I'm a fan of low-bar goals I get over easily. Usually, I clear the bar with room to spare. I've set a goal to do ten push-ups a day. Totally easy. There, I just did them. Goal met. Here's the thing: I'll likely do ten more because it's so easy. If the bar is set at one hundred push-ups a day, I'll probably end up doing none.
Your mileage may vary.
My goal on the job is to survive. I'm not a fan of that. Survival is the sort of thing that should be taken for granted. I'm trying to stay afloat as the water rises over my head. I have to survive because this is the job that pays the bills.
Maybe your job is similar.
I talk to students about the difference between a job and work drawing the picture I've posted up top. We do a job for pay and health insurance, the necessities. Work is the stuff we need to do. Not doing our work leaves us empty. My job is teaching high school. My work is writing. The sweet spot is a job doing good work, what Donald Hall calls Life Work.
Students ask if teaching is my job or my work. I say, I'm a teacher who writes but wish I was a writer who maybe teaches. I close my eyes, sigh, and say, that's my wish.
To speak up is not about speaking louder, it is about feeling entitled to voice a wish. We always hesitate when we wish for something. In my theater I like to show the hesitation and not to conceal it. A hesitation is not the same as a pause. It is an attempt to defeat the wish and put it in to language, then you can whisper but the audience will always hear you.
-- Zofia Kalinska, qtd in Things I Don't Want To Know by Deborah Levy, page 10
I don't wish to survive. I wish to write, but I don't know how to do that yet so I do both work and a job. I don't see how the work can pay the bills. I fail to believe I can pull that off.
Deborah Levy has figured it out. She is also a spectacular and brave writer. Here is how her book Things I Don't Want To Know begins and ends:
That spring when life was very hard and I was at war with my lot and simply couldn't see where there was to get to, I seemed to cry most on escalators at train stations. (page 1)
I rearranged the chair and sat at the desk. And then I looked at the walls to check out the power points so I could plug in my laptop. The hole in the wall nearest to the desk was placed above the basin, a precarious socket for a gentleman's electric razor. That spring in Majorca, when life was very hard and I simply could not see where there was to get to, it occurred to me that where I had to get to was that socket. Even more useful to a writer than a room of her own is an extension lead and a variety of adapters for Europe, Asia and Africa. (Page 111)
I don't have it figured out and I'm not yet especially spectacular or brave. I don't have a book that begins or ends other than the one I'm writing one essay, poem, and story at a time. I need a good extension lead, a hole in the wall, and just the right adapter for whatever powers me. Then I have to keep doing good work regardless of my job. It's that simple and yet I can't yet even imagine where I might get to. The bar seems far, far too high.
A few other quotes from the book:
If I thought I was not thinking about the past, the past was thinking about me. (110)
This strange memory in turn reminded me of a line from a poem by Apollinaire....'The widow opens like an orange.' .... I did not know how to get the work, my writing into the world. I did no know how to open the window like an orange. If anything, the window had closed like an axe on my tongue. If this was to be my reality, I did not know what to do with it. (109)
...but I couldn't work out what I was trying to say. I knew I wanted to be a writer more than anything else in the world, but I was overwhelmed by everything and didn't know where to start. (101)