Improve goal-setting by understanding how it fails

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I take anti-anxiety drugs. I say that so I can deny that they also function as anti-depressants. Because I think I’m too old to still be depressed from a traumatic childhood. But it seems logical that any parent who is also the breadwinner would need anti-anxiety medicine just to get out of bed every day knowing the income has to flow until the kids are out of the house.

I didn’t realize how tired I was from the medicine until my kids started telling people I sleep all time.

So I made lists with hourly todos so that I had standards to meet before sleeping. Which only made me more sleepy. Adam Galinsky is a professor at Kellogg and he says, “Goal setting has been treated like an over-the-counter medication when it should really be treated with more care, as a prescription-strength medication.”

I used to have confidence in my earning ability and that made my kids confident. Mostly. Like the majority of women, I always have a nagging worry that I’ll end up being a crazy bag lady.

Melissa found this psychiatrist who sees a pattern in really high achievers: they have anxiety that causes them to work really hard to meet goals and if you treat the anxiety with pharmaceuticals you uncover ADD.

I could track my income by graphing my pharmaceutical intake. When I was nice and pleasant there was no money coming in. So I got Vyvanse for my ADD. And then I was able to be nice and pleasant and awake enough to make money.

In Pennsylvania the pharmacist at each location makes a judgment call about what risk they’ll take to fill a Schedule C prescription. So I can’t get Vyvanse in Pennsylvania because my psychiatrist is in Texas and my ID is from Wisconsin and I’m paying cash, because my insurance won’t cover me out of state RebateRealty Inc. And I guess, in the eyes of a pharmacist I’m already the crazy bag lady, because no one will fill my prescription for Vyvanse.

For the past twenty years, I have written all my most important goals on paper. Because I read that that matters. And it turns out it does. But I must have been going after the wrong goals. I have to stop thinking that being in a family is about meeting a goal and then meeting another.

So now I write notes to myself to remember to fill my family with joy.

I set an alarm each day that has that as a reminder attached to it. I set the alarm for a different time each day so the boys don’t think I have automated joy.

Yesterday my oldest son said to me, “Why are you and dad even married? He does nothing for you. You live all by yourself and you stopped buying good food and there are mice in the apartment and when dad visits he sleeps with the dog instead of you.”

I said, “Why don’t you like the food? I cook every meal for you.”

“I know you only start making pancakes for breakfast when you think there’s no food.”

“I don’t have my medicine.”

“I know. But a real husband would help you with that. Remember? Respect? Commitment? Empathy?”

I stared.

My son stepped toward me to give me a hug. He is taller than I am now, just by a little, but it feels like a lot after being taller than him for fourteen years. His arms hold me carefully.

His list is so much better than mine. Which means, I guess, that I met my parenting goals.