managing projects not goal-setting
I’m surrounded by (Myers-Briggs) Judgers, or Js. Our culture is J-oriented, and almost all of the significant people in my life are Js (both my parents, most of my aunts and uncles, Spouse, most of my in-laws, many of my friends, most of my bosses). I’m a Perceiver, a P. it’s really hard to learn how to be a happy and healthy P, in a culture that was designed by and for Js.
Js want results. They live by goals, discipline, stability; and they think everyone else should too. Something like “a sure thing” is attractive to them because it promises to remove that pesky uncertainty that they find so troublesome. In fact, that very word uncertainty tells you something. Why is it certainty that is the positive concept, and its opposite, uncertainty, is negative? That’s framing by a J right there. A P like me would have named uncertainty as the positive, and its opposite as the negative.
I spent years thinking that the way I did a lot of things was flawed and defective because it wasn’t how a J would do it. As an example, monthly budgeting. Whenever I get a paying job, I devise a monthly budget from the bottom up. I usually don’t have much in the way of fixed expenses, but when I do those are dealt with first, and then everything else (usually various ways to sock money away) gets done by percentage, rather than dollar amount. Since the longest I’ve ever been at the same pay rate was 2 years, whatever planning I do is short-term by definition. But that means I have a lot of flexibility, and my spending and saving priorities can and do change frequently, usually every couple of months.
Spouse and various friends have followed career paths such that their responsibilities and the positions they hold (as well as their wages) have continued to increase over time. But as you go up the ladder, your choices narrow. If you see a desirable job along a different track, there likely is not any way to get there from where you’re at. To try for that job, you would have to let go of everything you’ve have invested where you’re at, and start over. In my experience, not only will most people not do that, they won’t even realize it’s a possibility. I have not only done it, I’ve done it multiple times.
I never get invested in any situation I’m in, so letting go, moving on, trying something new, doesn’t make me feel like the world (as I knew it) ended. I can always start over. I always am starting (over).
Maybe it’s just me, but I think life is about verbs not nouns. Unfortunately our language seems to be based on nouns, on ideas like, “we need to ‘achieve’ ‘states’, that we will ‘remain in’, until we are forced to change things. But ‘stability’ is our worthwhile ‘goal’.”
See, I don’t think stability, or most other nouns, make any sense as “goals” to “achieve”. Because I think people are not nouns but verbs. We are not events that have happened, or goals that have been achieved; we are processes that are always evolving.
One way to look at my life is as a series of projects I’ve worked on. But I’m starting to realize that there is no end goal; there are just more projects, until I die.
A year ago, the projects I was working on included:
- looking for ways to meet and connect with more people in greater DC (example: volunteer curating the hyperbolic crocheted coral reef exhibit)
- figuring out why I was having the health problems I was, and how I could best deal with them so that I could still enjoy my life;
- refining my design aesthetic (moving away from bilateral symmetry)
- learning more about nonviolence/ahimsa
- starting to read memoirs, thinking about writing my own
- making my first stab at quilting
The projects I’m working on right now include:
- designing my own modular clothes
- revamping my wardrobe
- a formal committed relationship with local Pagans
- quilting, round 3
- reading about the civil rights era, blues music
- ‘managing’ an urban potager
- drawing with oil pastels
- thinking about flavor notes I want to put together
- getting to know my nocturnal neighbors, in changing seasons
Six months or a year from now, there will be a new slew of projects.