Sunday afternoon, I sat in my bed trying to finish several blog posts I’d started earlier in the week. As excited as I had been initially to write these posts, not a drop of inspiration was helping me to finish them. Part of the reason I love writing for Island & Hills is because everything that gets published are ideas that inspire me, feel timely and relevant. So sitting around with a bad case of writer’s block, I was forced to do some soul searching; if planned parenthood, career advice, or dating trends weren’t getting me in the mood, what would?

Over the past several months, I have observed a pattern that I’ve been wanting to write about. I, along with some of my close friends, have gone through different life-altering events: falling out of love with a romantic partner, losing a friend or family member, etc. As a way of dealing with these significant, difficult milestones, we often rely on timelines. In the days and weeks following, these sorts of statements become all too common:

“In a month, I’d like to be able to start dating again.”

“In two months, I won’t let myself cry about it anymore.”

“In three weeks, I want to be able to see them and be fine.”

While goal setting is important when trying to heal, these arbitrary timelines based on our emotional responses only make healing harder. They force an added pressure onto an already difficult process. It’s impossible to know how long it is going to take to get back to “normal”; everyone is different, and we can’t compare one person’s timeline to our own. Something I always try to remember is that these timelines are often personal choices that we make; the only person forcing this quick recovery is ourselves.

This isn’t to say we can’t have goals while we’re healing; it’s just important to think about the way we frame it. Rather than putting the focus and pressure on immeasurable emotions, looking at life improvements on a macro, holistic level can be good. Here’s what I mean:

“In a month, I want to be able to run two miles without stopping.”

“This week, I’d like to start cooking dinner for myself three times a week.”

“I want to devote an hour to meditation everyday.”

While none of these goals are directly related to getting over something or someone, the common thread is they’re all meant to make us feel good and empowered. In my experience, it’s these sorts of goals that can speed up recovery while also making it easier to cope in the meantime; they distract us, motivate us, give us a new sense of purpose and direction.

Ultimately, as mentioned above, each person’s experience and healing process is different. This post isn’t meant to claim that there is a “right” or “wrong” way of doing things; rather, offering insight into my own observations. We have all had to face difficult circumstances in our lives (or, if not, we one day will) and the best way I have learned how to cope is by sharing and learning from the experiences of others.

A good friend pointed out to me that we, as humans, have a fatal flaw: we remember a past that’s better than it was and think about a future that’s better than this current moment, and rarely focus on how to make the present the best it could possibly be. When we create goals that allow us to focus on the present, rather than timelines that dwell on a past that once was or a future that doesn’t exist yet, we can do ourselves a world of good.