Lessons from a List – Goals make me angry?

The alternate title for today’s post is “Why I’m angry about the doorknobs, my closet doors, and how I should have handled it more like Thanksgiving Dinner.”

(It’s a wee bit long.  I realized I could write about this topic for a whole month and still have something to say.   This deserves to be a chapter in a big book or something.)

It was a simple goal.  In the span of all the chaos that comes with a remodel, I didn’t think it was unrealistic.  I just wanted one single room that I could walk into, close the door, and escape the remodel.

I wanted a room that was completely finished.

anger and goals header

It’s been one of my goals for over two years.

There is not a single room or even closet that is totally finished anywhere in my house.  Yes.  It is driving me crazy.  Yes.  It has caused a few heated discussions.

So I wasn’t surprised when some that frustration spilled over onto my list of little angries.

I still don’t have doorknobs on my closets.  It’s been two years.  I’m now officially obsessed about it.

(Picture me saying THAT particular phrase in the angry woman whisper.  If my husband asked me what was wrong, I would use the same voice to say “nothing” as I turned my back on him.  It’s that kind of thing.)

I had a goal.

(Said in the tone of a long suffering martyr.)

All sorts of stuff has gotten in the way of that goal.

reach for high goals

Don’t mess with my goals.

(Said in the teeth clenched low voice I use when I really want to yell at my kids but can’t because we’re in public.)

When I’m working towards a goal and something gets in the way, I get frustrated.  I get… angry.

It’s not just big stuff either.

I have about 15 seconds of pure rage when the school calls to tell me my son is sick.  I’m not mad at the poor kid for being ill.  I’m mad at the interruption to my day. I feel that way because my to do list just got trashed.

I’ve been known to throw a small temper tantrum over running out of yarn a few rows before the end of a project I’m crocheting.

Don’t mess with my goals.

Did I ever tell you I’m a professional goal setter?

what you become by achieving your goals

Yep.  I’ve had tons of training in the stuff.  I used to make my living as a project manager.  I set goals, broke those down into smaller tasks, defined due dates and budgets, and then tracked everything to completion by other people.  Every single project I ever worked on had the business equivalent of sick kids, yarn shortages, and missing doorknobs.  Not once did I have a hissy fit about it.

My husband and I both are amused by my past.  I used to manage multi-million dollar projects that involved people and resources across the globe.  Now I struggle to manage getting dinner on the table each night.   I certainly failed to manage my remodel.

What’s the difference?  When I managed projects professionally, I had entirely different approach.  I used different tools.    To be frank, I did a better job of setting goals.

I know this is true.  I know my old skills work at home.  I use my “project skills” every time I host Thanksgiving Dinner.  I can manage an entire day of entertaining relatives, accommodating vegetarianism, paleo, gluten free, onion allergy, toddler tantrums, and even a power failure during one memorable dinner.  I make THAT look easy.  (When the power went out for hours, we lost water pressure.  Fun times indeed.)

You would think I could manage a few doorknobs.

So I took some time to compare how I manage Thanksgiving Dinner to how I manage goals the rest of the year.

There are a few characteristics worth sharing.

my goals include happiness

Well managed goals:

  1. Anticipate failure.   For years, I kept a package of powered gravy mix in the pantry.  I never used it, but it was a great comfort on Thanksgiving morning.  Making gravy intimidated the snot out of me.  I was afraid it would come out lumpy or tasteless or that I wouldn’t make enough.  I never used it, but I always had a plan.
  2. Expect delays.   I’ve cooked a few turkeys over the years.  We smoke them outside, and it’s a very inexact science.  It can take as little as six hours and has taken as long as 12.  If I planned to start smoking a turkey six hours before guests arrive, I would be a fool.  Instead, I start it about 12 hours in advance.  Even then, I always have a plan to move it to the oven just in case.
  3. Provide contingencies.  I always ask my mother in law to bring pies with her to dinner.  She likes baking them.  Since I don’t, it seems fair.  But I know her.  She’s forgetful.  So I have an extra pie in the freezer, just in case.
  4. Have limits.  In planning a big holiday event, there comes a point where I hand my husband my list and a big black sharpie.  He crosses off the ridiculous.  Those are my limits.  I also make it clear that an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner does not include me making a gourmet breakfast the next day.  Limits again.  If, as has happened before, we end up with unanticipated guests, it’s not a big deal.  I didn’t fail at Thanksgiving Dinner just because I served my mother-in-law stale cheerios the next morning.
  5. Don’t try control the uncontrollable.   I can’t control when my in-laws arrive on Thanksgiving Day.  It varies by up to four hours, so I plan around it.  I set out healthy snack food as people arrive.  My menu accommodates the idea of an unknown dinnertime.
  6. Are the right goal.  I my plans for Thanksgiving Dinner don’t include an Easter Egg hunt.  They don’t include a picnic.  The right goals at the right time make a difference.

To make it simpler, a really good goal has margin built into it – margin for delay, margin for the unexpected, margin for uncontrollable circumstances.

Do I apply ANY of those to my daily to do list or weekly goals?

Not really.  But I should.

If I left margin in my day, then perhaps I wouldn’t be so angry when my son comes home from school sick.

If I left margin in my crochet basket, I wouldn’t run out of yarn.

If I left margin in my remodel, maybe I’d have doorknobs by now.

(Or maybe not.  It’s been one of THOSE kind of remodels.)

How does this help with my anger?

My list of little angries has quite a few things that fit in the goals basket.  Taking a step back to look at those goals objectively and evaluate the goal helped me.  It helped me see that the original goals didn’t have enough margin.  Or, in the case of the doorknobs, that I was fully justified in being angry about them.

That last idea deserves it’s very own post.  I’ll get there.

Once again, looking objectively at my list helped me become less angry.

I have a challenge for you.

Grab your very colorful list of little angries.  Grab yet another highlighter.  Highlight anything that you feel falls into the goals category.

Take a look at those and evaluate whether you need to reevaluate the goal or whether you have a right to be angry.

Rewrite as needed.  Hold off on being angry… at least for another day or two.

Now look at your list.  What’s left?

little list of angries 5

Are you still writing in your yelling journal?  Are you seeing a decrease in how frequently you write in it?  I was, right up until I realized I need to write about how hormones make me angry.  

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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