Hoping everyone had a happy holiday season (assuming you celebrate any November/December holidays). I’d spotted these survey results about states with most/least holiday spirit and happen to be from one with a grinchy ‘tude and live in another but I still enjoy the season. I celebrated with amazing food, checking out the light displays but also with my favorite activity of the winter months–reflection and planning for a new year.
New Year’s resolutions have always been a big part of my life. Sometimes they’ve been unrealistic or uncompelling and have fallen by the wayside but I think even the failed goals help to define and redefine a path through the year. Over the years I’ve honed in on what works for me and what doesn’t. Resolutions and goals often feel a little too big, a little too defined and too static. What I mean is that there’s nothing wrong with reaching for some enormous goal or having specific steps for achieving it but at times I have found myself rebelling against my own goals because they can feel confining.
Some of the esoteric goals I set for myself in my late teens worked out well–I wanted to meet my favorite musicians and within a couple years I had done this. But, I had also planned to be a published author by twenty-five and that did not happen. I knew the steps I needed to take and to some extent I didn’t take them but additionally–life happened. A lot of people who give advice, be they self-help gurus, well meaning friends or highly successful individuals in the field often talk about pushing through these life events and not allowing them to deter progress towards one’s goal. They’re not wrong but their advice doesn’t fit me. I’ve spent many years feeling guilty for not meeting my self-set goals and those feelings often spiraled into self-destructive habits which made it even harder to meet my goals as well as making it impossible to really live my life.
For 2018 I actually met and exceeded a lot of my goals, however, I didn’t precisely set goals as I traditionally have in previous years. I began 2018 with the goal of getting to know myself, to understand my patterns when it came to creativity, fitness, sociality, love and self-care. I set smaller monthly task lists–like a mileage goal, max number of gym days, post goals, reading goals, etc–with the understanding that by the end of the year I would have cumulative results from my efforts and didn’t need to define some end destination because I would arrive there if I took these minimal steps. I focused more on thinking about how I view myself and how I’d like to view myself. Honestly, it felt a little self indulgent but mostly it just felt uncomfortable being honest with myself in such an emotionally naked way. The weird thing is, 2018 has been the most focused and productive year I’ve had in awhile. I’m incredibly excited for the projects I’m working on as well as the ones I have planned in the next couple of years.
Now, here’s where things shift a little. As I explored goal setting in a different way:
no longer setting goals like this – Win NaNoWri Mo by writing 50,000
instead setting goals like this – create prompts for Inktober from list of projects I’ve wanted to try all year, have reference inspiration ready and if I miss a day just keep going
It isn’t that much different but the mindset is totally different for me. When I used to set goals I was very invested in the outcome and would crash hard when I didn’t wind up at the finish line. I’ve become more process focused. Instead of fixating on a goal I created a list of my priorities. My real priorities not the ones I think I should have. It helped me to focus on what I want to put my effort into for 2019.
To put it another way:
Your life is a journey. A priority is that crossroads moment where you have to pick a path to travel on. You can’t see the full path ahead even if you have a vague idea of the destination. Once you pick the path you can start looking for signposts and trail markers (goals) so you don’t get lost but you set your own pace. Sometimes you’re interested in observing the beautiful things along the path and other times you’re focused on getting to the top of the trail in record time. Either way what’s important is mapping out some of those details. And if you do get lost in the woods it’s okay to sit down and try to figure out where you are before you look for the way back onto the trail.