30%: The perils of optimism

About a week ago, I made a list of pretty lofty goals for spring break. Did I stick to most of them? No.

I didn’t increase my exercise to an hour a day. I didn’t get as much reading as I wanted done. I certainly didn’t blog daily.

I didn’t even finish the papers I promised I would. There are only two days left, and I know I’m going to have to sacrifice one.

Shame on me.

I know why I failed to complete the tasks that I set myself. I was too optimistic. There are times when optimism is a very useful attitude to have, but when working towards a long-term goal, it is dangerous. By requiring myself to go so far out of my routine (exercising twice as much! writing with complete focus. reading diligently), I put pressure on myself, and when I feel under too much pressure or feel there are very difficult or time-consuming tasks to accomplish in a short period, I pull back and don’t do anything. It sets me up to then feel guilty, ashamed of myself for not living up to my own expectations, and leaves me spending hours admonishing myself instead of using the time to do something creative.

So, no, I’m not ashamed.

I felt well-rested after this break, because I did get enough sleep. A bit too much at times, with periods of pure withdrawal. My sleep schedule is still really weird.

I did take some really great pictures and experimented with multiple exposures, which made me very happy and excited about potential summer projects (don’t start anything new now!). I enjoyed the good weather. I met up with fellow grad. students who were staying in town, shared some good times with them, had interesting conversations, and felt I got to know them better. I’m checking Facebook less frequently, and the app remains deleted from my phone, though I won’t pretend that in a few days I managed to check it only twice a day.

My lesson at this point in my journey is: don’t be optimistic when creating your schedule. allow for flexibility. don’t set absurd expectations, setting yourself up to become trapped in a downward spiral of failure, shame, self-reproach, and despondency.

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