I was interviewed on a major podcast and this morning they announced some big goals. My thoughts went like this: ‘Yay for you guys! I don’t give a damn about being #1 in any iTunes category with my podcast.’ Then I tried to make the women wrong for having a goal, and that didn’t feel right, so I tried to make myself wrong for not caring about being number one, and that didn’t feel right, either.
They’re just sharing an external goal, and right now I’m focused on internal goals.
Internal goals are those marks you want to hit within yourself that cannot be noted or measured by any obvious external standard or by any observers.
Internal goals aren’t something that I’ve seen talked about, since we assume that every internal goal has an external result (i.e. ‘Do 10 minutes of meditation every day’ is the external goal for ‘breathe more deeply.’)
Internal goals might come with external aims, like reading more books, writing more poems, and eating more vegetables, but they might not.
Lemme give you some examples of my present goals so this concept makes a little more sense.
I want to expand my ability to be in my body. That means that I’m drawing my attention to my body and my breath over and over again throughout the day. Since no one else is in my body with me, no one else will know when I’m in tune with my own physicality and when I’ve drifted off into my head.
I want to expand my capacity for pleasure. That means more expensive lotion, more orgasms, more clean sheets, and more noticing of all those things as they’re happening. It’s not the having of clean sheets, it’s the taking note of and reveling in the clean sheets that’s the internal, impossible-to-measure-outwardly goal.
I want to increase my capacity to hold space for people who are feeling big feelings, whether at work or at home. That means that I don’t cry simply because other people are crying or get angry because other people are angry. Instead, I’m working on breathing through big feelings and figuring out where to draw energetic boundaries that allow me to support the person I’m listening to in real time.
I want to learn to control my energy more easily so that I don’t dump all my magic out on the person I’m talking with and leave nothing for myself. Basically, I wake up with X amount of magic each day, and if I have 3 coaching calls, then each call gets 1/3 of my magic. If I have 2 calls, they get 1/2, and if I have 1 call, that lucky soul gets all of it. All my magic for the day. I’ve only recently noticed this ‘dump it all out’ tendency and don’t yet know how to hold some of it back for myself while still giving my best. (Because in past iterations of Kristen, ‘best’ meant ‘everything you have without holding anything at all back for yourself.’)
There’s no 8-part system for making those internal things happen, nor are there any big flashing external indicators that I’ve achieved them. Tim Ferriss and other productivity hackers could not remodel my life with a revolutionary holding-space-and-feeling-big-feels-while-better-controlling-your-magic program.
Internal goals are only marked by your own presence and awareness, like noticing, ‘hey, that worked,’ and ‘nope, that didn’t work.’ They might have a daily practice associated with them, and they might not.
These goals are every bit as valid as the usual ‘make X dollars’ or ‘have 5 servings of vegetables each day’ type goals. I’m not knocking the other kind, I’m only saying that these goals count, too.
Internal goals count, too.
They’re quieter, and they’re not as splashy or sexy or likely to be turned into a bestselling program of some sort, but they make us better humans.
Possible internal goals might be:
– Feeling intense emotions without shutting down, whether those emotions are in yourself or in those present with you
– Feeling emotions in real time fully instead of turning to screens, food, or alcohol to shut ’em down
– Sitting with not-knowing or uncertainty for a few more seconds at a time
– Acknowledging your bodily sensations when faced with a decision, a new situation, or an emotion
– Noticing asshole brain thoughts and choosing not to listen to them
– Stopping asshole brain loops or spirals at shorter and shorter intervals (i.e. you used to have six spiraled thoughts that started with fear and then boop-boop-boop-boop you end up homeless, but now you can catch the spiral by thought number three and you’re only living in your parents’ basement)
– Dancing or moving with less uncertainty and fear (i.e. the cliched ‘dance like no one is watching.’ I still dance to Qoya with my eyes closed most of the time, in my room, with the door closed. ‘Dance each day’ is an external goal, but ‘dance more freely’ is an internal goal that no one else on earth is capable of assessing.)
– Feeling more deeply connected with your self: your breath, your mind, your body, your thoughts, your feelings, your presence. (Again, there’s no external machine to pop you into and get a reading. There are only your own measurements against your past selves. Does 3% less of your body feel like it’s been dipped in concrete today? Then you’re making progress.)
– Less judging or criticizing of other people and their actions internally (you know, where no one else can see you or knows what you’re doing and you make people wrong all the time ::cough I never do that cough::)
– Expressing more gratitude daily (YUP it counts even if you don’t write it down in a pretty journal!)
– Feel more connected to your partner and/or the most important people in your life (I have a secret e-mail address with my partner — as suggested by the brilliant Kim Anami — and we only send inspiring or uplifting articles, things we want the other to read, and notes on our thoughts, experiences, and the relationship to that shared address. No marketing, no opt-ins, no other communications. It’s like having a back door channel to another person’s heart.)
These are the sorts of goals that make you a more connected, attuned, and wise human, but they certainly don’t get much press and they get less than zero air time in the media.
Will they have external consequences of some kind? Most definitely.
Do you get to control how those results show up? Not really.
You’ll just be softer in your soul, more rooted in your body, and more capable of being grateful for whatever happens.