By the very act of writing this I am making a commitment to improve in a particular issue; shifting goals.
I’m not referring to far-reaching goals like the personal and professional ones I assist my Clients in establishing. I refer to daily objectives we set for ourselves as we flow week to week.
At this stage of life, I believe I have become a rather even-tempered being with a steady and consistent approach in how I move along my chosen path. But back to the commitment. While I’ve matured in many an important process, I can still become very angry when certain daily objectives are thwarted. While I’m proud to say these events rarely involve another human, I shamefully admit how tiny the events can be.
In the last four years in particular I’ve made some significant progress as I’ve studied ways to improve. Part of this progress I owe to the work of Dr. David Burns as I studied and practiced dealing with what he calls ‘automatic thoughts.’ My friend Doug Duncan calls these ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts). These are thoughts like, “I always screw this up” and “I’m so stupid.” We mistakenly blame an event for how we feel when the real culprit is our own ANTs!
I have added another layer to my learning and practice in controlling automatic thoughts – thanks to Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi. In his book Flow – the Psychology of Optimal Experience, he talks about shifting our goals.
Bob and I had not talked in quite a while so we scheduled a coffee meeting. Bob is a very creative and experienced man who impresses me with his confidence and clarity. He arrived at our coffee appointment and told me that his check engine light had just come on in his high-mileage Honda. Now he had a choice; get angry at the interruption to his daily objectives or shift his goals. He described to me how, upon seeing ‘check engine’ illuminate, his mind quickly surveyed his schedule for the day, his task list, and his bank account. He shifted his goals and called the dealership; and had a nice, relaxing visit with his friend.
I’m writing about this topic as a result of a shift in my goals for the day. As Mihaly proposed, the ability to shift goals due to circumstances gives me back the control – at least in how I feel as I flow through my day and as I learn to create flow at any given time.
I’m still learning. And this is a good thing.
And by-the-way; Bob was at the dealership for 2 hours at a cost of only $26.95.