I like goals. I like to check things off the list. I enjoy working towards something. I have been a do-er for quite a while. I learned when I was younger that when you do things, it helps. This may seem obvious, but I always saw my efforts as rewarded. Doing can achieve results. I get things done with surprising ease and am able to complete a number of tasks within the day. I am not the most productive person, but if I say I am going to do something, I am going to do it. I need to believe in what I am doing and have a good reason. I am not as motivated externally. I do not need someone checking in on me, I do not really need someone to push me.
If I want to do something, I will find a way to do it. Through all my travels this summer, I consistently exercised. I run when it rains outside, although not in snow because I am clumsy and that seems dangerous. If I care to do it, I do it. The caveat is that it actually has to be important to me, if I do not see it as valuable I will not put in the effort, hence my constant struggle with food. I realize though that this is not true for most people. There are people who hate goals. There are people who will avoid doing things because the thing is hard and they feel they are “bad at it”. Those people term themselves perfectionists, which I find interesting because I would also term myself a perfectionist but not in that way. I am an obsessive practicer. I work hard to do what I want to do and I accomplish things. Am I perfect? No. Do sometimes my plans get delayed? Yes, but when they do I pick them back up eventually and continue. I am starting to realize though that this is not the same for everyone.
As we begin this New Year, goals become all the rage. We make goals and hope and dream for our new year and our new life and all that it entails. The truth of the matter is though, a goal is just a goal. In America, being driven and hardworking are considered positive traits. We think by accomplishing more we are doing it all. In fact, that is not necessarily the case. In my life, I have given goals much more weight and credence than they deserved. I assume by organizing my home I will change my life. The reality is that I have fewer objects, my life changing is a result of other things. I think one of the things that gets lost as we plan goals is that they are simply what they are. This sounds obvious, but hear me out. If in the new year you get fit or lose weight, that is all that will happen. Being fitter does not innately change everything. Sure working out helps with endorphins if you have not previously been doing that, it provides space and mental clarity, but it does not solve everything. In our society we are concerned with quick fixes. We want it all and we want it now. We are not willing to make the sacrifices to pick one over the other. We think we can find a fast easy solution and our lives will be changed, we assume all life is just waiting for the right product or right gadget to fix it all. We assume one nagging problem is the key to it all, when really it is simply one component.
As I look over my past year, yes I exercised almost daily (when I was sick I took a few rest days), and I am not any different on the outside. My exercise routine helps me gain mental clarity, but has done nothing for my appearance. But if I am totally honest with myself, losing those 10 pounds is not going to change my life. Yes, I will have to buy different clothes, but aside from that not much will change. It will be the result it will be. So this year, yes dream big, make your goals, but realize they are only part of the picture.
We cannot plan for life. We cannot warp it to be what we want it to. Thank goodness, some of the best things in my life I never planned for. The things of beauty and wonder are things I could not imagined if I had sat down and planned my life and it had gone accordingly. I think many times we think of who we want to be rather than who we are. I want to be someone who throws elegant dinner parties, but in reality I only want to invite a couple people over for dinner.
I have written before about how we change more than we expect to. Our lives look very different from our childhood dreams, some for the better and some for the worse. I am thankful I do not live in a gingerbread house. I am thankful I am not a lawyer. Those dreams came from a different person at a different time. We are constantly changing as human beings. We evolve and react and adjust. Moment by moment we are not the same. So when you dream your life, understand that it may change. The best moments may not be now. The best moments may be things you never could have or would have planned. Those moments make memories they make your life unique and worth living.
As we go into the phase of doing and goal-ing, stop and recognize what you have. Appreciate the life you get, the things you have that you take for granted. Realize what of your life was a wonder you would never have planned for or realized. We have lived all over and if I am going to be honest, before living elsewhere I did not realize how much of a welcoming spirit can be evoked by a place and the people there. People who say hello, who share advice, who help without being asked, who offer themselves. I couldn’t have planned for that. Yes, we will always have some preferences, yes, we will think what we want now is what we will want forever, but we are allowed to change our minds. We are allowed to not know. We are allowed to ask for help.
The goal is just a goal. Not everyone is me, some people who struggle with goals may need a goal for its own sake. But I know for myself, and typically I write to remind myself what is right for me, the goal is not everything. Taking a break and changing your mind does not mean I am a failure. It does not mean I am a lazy slob if I have a day where I chose to stay in pajamas and not leave the house. I can be cognizant of what is and what is not. Also when a goal is not met, it can be a lesson. We have still grown whether we get there or not. We are doing our best and giving ourselves grace along the way is important. I also think we need to hold our goals loosely. We can recognize that they are what they are. Do not think though that meeting a goal will change your life in ways that goal was never meant to. Having a clean house, means my house is clean, it does NOT mean I am winning at life, or I am a better person than someone whose house is not clean. I think we place value judgments on things that were never meant to have a value judgement. I have preferences and so do you, that does not make me better than you or worse than you. I am just doing my best and so are you.
I used to think when my house was clean I would finally be a good wife, and really I am telling you honestly, my husband could not care less. My cleanliness of house means nothing to him. He frequently claims he cannot see the dirt. I made my skills as a homemaker into something they were never meant to be. I made my relationship with my husband, something I value and cherish into a menial task of sweeping the floors. We give things heavier weight than they were created to bear. We add more burden to a place where it was not necessarily supposed to be. I am one who makes things harder. My husband often says when I am working towards something I will find the most challenging way to do it. If that doesn’t work I will find a more difficult way and try that. I add to my burden when I think of goals as the answer to everything. The reality is by straining myself to do more, be more, be better all the time I am exhausting myself and ruining the very things I cherish most: my mental sanity, my relationship with my husband, my relationship with friends.
This year when you make goals, dream big. But understand it is the small moments over time that make the difference in your life. The weekly date night is important, but daily dinner is more so. The anniversary, not so much. Yes, it is fun to mark the passage of time, but rather it is the small daily deposits that make a relationship and that make a life. If I dream and plan and make goals and lose my relationships of highest priority, will I look back and think it was worth it? For me the hardest lesson to learn this with is food. I love food, clearly. I eat more of it than I should but when I get into the mentality of I need to give up bread and cheese and chocolate, I am aware that my life will be significantly worse, and for what; a few pounds. Is that a worthy exchange? For you the answer might be yes, for me the answer is no. I will work on eating intentionally and being present in the moments of delicious food, but giving them up for a few pounds that would not significantly change my life is not important. If it got in the way of my exercising, I might reconsider, but it doesn’t. So consider your goals. What do you actually want? What will the goal really do? What are your highest priorities that you want to remain so? Does your goal get in the way of that? What things are you looking forward to in the year? What are the surprises you could never have predicted?