Why I Started Reading Voltaire – Realistic Goalsetting

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BUY CANDIDE HERE or HERE for the dutch readers.

As a former university student who had to process lots and lots of information in a short amount of time, being ill for two years straight watching TLC and checking Facebook can get rather boring. Now, I didn’t actually watch TLC that much during these two years (though I do admit, it is my guilty pleasure), but I’m also not able to do many things that are intellectually challenging, due to my exhaustion and poor concentration. In fact, for months I didn’t care to read or learn anything at all. I have this thing that when I’m really tired nothing interests me (but sleeping. Sleeping definitely interests me then). But as I gradually learned to manage my energy better during therapy, my hunger for knowledge came back.

Being who I am, I started a project (love projects) and made it into a monthly goal (love monthly goals) to finish a book. But not just any book. Though a Jojo Moyes novel is definitely a treat, I wanted to read something a bit more… intellectual. Does that make sense? So I decided to start off the year with Charlotte Brönte’s “Jane Eyre”, a classic I recently developed an interest for. And I do love it. The characters, the way that everyone knows their place, the way that they communicate, the words. But eventhough I loved it, it was difficult to get through, which I totally blame my poor concentration for, not Brönte’s amazing writing. It’s just not the easiest thing to read after months of only reading WhatsApp messages. Sooner than me, Boyfriend started doubting whether I would manage to finish the book in time to meet my monthly goal and also worried that it was starting to frustrate me a little too much when I just didn’t seem to come any closer to the end after hours of concentrated reading. (Don’t you just hate that when boyfriends know you better than you know yourself?).

Concentration is a big problem for me as well as for many other chronic illness warriors. It’s very tiring and one might indeed become frustrated if one has a slight obsession with meeting monthly goals and feeling accomplished. So, as a solution, Boyfriend gave me a book called “Candide, or Optimism” by Voltaire. Reading Voltaire would make me feel “smart” and would add valuable knowledge to my literature-information-base.


Now, I have no idea who Voltaire is. My common knowledge is nothing to write home about. Which, I know, it pretty shameful being a university student (I’m working on it!) The only thing I know regarding his name is that he is mentioned in a scene of the movie “The Princess Diaries”, when Anne Hathaway had just been transformed into a beautiful princess after being a slob for years and everybody in class was staring at her hair, making her feel uncomfortable and her friend stands up for her by saying: “Voltaire, Hair. I personally would rather learn about Voltaire.” So yeah. Not much to go on. But it did spark an interest in me, because Boyfriend had already read it (and expressed his desire to read the same books so we can discuss it) and it doesn’t have a lot of pages, so I would still be able to finish a book this month, even if it wasn’t the one I originally chose. Interested in this book? Check it out here (dutch readers check it out here). Do not let the front image fool you, it’s not boring at all.

What I thought about the book doesn’t even matter (though I liked it a lot). What I learned was that I should really go about setting more realistic goals for myself now that I’m ill and can’t afford to push through my limitations. So, here are a few tips for you if you like me are too hard on yourself while setting goals.

Set a realistic goal

Don’t push it. You’re working hard enough. Everyone has limitations, whether it is lack of energy, concentration, time or money. You have to work with what you got, that’s just the way it is. Only then will working toward a goal be motivating and I think the process should be as inspiring as actually meeting your goal. Have fun with it. If you want to accomplish something out of your reach, you’re setting yourself up for a whole lot of frustration (been there, done that). If you are determined to reach a goal that is out of your reach, check out the next tip.

Think of subgoals
You don’t have to reach your goal right away. Enjoy the process. Make it easier on yourself by thinking about smaller, easier to meet subgoals. And then celebrate it when you reach them. You did good. Here is an example (might be a bit of an odd choice, but oh well):

My dog has abandonment issues due to his past (which is mostly unknown to me since we adopted him two months ago). We are trying to help him be comfortable when he’s home alone. It doesn’t happen often because I am home all the time, but one will have to get groceries at some point. We didn’t want to shock him into it, so we’re taking in one babystep at a time. First, he slept in his bench next to our bedroom with the door open so he could hear and see us. Then, we shut the door at night. After a few weeks of that, we moved the bench to the living room, where he is further away from us and can’t hear us anymore. He was not amused, but we kept doing it, getting him used to being alone also when I nap in the afternoon. Now, today, he was alone in his bench while we were out for a whole 10 minutes! Win! And just enough time for us to get him a nice treat for his accomplishment.

Try again tomorrow
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get much closer to reaching your goal yet. There is always tomorrow. Just start over. You are doing your best.

Track your process
Just do it. It may seem like an unnecessary use of energy, but it’s worth it. Just cross off everyday you did something to come closer to reaching your goal. After a few of those crossed off days, you will probably not want to see a day not crossed over, which might get you to do your part, even if you don’t feel like it.

I had an awesome quote to share here, but I forgot. I should really have a notebook with me at all times (and not think I will remember it). I will get back to you on that.

Do you have any awesome tips that always help you reach your goal? I’d love to hear them!

BUY CANDIDE HERE or HERE for the dutch readers.

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  1. Bonnie "B.B." Jacks

    I love this post and am glad I read it. I’ve been doing what you do of having “subgoals” for years, but never put a word to what I was doing. So, I thank you for giving me a new word to go along with what I do.
    As a spoonie I have learned I have to take things one step at a time. Sometimes this is cool; sometimes it’s overwhelming. So, I go along as I can and, if I really do want to do the goal I’ve set, then I just place myself in the moment of each step as I go along.
    For instance, I’ve got to wash my front window drapes AND do some work on them when I do. So, I’ve got my list of what that work is. Once my husband has helped me take them down I’ve got to trim off some stupid fringed beadwork that’s on the upper edge of them, which always comes off in bits in the wash. Then, I’ll wash and dry them. Then, I’ve got to hem them as they’re two different lengths and that drives me nuts when I look at them. LOL While I’m doing that I’m hoping my husband will wash the window and help me put some film it to help block the summer heat on that side of the house. When all that’s done we’ll then rehang the drapes and be done with that one goal.
    So, I like what you’ve shared here on your blog very much and hope you’re enjoying reading Voltaire. I’m working on reading Anne Bronte’s ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ and Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘Dolphin Island’. Awesome stuff!
    Have a beautiful day filled with enjoyable reading!

    1. admin

      Thank you so much for commenting and reading! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I do everything in tiny steps too, only then I can actually manage to do some chores. Vacuum one room at a time (often forget the others haha). Fold one basket full of clothes (that have been there for days) at a time. We do what we can, don’t we?

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