Don’t get in your own way: staying goal-oriented through depression

Please note: while I do suffer bouts of depression, my milady is mild enough that most of my life I have confused it with ennui, apathy, or laziness. I do not take medication (although I consider it sometimes). If you’re reading this and are suffering moderate or serious depression, please speak with a professional to assess whether medication may be right for you. True medical depression is not something you can just “snap out of” no matter what your mother says.

My New Year’s Resolution, strictly speaking, was to keep a daily diary. The diary was to keep me on track towards my plethora of resolutions, listed in a Word Doc I called “28 Days Later”, so named because my vow was to try to make several changes for one month… and then either abandon or modify what wasn’t working and consciously decide to re-commit to my goals for another month.

But as time went on, I didn’t need the paper diary anymore- what I needed was simply to check in with myself once every other week or so- and so I ended up using my 28 Days Later file for that. I write about my successes and failures, and I analyze my current mindset to gauge whether my feelings are related to my progress or not. This second part is particularly important for me as I have discovered I am often moderately depressed in the midst of success. I just don’t give myself credit for my accomplishments, and that is something for me to work on.

It turns out that being aware of the incongruity between my mood and my achievements is key to staying on track and not falling into a writer’s block or other self-destructive behaviors.

My depression is pretty mild, and that is what makes it insidious. Usually I don’t even know I’m in a funk until I realize I’ve been wearing the same pajama pants for three days straight. Regular self-reflection has kept me from falling into this trap.

How am I doing on my 28 Days Later goals? Well, I wanted to lose 90 pounds, and so far I have lost 60. I wanted to have 3 stories in the mail at all times, and right now I have 2. Smaller goals, such as eating at least one vegetable every day, going to bed at 10 pm, getting dressed every morning (don’t laugh, that’s seriously important for your mental health if you work from home), and other such things have become automatic. So am I “there” yet? Hell no. Am I slowly transforming into the person I want to be? Hell yes.

So, here’s the takeaway: if you’ve got personal goals you want to achieve but are having a hard time staying on track, list out your goals in writing. Revisit them daily. Write about your progress, your setbacks, and your feelings, and note when your feelings don’t jibe with your progress. Forgive yourself for failure, because there will be failure on any path to success, and recommit to your goals. Recognize your own achievements. Modify the goals that aren’t working for you, and set new goals to keep moving forward.

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