Wednesday, December 21, 2016

An Intention for 2017

I wasn't sure I would write a post about 2017. It's kind of a blogger requirement, almost, to close out the previous year and look ahead to the next. But after I read Jana's post about how she's NOT goal-setting for 2017, my comment in response turned into me typing away in my own blogger dashboard to elaborate. There are some things that just seem to be common traits of most bloggers, and documenting important things and planning for the future are two of them. But after the ringer this year has been—for me personally, and for a lot of us as a society—I kind of just wanted to let 2017 happen and just have faith it couldn't be worse than 2016.

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.
I can't make goals for the next 12 months. I can't make a plan for anything past this week, as a number of things hang in the air, waiting for someone who is not me to make a move, a decision, take action. I can't rush that, force it, or will it to be what I want. And the outcome of these things will make everything that follows take a different shape. I am not signing myself up for a process of making a plan to achieve goals that cannot be achieved, and then reflecting on what an utter failure my life is because I didn't stick to that plan. That's not what goal-setting and planning is supposed to be about. I am changing my attitude of aggressive planning to one of patience, acceptance, and confidence. (Well, I'm trying to.)

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!

13 comments:

  1. I definitely have gone back and forth between setting and not setting goals!! I really want to be intentional with them and have concrete metrics rather than arbitrary goals!! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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  2. i plan but not "long term"...meaning those goal lists and the 101 or 1001 lists are definitely not my jam. i live in the moment and i like it that way. if i need to work on something, i work on it. if i don't feel like it anymore, i stop; zero guilt felt. as long as i am happy, no one is negatively affected, then i'm good.

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  3. Maybe what I mistake for goals are actually plans, because planning in a tangible way - like a journal - really does soothe me and doesn't give me any anxiety about accomplishing anything. But I do need some kind of roadmap for this year because in 2016 I didn't really set any goals or intentions and I felt like the year flew by without purpose. Cheers to a new year!

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  4. I'm a big fan of everyone doing what works best for them. Planning and goal setting should feel motivating, but if it's stressing you out then it's definitely not the system for you.
    That said, I love goals lists and 101 lists and everything else like that under the sun. The key with the 101 list is to be sure you know your 'why' for every goal, and that it matters. Like your sunrise example. If it's on your list (universal 'you') because it sounds fun or you've seen it floating around, it doesn't matter. But if it's on the list because a friend or family member wants to, and you want to experience that with them, then it falls under 'nurturing relationships' and it suddenly matters. Or if you want to do it to mediate or find peace in that moment, that falls under self-care. I feel like the goals I see people fail at are the ones that don't have a 'why' that matters behind them. Don't put 'get organized' on the list just because KonMari is popular. Do it because the clutter is severely stressing you out or the lack of cleanliness is making your allergies go crazy. Have a why. Does that make sense?
    For me, I have to set goals (and write to do lists) in the various important aspects of my life. If I don't, it's very VERY easy for me to fall into unhealthy and lazy habits, from eating bad food to indulging in family drama. Goals keep me on the right track. I think at the end of the day we're the same that way, I just prefer the structure of something like the 101 list. (Plus I think I have far less change in my life in general right now.)
    I like your intention for 2017, I think that sounds fantastic and I hope the year turns out better than 2016 for you.

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  5. I struggle with long term goal lists. I'm on my third 101 in 1001 right now. I LOVE creating them & I LOVE the idea of crossing so many new & fun things off a list. However, it doesn't take me long to abandon the list for whatever reason. This past year I decided that instead of also making completely unrealated goals for the year, seasons, & whatever by whatever age, I was going to pull them all from my 101 in 1001. However, I know I still won't finish it...because like you said, there's things on there that just don't matter. I am going to make a 4th one (that won't even start until March 2018) but I plan on being a lot more practical & intentional with it...not just random things that I think would be fun but will never actually do.

    Not knowing what life is going to look like in 30 days, or even 14 days, is something that really bothers me. As much as I like living in the moment in some aspects, for the most part I like to feel like I'm in control & know what life is going to be like.

    I hope that 2017 is a much better year for you than 2016!

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  6. Oh gosh, how I wish I lived nearby so I could attend one of your yoga classes and maybe sit down over coffee and have a really good conversation. I don't think I have ever struggled so much to set goals for the new year and the big reason is because I have no idea where I'll be or what I'll be doing two weeks or a month from now. And there is nothing I can do but wait for other people to make a decision. As a planner who has always thrived off a 5 year plan the past year has been incredibly difficult because I can't plan. Last year I created a 52 in 52 list, which was just a list of 52 things I wanted to do in 2016 (in theory one a week). Nothing on it was much of a goal, just things I would like to do over the course of the year. I will probably do the same this year but it's not something that will make or break a successful year for me.

    I hope that you are able to enjoy the holiday season and that the year ahead is better than the one we leave behind!

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  7. What I really want to do, I will do regardless.

    This is me, 1000%, also in the what I really don't want to do, I won't do regardless.

    It's important to know how you operate and to work with that. I fought against a lot in my nature for a long time.

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  8. I'm not big on resolutions and goal setting - I feel like throughout the year I may sporadically decide I want to do something, or do MORE of something, and I will. I prefer to be more off the cuff that way. Alls I know is 2017 better be an improvement from what so many of us endured in '16. Happy New Year to you!

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  9. yes to everything you said about the long goal list. i've come to that realisation as well. i saw a sunrise and it was the least important thing that happened in 2016. it was pretty, and fun, but it was not anything i worked towards and felt pride in completing. so yeah. i get you. i like goals, and lists, but i am more intentional about what i put on those lists now. like you, i love to plan, and i will always love to plan, but i was making vague goals for the year because things DO change, and i don't want to feel like a failure, so better make them vague.. well that's just silly. so i'm trying to do quarterly ones, because i still like working towards things or being aware of how i spend my time, with the bigger things somewhere in my brain on a mental list. i don't need to write those things down to know i want to do them - like you said.
    anywho. i've been super off and not up to date with anything social, so i do apologise if i've missed anything big or awesome - i hope 2016 ends well for you and 2017 is 100 times better.

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  10. I love the perspective in this post. I never make resolutions or goals but I feel like after the year 2016 has been, I'm so ready for a fresh start and a few new goals for 2017. I really want to solidify some good habits that I started at the end of this year. We will see how it goes. I won't hold myself too strictly to them! :)

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  11. What a great post, sweet friend. I've had many of these thoughts as the year came to an end and I also decided to not make resolutions or long goal lists. I've found one thing to focus on and I'm going to put effort into that first & foremost. Cheers to a very happy & healthy 2017!

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  12. I can't lie, I read the first one and went "WHOA!". That's huge for you because I know you're a Type A aggressive planner and for you to loosen the reins and not plan it all is a big deal. That makes you sound like a super control freak (not my intention!) but I think you know what I mean. It's hard to let go and let things happen when you're so used to planning everything out.

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  13. I really loved Jana's post on goal setting too. I came up with a list of 15 things I'd like to do in 2017, but they aren't really goals, and I've already thought of additional things to add, but I think it's more of a blog content & fun thing vs a list keeping me motivated or interested. Love everything you said about long-term goals and plans and circumstances always changing.

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