It is Still a New Year: Make Room For Goals

Weeks after Jan. 1, most of us have forgotten any resolutions we considered and slumped back to our old ways of how we always do things. The fervor and excitement of new beginnings has left us. If you live anywhere with weather, the month of January itself is dreary enough to induce apathy and failure in the cheeriest of souls.

The fickle beast of time tricks us into thinking we are far away from the aspirations of a new year, even though it has only been 22 days. A baby who was born 22 days ago still has so much life to live – but we don’t take the new year as seriously as babies.

So I am going to stubbornly insist on the hope and forward-thinking that comes with a new year. I could reminisce about all the wonderful, fun events that happened in my life in 2014 (graduating college, moving to a new city, finding a job) or I could talk about all the terrifying, not fun parts (graduating college, moving to a new city, finding a job). Those are the same things? Oh you are right, they were all exciting and terrifying at once. So let’s sum it up with that and move on.

Sometimes a new year can feel like staring into the fog - this is why you bring a fabulous umbrella with you.

Sometimes a new year can feel like staring into the fog – this is why you bring a fabulous umbrella with you. (Photo courtesy of Katie Gullickson.)

I am a fan of New Years as a holiday simply because it is a reminder that we can always start over. The hope of advent carries us over into a season of beginnings. The idealist side of myself relishes all the possibilities, and then the realist side negates lofty aspirations with blunt facts. This is not an unusual tug-of-war in my mind, but at New Years each year I try to let the idealist side win.

The last two years I set resolutions for myself. In 2013 I read the whole Bible and in 2014 I wanted to read at least 24 books (I got to 30 – which I am planning to recap here for you soon). Any good trainer or therapist will tell you that the best way to achieve goals is by making them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely). I accomplished my resolutions for the last two years partially because they were things I wanted to do anyways, but also because I was realistic about what I could manage and I approached it with a plan.

This year my goal is to write more days than less. This can include writing in my journal, on the blog, or even a letter to a friend. The point is to create a better habit of writing since it is something I love but that I am also terrified of committing to. The number of days is less specific than I would like, but there is still a clear cut off that it has to be more than 50% of the days during the year, approximately 183 or more.

My idealist self wanted to aim for writing every day, but I firmly believe that a goal should not cause me stress otherwise I won’t be motivated to do it. It is important to remind myself that this is ok: being realistic does not mean I am compromising or failing, and I can’t let fear stop me from trying at all. If failure is what I’m afraid of, I need to leave room for it to happen without letting the task fall apart completely. This way I can “fail” or make mistakes and it isn’t the end.

It reminds me of something I once heard about construction with wood: because timber expands and contracts depending on the present moisture levels, the builder must leave room for either expansion or shrinkage. The movement of wood is a fact of nature reminding us that change is part of how the world operates. Although we humans like to stubbornly resist change, it is inevitable. Instead of fearing the consequences, prepare for the possibility and leave room for change to happen.

The last book I read in 2014 was Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. It is a deliciously crunchy book, full of comfort and sass and funny moments alongside the awkward and real. I will probably quote it to you again, but for now this segment will do.
“Change is the only constant. Your ability to navigate and tolerate change and its painful uncomfortableness directly correlates to your happiness and general well-being.” (p. 279)

Our lives and the goals we make are as unique as different types of wood, some will expand or shrink more than others, but regardless we need to leave room for those shifts. I don’t know what 2015 will bring, but I will be writing about it. Stay tuned.
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