Minimal Monday

Several years ago, I worked at a college as an academic coach. My students needed assistance with organizing their workload, breaking down large assignments into logical small steps, making lists and recording important dates in their academic agendas. Sometimes I would help them with assignments such as writing papers, but mostly my job was to help them with executive functioning skills and meeting goals.

Their parents were paying the college a premium price for this coaching, and for some of them it worked very well. But for many others, there was a glaring problem that was getting in the way of their success.

The goals weren’t theirs.

One particular student comes to mind (though there were several). He had wanted to go to a film school in California with his best friend.  He was a kid who did not make friends easily and this friendship was important to him. They shared a passion and he lit up when talking about his dream. His friend went off alone to this California school and my student talked about it with a  mix of excitement, longing, and resignation. His parents wanted him to go the more practical route of this traditional school and so here he was. Unmotivated. Sad. Bored.  No matter how detailed we made his agenda, no matter how much encouragement and perfect to-do lists I gave him, he would return to our next session with very little crossed off his list. He would make the least amount of progress towards “his goals”, and carry the same sad look in his eyes. There was no joy, no energy, no flow. The most alive I had seen him was the day we talked about what he really wanted to be doing.

Isn’t it true for all of us that working toward someone else’s goal is like swimming upstream? A goal we think we should go after, rather than the thing that our heart is calling us to try may lead to some success, but at what cost? And more importantly than what we are doing, is who we are becoming while doing that. Are we meeting challenges with optimism and courage, growing and changing, or are we on automatic pilot to attain the goals that we don’t even recall truly having a longing for in the first place?

My student’s parents were well intentioned and I certainly understand the fear and desires of a parent. It is scary to let go of control and honor our own or our child’s heart desires. But we have a finite amount of time on this earth, and our desires, curiosities, and interests are seeds planted within us like precious breadcrumbs leading us along our journey. How many of us jumped on a path that was never our own?

The more we can silence the fears, the distractions, and the doubts, the clearer the path becomes.