“Passionate” is just another word for S.M.A.R.T.-ass

Just in case you didn’t know, people with chronic illness get “normal people” (aka acute) illness, too. I’ve been fighting a respiratory infection for the past week. Thanks to dysautonomia screwing up my temperature regulation, the 100-degree fever that others in my office got with this bug has randomly oscillated between 96 degrees and 100+ for me. Yuck.

It’s also the end of the year. In my office, that means time to create new S.M.A.R.T goals at work. S.M.A.R.T goals – for those who don’t know corporate speak – are goals that are 1) Specific, 2) Measurable, 3) Actionable, 4) Realistic and 5) Time-bound.

As a girl with ADHD and brain fog, trying to remember what I’ve accomplished on my previous goals – much less what those goals were – can be a bit challenging. My Passion Planner helps. I adore my Passion Planner. I think of it as the bullet journal for girls who can’t stick with a project long enough to create a bullet journal. It has space to write notes during the week, to-do lists organized into “work” and “home,” plenty of scratch paper (including graph paper), and a visually salient priority section each day/week for “get this done, or else!” reminders. It also offers a few prompts at the end of each month to reflect on monthly progress. Filling these out throughout the year has been one of the S.M.A.R.T-est things I have done yet to prep for end-of-year goals. I don’t have to remember what I accomplished in 2017. I already wrote it down.

My Passion Planner offers weekly inspirational quotes and ideas for self-care. I typically read the self-care ideas and vaguely think about trying them, but then don’t follow through. I usually gloss over the inspirational quotes. I love my Passion Planner. I love it very much, but – especially when looking through it while feeling sick – I often suspect that the passion I feel for my planner might not be reciprocated.

Its inspirational quotes are always so “inspiring” for a girl with chronic illness and ADHD, which many people still mistakenly stereotype as “doctor-excused laziness.”

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless and intelligence cannot be implied.” – Herophilus

“I never knew a man come to greatness or eminence who lay abed late in the morning.” – Jonathan Swift

Hmm, health is required for intellect? People who sleep in won’t light the world on fire? Well, I’m doomed.

“Be slow to speech. Speak only after listening quietly.” – St. Ignatius

Good advice, but why do people with ADHD pin inspirational quotes? Because they’re too quick to action to read what they’re pinning and realize how impossible that would actually be for them?

“If you want to be happy, be.” – Leo Tolstoy

Reading these quotes, I suspect that if my Passion Planner hasn’t quite lost its passion for me, it is at least relying on a healthy dose of negging to keep me around! I suppose those quotes are true to the degree that it is always useful to question the things your brain tells you. Catastrophizing is something to be on guard against, and it’s possible to improve your mood – or worsen it – by feeding into or challenging negative thoughts. Happiness itself, though, is more than just an idea. It’s a neurobiological state of being underpinned by complex brain chemistry. You can’t just flip it on or off like a light switch, especially if your neural wiring is a bit glitchy.

This is would usually be the start of a snarky – er, “passionate” – rant about how I am skeptical of quotes like these. However, I’m writing S.M.A.R.T. goals. I realized that motivational quotes are a little like those “dumb” goals that corporate managers keep warning us about. The whole reason S.M.A.R.T. goals are a thing is because people typically write goals like they write motivational quotes – with no clue how to start the project, what they really hope to achieve by undertaking the project, or how long it will take to complete. (Apparently, even people without ADHD make these types of mistakes when writing goals. I swear I wasn’t describing myself. I’m oddly good at S.M.A.R.T. goals, probably because using them before they were a thing at all has been one of my ADHD survival tricks.)

The most obvious problem with the above motivational quotes is that they lack the very thing that I bought the Passion Planner to help me keep track of as an individual with ADHD – a sense of time! My boss would make me re-write a goal like “To be happy, I plan to just be” into a set of concrete steps I could take to get to that state of “being.” He would insist I plan for proper time to plan. Inspirational quotes aren’t concerned with the blood, sweat and tears it takes to achieve lasting gains, but they could benefit a lot from being made S.M.A.R.T.

It would take far more than a blog post to list out the specific, measurable actionable and realistic steps in a good self-care plan, so I’ll skip those and focus on adding a sense of time back in. They sound a lot better when I make a few edits to be realistic about how long self-improvement takes:

“When health is absent wisdom cannot will take longer to reveal itself.”

That seems sensible. Nothing good is ever accomplished amid bad brain fog. It’s best not undertake any projects requiring sustained attention and cognitive flexibility until the very worst of the flare passes. Also, remember to rest before you need to. If you push yourself too far too fast without pacing, you’ll inevitably crash. That’s not very wise.

“I never knew a man come to greatness or renown who ^only^ lay abed late each morning.”

That’s fair. You can change the world from your bed, but you can’t change the world by bed alone. You probably need to write a blog post from your bed, or paint a picture, or make a documentary. Sleep as late as you want, but don’t ever come to believe that sleeping late means you have no other worth.

Adding time back in makes a big difference. Given enough time, maybe my planner will even be able to rekindle the same passion for me – a sick girl who sleeps all weekend – that I feel for it. And, who knows, maybe with enough time I’ll even be able to rekindle my own passion for motivational quotes in general, instead of just thinking of them as a waste of space in my fancy planner that would be better left as free space to doodle in.

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6 thoughts on ““Passionate” is just another word for S.M.A.R.T.-ass

  1. I keep nearly buying a Passion Planner. This might tip me over the edge.

    “I never knew a man come to greatness or renown who ^only^ lay abed late each morning.” – remember that Frida Kahlo came to both greatness and renown and she did it at least partly from her bed. She did it in spite of the prejudices of her time and in the face of horrific injury, chronic pain and multiple surgeries.

    We can do this. We’re just doing it slowly and with careful planning.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I worked, I was a department head. There were times when I had someone “downsize” their goals because I didn’t think they could accomplish them. You hit it on the head. People write stuff down without any idea of how to or how long. Also a dear friend of mind has had a 40 year battle with mental illness. I knew her when she was “normal” (whatever that is) and so did a lot of her other friends. As she disappeared down the hole, some friends said she was lazy. She lost her job and had to go on disability because she truly couldn’t work. I didn’t understand what was happening but I knew that no one wants to sleep 18 hours a day and not make sense. Fortunately, she was put in a clinical trial (after tons of other therapies that only had weird side effects) and she got to a place where she could function. People still think of her as eccentric and I’ve learned not to use my standards to judge anything she does. She would love your passion planner although the thought of keeping it up may overwhelm her.

    Liked by 1 person

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