not been so clear in my household. We have good weeks and bad ones which I guess is normal. I guess I worry that given all the ups and downs of late I'd find making myself revisit all the things I wanted to do but couldn't kind of depressing. But that's just me. If it works for you, carry on! I enjoy reading about it anyway.

    1. "if you never reassess, then how will you know..." exactly. I knew things were going to be relatively static work & home-wise (no more kids, no job changes for a while, no moving for a while) so I re-assessed, and decided that I definitely could try to focus on some other things. So, yeah, your situation is very different.
      Judging from your posts, you are still in survival mode, and that is totally fine. You've got so much in flux right now, Dylan is still so little ( you totally get at least one year after your first is born...its a HUGE transition), you are in the first season of daycare illnesses, you are trying to finish your thesis & graduate (and then start MORE flux)...not saying you shouldn't try to do stuff you want to do, but I totally get if you don't have any interest in "self-improvement" projects for the next 5-10 years :)

  2. I don't think it's bad to have self-improvement goals. I'm horrible at goal-setting, and I think that's one reason I don't move forward without external motivation. The grading system helps you to assess your progress, and I think that's not bad, either.

    Maybe what you could do, though, rather than just assigning the grade, is offering yourself suggestions for ways you'd like to do things differently? Then it's not just "failure" ... it's "change in strategy." Just a thought ...

  3. Setting goals does tend to make me feel bad for failing to meet them, but I do it anyway, Like I've said before, I admire your efforts and your honesty!

  4. Anyone who got through med school and residency can skate through life permanently with an A if I can put in my two cents ;) Seriously, though, while it's important and responsible to do things that make us healthy like exercise and eat right, the focus should be on trying to find joy when possible, like you said. That's a hard thing to do, but worth it I think?

    1. Thanks Jjiraffe. Now I never said anything about eating right....I like to go the exercise route so I can eat whatever I please ;)