On Goal Setting: The Before Story
January 14, 2015
If you are reading this, it’s a sparkling moment for me, and not only because you’re here, although that is delightful.
It’s a special moment because the extremely improbable has occurred. If you are reading this, it will mean that I – the creative wanderer, the half-finisher, the tinkerer, the head-in-the-clouds dreamer, talker, never-doer – have fulfilled a much dreamed, tinkered, and talked-up goal. I have launched this blog.
Technically, I could have done it in a month or two. Instead, I’ve be “working on it” in my meandering fashion for more than two years now. Scribbling pictures, doodling thought webs, reading articles, filling my phone with cryptic messages to myself labelled “GREAT IDEA!!!” in the wee hours of the morn, and talking ears off ad infinitum. But now I’ve done it.
And so, friends, it is fitting that this is a post about goal-setting. Which I’m typically bad at, in case you hadn’t gathered. It’s the first in a series on goals, and effectively, a ‘before’ story, if I may be so bold. A little context for your pleasure and/or commiseration. Ahem.
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On January 1st 2013, I put my 8-month-old baby down for a nap, snuggled up on the old love seat and wrote myself one of those New Year’s letters. I thought I’d start a new tradition. I’d say a bit about where I was at, set a few goals, fire myself up a little and then open it a year later to be further inspired by how very much I’d grown and changed. I was so pleased with myself.
I don’t generally operate with a whole lot of forethought, so I was pretty excited for this thing I’d done that required a whole year to come to fruition. By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, I decided I’d waited long enough. I took a brief hiatus from the party (okay, I went home to retrieve some more comfortable pants), and in my tights and maybe a little tipsy I ripped that envelope open, to reveal…
…A whole lot of vague, scattered hopes and dreams and nothing I could say for certain had changed at all. In fact, at that moment, it felt like maybe I’d regressed. It was hard to tell though, since what I’d actually written was something between a moony reflection on new motherhood and list of willowy musings, with such gems as, “I hope I can support Achim well and take care of our home and Jonah and myself a bit better”. The closest thing to a goal I could find was, “I suppose I hope that I might develop my career this year, perhaps through my website/blog”. So, two years later… yeah. The letter did have its sweet moments, but as a source of inspiration it would have been hilarious, if it wasn’t frankly kind of deflating. And so, my life altering tradition died, like that.
Except I kept thinking about it, as I do. Clearly, I’d gone about it wrong. Sure, sure – with these self-actualisation practices, there is no wrong, only different. But see, I’d really wanted to feel like I’d accomplished something, and I really didn’t feel that way. My goal-setting, if you can call it that, was ‘different’ in that not actually remotely effective sort of way.
And so I did something I should have done a really long time ago. I set a goal to learn to set goals. It took a while, for obvious reasons. But I did it. With intermittent fervour, I dug around, snuggled with the experts (like, their papers), read, highlighted, and scribbled notes in about 11 different places, some of which I have certainly lost track of. But guys, it was really, really helpful. I actually think it may change my life.
Next week, I’ve got the goods coming your way in illustrated form! I’m super excited to share it with you.
For now, though, I’d love to know – can you relate to my story? Where would you fall on my (highly scientific) goal-setting scale (above)?
p.s. I am warming to the New Year’s letter again, but maybe as a more deliberate tiny time capsule. I also really like the idea of writing a letter to a friend – nothing like a dose of friendly gratitude to ring in the new year (handy, dandy best friend appreciation form letters found here, if you so fancy)!