But then, I opened the new journal I bought to begin the new year with, and those beautiful blank pages just begged to be written on. And so I started thinking about how I could plan, what I would plan for the coming year. This is what I realized.
Long goal lists no longer fulfill me. I made a 101 in 1001 list last year, which was spun out of a long-term goals list and a 30 by 30 list. As the forward momentum of my life came to a screeching halt in the last few months, I found myself obsessing over the 101 in 1001 list, because I felt like if I can't do anything else, at least I can cross off some of these goals. But what I came to understand instead was that these items aren't really "goals," at least not all of them. They were just things I wanted to do. A to do list and a goal list aren't the same, I don't think. I think of goals as things that take work, investment, planning, strategy, etc. And keeping a running to do list just isn't satisfying anymore, and it felt like it was just taking up space in my Google Drive and giving itself a false sense of importance. As if seeing a sunrise (which I accomplished) deserves as much of my energy as finding a job, nurturing my relationships, staying healthy and positive. What started out as a distraction from my lack of control over certain aspects of my life became a horribly skewed view of what is worth forcing myself to accomplish, and what is not.
What I really want to do, I will do regardless. This may or may not be true for everybody—I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this. So, my 101 list had things like "Finish first draft of novel." It's 80% done and I haven't touched it in nearly a year. I also put it on my November goal list, thinking I could take advantage of the NaNoWriMo momentum to get it done. On somewhere around November 4, I forgave myself that goal and admitted that it just isn't a priority right now, and that's OK. It doesn't need to be. And adding stress to achieve a goal I don't care about on a deadline that is totally imaginary is not something my life needs right now. It serves no one and nothing, truly. That book will be finished when it's ready to be—if the process of writing 80% of a book in 60 days taught me anything, it's that.
On the flip side, I had goals like "Run a sub-2 half marathon" and "Run a second marathon" on my 101 list. And making that list disappear doesn't make those goals disappear. They're in my mind always when I'm running, when I'm making race plans, when I'm picturing what success looks like over the next X months. I don't need it written down to know it's something I want. And while there is some satisfaction to be derived from crossing an item off a to do list, it is not enough to balance out the stress I feel over having multiple spreadsheets, lists, notes, and progress labels creating mental and digital clutter that makes anything that should be enjoyable into a chore.
But there are some things I just can't quit, like planning ahead as best I can. Planning and goal-setting are related but ultimately really different. I used to think I loved them both equally, but I don't. I like seeing what I can and making a plan for it all to go off without a hitch, or with as few hitches as possible if we're being realistic. For me, goal-setting for the long term just doesn't work. Priorities change, circumstances change, and I am on the cusp of more change than I've seen the likes of in years. And it's all good. I don't need unachieved goals to make me feel bad about all the things I'm looking forward to, and terrified of in the very best way.
Planning, though. Planning makes me feel at peace. I have a serious problem with being ungrounded or feeling out of control. It's the reason I don't like drinking more than two glasses of wine and why I don't walk into Target without a list. For better or for worse, it's a trait of mine that's not going away, try as I might to be a "figure it out when we get there" type. (Full disclosure, though, I completely stopped trying to be that type, because I can recognize a losing battle when I see one.) So I've gone through my Google Calendar and noted any weddings, events, appointments, and travels I am sure of for the coming year. I've transferred that all into two pages of my journal, so I can see what's ahead at a glance. I've taken notes about things and compiled information I'll need to reference later. But that's the easy part, the part I enjoy.
The hard part has been acknowledging that I don't know what 30 days from now will look like.
This is the point in my life where I have to learn how to be patient and let things unfold as they will. I have to make one decision at a time. I have to move day by day. I have to get used to making big decisions without lots of time to mull them over, and then be confident with those decisions. I have to stop pretending that certain things are within my control.
I want to set myself up for a good 2017, but writing a list of things I'm going to do just won't accomplish that anymore. And if I'm telling the truth, it never has in years past. So for the first time, I'm not making any goals for the new year. I am, however, setting an intention.
I set an intention every time I practice yoga. I encourage my students to set an intention every time I guide them through theirs. I phrase my intentions as mantras, and sometimes I use the same one for days or weeks at a time. The one I'm setting for 2017 has to do with practicing patience, acceptance, and openness, relinquishing control over that which I cannot will my way, and remaining a positive source of energy in the universe. My hope is that my attempts to manifest this intention enable me to achieve all that is waiting to be achieved by me, whether or not I can identify what those things are just yet.
With a week and change left of this rollercoaster year, I am choosing to focus on what I am grateful for and what I hope to do better next year. If I don't talk to you before the calendar turns, I wish every one of you dear readers a happy holiday season filled with joy and love, and a positive, healthy start to 2017. Thank you for sticking by my side and being the incredibly uplifting and supportive influences you have been this year. Cheers!