On December 31, 2013, I did what countless others did. I looked back at the year that had been and forward to the year that was almost upon us. I decided resolutions were not for me; they’re just too finite. I wanted something more flexible, something indicating progress, rather than decisions. And so I came up with 8 Goals.
Now that we are well past the half-way point in the year, I thought I would take a look at those goals. I had said back then when I was drafting them that by making them public I would hold myself to account. But I also said that I would allow flux, forgive myself for changing them or pushing their timelines out.
I’m not going to bore you by going through each one. But here’s the list:
- Sit quietly alone, doing nothing, for at least 5 minutes each day.
- Publish something in 2014.
- Set aside time to write something once a day. Either first thing in the morning, or at lunch, or before bed.
- Give myself permission to not write on any given day, so that writing, when it does happen, remains enjoyable.
- Return to work slowly, ensuring I maintain a balance in my day between work, family and myself.
- Before I return to work, do something new and fun. Something to remember when I do return to work. Maybe it will be taking an art course. Or meditation.
- Start running again. Even just once a week.
- Try to be patient with my son, to listen to him even though he never stops talking and, if I need some quiet brain time, explain why patiently.
So, how have I done?
Ugh. I haven’t exercised in months; other than daydreaming, I haven’t set aside any regular time to just be, quietly; and patience with my son? Not so much, despite my best efforts. That one I work on every day.
I’m good with 3 and 4 because pretty much all I do, every day, is write or edit or participate in writing circles. Not that I’ve published anything, unless we’re counting my blog. Which I wasn’t when I wrote that goal.
Oh, and I did manage #6. Yay me.
But you know what? Despite my apparent failure at meeting these stated goals, I feel fulfilled. I feel happy. I do feel a tiny little bit like I’ve gained weight. But that’s not my point.
I’m going back to work in 3 weeks (an opportunity to put goal # 5 into action) and though I may not have met the goals I set out for myself, I have met more important goals. Goals that for whatever reason went unmentioned back in December. Goals that should have been front and centre.
When I am sitting at my desk at work, I will dream of the luxurious days I spent, for a whole year, writing daily. That was how I found myself again, after decades of burying and forgetting “me.” I re-discovered my passion, I indulged myself in it and I found myself.
Which of the above goals is better than that? None, I would say.
And, when I am sitting at my desk at work, I will also be drawing on all the lessons I’ve learned on my time off. Lessons that I was supposed to be learning since I was, after all, on stress leave (as much as I’d prefer to say I took a year off to write, that wasn’t the actual stated purpose of this time at home). Lessons about how to set and protect boundaries, how to take a deep breath before reacting, how to ask myself whether I’m taking an action because I want to or because I feel others around me want me to, how to remain true to my priorities (me, my family). I’ve learned how to assess my worries and anxieties and, if they are likely to impact me in some significant way, to come up with constructive things I can do to address them, rather than simply stewing about things that are unlikely to happen. I’m not terribly practiced at that last one, but it is definitely an important lesson I’ve learned and part of those unstated goals.
So, looking back, I think my real goals for this year have been:
- Write. Write as much as I want. Write whatever I want. Write to the point that I feel fulfilled. Then, keep writing.
- Learn how to live with my anxieties, how to find peace despite them, how to return to work and put myself in other stressful situations while protecting myself from all my negative thoughts.
Those goals are ongoing, but I can safely say that I have met them. That I continue to make them.
And the year isn’t over yet. So if I really want to start running again, or taking 5 minutes of silence for myself, or finding a publisher, I still have time.
But if I don’t get to all that, it’s ok. I’m ok. Because I have achieved the most important goals in this time I’ve had to myself.
Has anyone else gone back to review their goals? How have you done? Why is it so hard to set the right ones? Is it just me, or have others had a similar experience?