Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The weight of the wish

I have had the great fortune recently to welcome two mentors into my life. Both of them are invested in making me a better businesswoman not only for my own sake but also for their own success. It's been amazing and I already feel like a winner for it. In my professional life I've been lucky -- I've only had one nasty boss and I have no regrets about being rebellious enough to tell her just how much she sucked. Since then though I've changed jobs (twice), had great bosses each time and now I've settled into a leadership role of my own. A wise man once told me that successful leaders reiterate common sense repackaged as new lessons. And that's more or less what my mentors are doing. It's not so much that I'm learning new skills as I am refining and smoothing the ones I have. I'm learning a ton of new things -- but in a way that I'm building on top of what I have.

Still it's surprising how many ! moments I've been having. I always thought of myself as analytical and scientific in nature at work. Recently I've come to realize that I am also oddly emotional outside of work. One of my mentors has been emphasizing the importance of goals over wishes to me. It boils down this: rarely does one get their wishes but often do they achieve their goals. One part of my brain says: duh! The other part says: huh.

A couple of weeks later I am still profoundly affected by this. Truth is I wish for things all the time...the winning lottery ticket, to be a rockstar, to run into my favorite actor at a bar, to get free rent, to make more money, for untethered investment money for my side project, etc. Meanwhile my goals tend to be more boring but also more realistic. But in the past I wished for things and felt like they came true. Now I'm having a mental wrestling match because I'm better at polishing off goals but more passionate about my wishes. Which is right?

In investigating the answer I've accidentally re-exposed some long buried fears. If you write something down as a goal suddenly there are two options. Success and failure. Achieved and unachievable. Accomplishment and regret. A wish on the other hand suggests a touch of destiny. An outside fate partially controlling the outcome so that you can reassure yourself that a watchful eye is rewarding you or so you don't have just yourself to blame if an idea doesn't pan out. A goal has an awful lot of personal responsibility attached to it. A wish is something you can alternately embrace as a cause and laugh off as a pipe dream.

At work I have no problem with making goals. It's at home where wishes rule my life. Up until now I've been comfortable with that. But I wonder if some of the disappointment I've felt recently is because I'm too scared to write my wishes down to make them into goals. Am I scared that they won't come true? Am I scared that I won't "get" my wishes? Or am I just scared of forcing myself to apply reason to something that is otherwise emotion driven?

I sit here now with a pad in front of me. I am trying to make myself write some of these wishes down to make them into goals. It's a lot harder than I thought it would be.

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