When We Don’t Reach Our Goals

This is a “fly by the seat of my pants” kinda post. Raw emotions, raw words.

For the past two years I have been (slowly) working on my thesis for my Master’s in Children’s Literature. I had turned everything in by early October and I felt confident that I would be good to go. I would reach my biggest goal for 2014 and that would be that. I had written down goals, drawn up timelines, and worked hard.

It was smooth sailing until I received an email from my second reader telling me that the critical portion of my paper was not acceptable, and that I had a lot of work to do in order to pass.

*** Backstory: I have always struggled to write academic papers. Always. I even had a professor in undergrad who told me that I should drop out of the English program and go into another field, because I was a “hopeless writer.” Talk about working through major self-doubt! Fortunately, this was not the attitude of my Graduate program; they nursed my confidence back to health!***

While every single suggestion my reader gave was 100% correct, helpful, and well-meaning I still struggled with my feelings of failure.

Why? As my husband said, “Revision won’t kill you. It might be frustrating, but it won’t hurt you.”

The answer? Fear.

I was afraid that all those discouraging papers, harsh remarks in undergrad, and the inability to “get it right” were the sole definition of me as a writer. What if I wasn’t good enough?

So what happens when the Not-Good-Enough-Monster comes knocking at our heart’s door? What do we do? Do we run and hide, or do we stand and fight? And what happens if we don’t reach our Goals?

Courage-doesnt-always-roar

FINISH THESIS just sat there, no check mark, no closure. I had failed. I began to shrink from the needed revisions, crying every time I opened my notes. Thankfully, the tears only went on for a week.

I shed the self-pity and contacted my best friends from grad school, sending them my notes, my reader’s notes, and then I did something brave:

I asked for help.

Asking for help didn’t magic away my problems, but it did help me refocus my goals and projected timeline. I worked one-on-one with my peers through my revisions, and it made them a little less scary.

In the end, I was the only person who could put in the work, creating a paper I was proud to call my own.  I had to choose not to let that goal define me. Rather than mope over missing my self-imposed deadline, I chose to reevaluate my priorities. Focus on what I had control over. Work harder on my revisions. Set a new goal. What defined me was how I handled not reaching my goal.

Our ability to keep moving forwards despite setbacks and unplanned revisions is just as important as meeting our deadlines. This is true for revisions, our health goals, our current resolutions – Just. Keep. Going.

Don’t stop. Life will force your to your knees. Fear will cloud your vision. Doubt will cripple your fingers as they hover over the keyboard. Make sure you get back up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Through your mistakes, you will find success if you keep going. During your dark nights, you will find the courage to keep searching for your path if you keep going. When your inspiration is gone, keep moving forward – one word at a time, one foot in front of the other.

Why do we fall
“Batman Begins.” Bob Kane, 2005.

Sometimes our toughest battles produce our proudest accomplishments, all because we refused to stay down. We kept moving.

Don’t stop. Keep going.

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