“We shall not cease from exploring, and the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” –T.S. Eliot
I am becoming reacquainted with the power of goal setting lately. I used to teach how the power of our written intentions can change your life, and for many years kept regular lists of what I was working to create. Even a to-do list carries some of the power of mapping your life through goals. The act of naming and writing down our goals creates structural tension that seeks resolution and motivates us to live differently, moving us closer to what we intend, often without our bearing witness. Claiming a life direction has boldness and magic in it and many studies demonstrate the success factor that results from envisioning, describing and choosing our personal life directions.
This same process energizes relationships with equal intensity. Two people who have a shared language of intention and vision for their days together are literally on the same map. Once the two people agree on their life direction, when one strays s/he can be pulled back by the other. Their shared goals not only add legitimacy to their commitment, but acts like the rudder, righting the ship that they both identify as a shared journey.
Yet the same blocks that prevent individuals from goal setting are perhaps even more of an obstacle for many couples. In order to really be free to envision and plan your life, you first have to be able to take full responsibility for it. Taking responsibility for everything that happens to you individually and in your relationship is weighty, but it also gives you the freedom to choose. I know from my own experience that it can be harder than I imagined, giving up the justifying and rationalizing that arises when things don’t go right. Our propensity to blame the circumstances or other people for our life struggles is so deeply ingrained that it can seem intractable.
Nowhere are these behaviors more damaging to our future than in our relationships. Taking full responsibility for the quality of your relationship is an insurmountable challenge for many. In fact the very suggestion that they are responsible for the issues that their partner seems to bring can seem like a lie. People often get angry at the very idea that the relationship they are in is the perfect one to show them the work of love they most need to tackle. Even writing this makes me a little nervous because I have had many a conversation where I suggested that which was met by skepticism and indignation. I have visited these places of total resistance in myself, often while dealing with the mess that my relationships with my teenagers sometimes resemble. It was true in my marriage for years.
Taking full responsibility and giving up our tendency to blame in our relationships is the basic foundation for achieving your goals because it requires you to be constantly doing your own personal work. Recognizing that your emotional connection and capacity is only of your creation requires that you are always acting from the heart. Carl Jung once wrote, ‘Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart…Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.’
Coming to this awakened place beyond blame brings us to the beginning of our relationships over and over again and carries the potential to lead us into the future.