Another new year has started, and unlike most new years in my life, I feel no desire to set any goals.
2017 started this trend. That was the first year when I didn’t set any goals. None. It was a very hard year. All I could do was get up, shower, and get through the day. I had to let setting goals go and I’m glad I did.
Then, in 2018, I set habits instead of goals. Here they are.
- Meditate for 10 minutes
- Create for 20 minutes
- Read for pleasure for 20 minutes
- Exercise for 20 minutes
- Sleep for 8 hours
I’m happy to report that I integrated most of these habits into my daily life, but I didn’t do #2 and #4 as much as I would have liked.
There were days when I wouldn’t create at all–no writing, no drawing, no notes, nothing. Some days it was because I was avoiding it and procrastinating, and some days it was because I simply didn’t feel like it. I tried to not beat myself up about it.
There were also days when I didn’t exercise. Not for 20 minutes. Not even for 10 minutes. It wasn’t good for me and I could feel it in my body. Again, I tried to not beat myself up over it.
Now, it’s 2019, and what I’ve realized is that I’d stop beating myself up over reaching or not reaching goals if I didn’t have them at all.
I don’t need them.
It feels liberating to write that.
I don’t need goals.
I do have desires though. Two of them.
The first is to keep doing things that feel good.
The second is to stop doing things that don’t feel good.
Are these goals?
Are they desires?
Something about the word ‘desire’ feels more welcoming to me than ‘goals.’ In fact, the word ‘goal’ brings up a strange feeling in me now.
For most of my life goals used to make me excited. Now, the thought of them turns me off.
It makes me heave a sigh and think, “Not goals again!” It makes me turn to my stuffed calico cat, give her a hug, and whisper, “Don’t people know that goals aren’t the way?” More on that in future posts, but suffice it to say, goals just don’t float my boat any more.
Does that mean I’m going to lounge on my couch and gaze at the beautiful trees and mountains all day? Well, yes, but that’s not all.
I’m going to go about each day in 2019 doing the things and habits that feel good (or that make me feel good after I do them). When something doesn’t feel good, I’m going to listen (instead of ignoring or rationalizing or thinking it away)…and stop doing it.
It sounds so simple but it’s harder than you think.
So, off I go into the new year with two desires at the core of my being: keep doing things that feel good and stop doing things that don’t. That’s it. I’ll let you know how it goes.
What about you? I’m curious what you think. Would you do me a favor and answer just two questions in the comment box below?
Do you set goals at the start of a new year? Why or why not?
Please comment and tell me what you think. I’d love to hear from you!
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel that asks, can enemies become friends? She is currently querying a novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also the creator of Fear & Writing, a workshop for procrastinating writers from all walks of life.
Art: Snow White and Rose Red by Natsuki Otani.
Yes! Thank you for this Peg. New Year’s is usually my favorite time of the year because I love leaving the hellscape that is December and Christmas behind, reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year. But this year I just couldn’t get myself to care or to do it. I’m trying to just take it slowly and work on what’s in front of me, too. It feels weird, and part of me feels like not setting goals is me just being lazy and lacking direction, but I’m trying not to listen to that voice.
Here’s to the New Year and whatever it brings.
Peg Cheng says
I’m glad I’m not the only one. Sounds like you’re on just the right path, Jonathan. It’s not laziness or lack of direction. You’re right to not listen to that lizard-brain voice. Keep doing what you’re already doing–take it slow and work on what’s in front of you. I’m doing the same. Wishing you many moments of joy in this new year.
I’ve set New Year’s goals in the past, and generally not done well with them. I’ve skipped setting them, too. Why did I set them? Like anyone else, it’s the cultural time of year to take stock, and who doesn’t want to make their life better? When I haven’t set them, it was feeling they’re fairly futile (see February exercise equipment prices).
This year, I kind of stole one of your old goals: the way I phrased it was, “Create, rather than consume, content every evening.” Using an attentionometer, I mapped the mental gravity in my office, and found a black hole in my web browser; meanwhile, my writing desk was weightless, floating 16″ off the floor. Life meaning was deeply in the red. That’s when I knew I had to do something.
I have to say, so far so good: I’m writing and/or doodling every evening, and enjoying it. I don’t know if it’s a goal, because it’s so happily dis-abled: no measure-ables, or deliver-ables, and no one to hold me account-able, I just sit down and do it.
Journal, mostly, but a weird thing started happening: one night, three poem-like lines came to me, and I wrote them down. Now I close out every session that way, with very mixed quality, but always fun.
I’m going to buy a horse-training manual,
so I can learn to tame my mind.
The whip of shame hasn’t worked.
Peg Cheng says
My dear Edgy, shame never works. Or if it does, it doesn’t work well. It doesn’t bring out the best in you. But, I think what you’re doing now will. I LOVE that you’re just writing or doodling in the evenings and letting yourself do it for the fun of it. For the joy of it. I’m trying to get back to that this year. Doing it for the joy of it. Thanks for the inspiration!
Jeanie Boawn says
I really enjoy your shift in approaching life. Goals can be exciting, because it’s a good feeling to get things done (and maybe you’ll find some of those in the “doing things that feel good” bucket), but I’ve never liked the structure of them myself. I like to leave a lot of open space in my days for things that come up. Things always come up, don’t they? It creates suffering when the new need arises and displaces the planned upon things. So I like to have “aspirations.” Habits are great too, and I’ve been building up a habit to study a foreign language for 10 minutes a day.
But on this day of Mary Oliver’s passing, I saw this and it reminded me of what I love most about life – the capacity for wonder. You have to stop sometimes to feel wonder.
“Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.”
Happy New Year Peg, may it be full of wonder and things that make you feel good!
Peg Cheng says
Ahhhhhh, thank you for that wonderful snippet by Mary Oliver. We lost a great one today. A beautiful soul. A brilliant poet. Thank you for writing in, Jeanie, and letting me know that you leave space in your days for possibilities. I love the sound of that. I’m trying to do that more and more. Happy new year to you, and may you also experience a year full of wonder and delight!
LOVE this. Simple, but hard, so true. A while back, I realized that what we want is what we need. Too bad we’re taught otherwise as young people! That idea was liberating. I can’t wait to follow along and see what you discover!!!!! 🙂
Thanks for writing this so beautifully. I enjoyed seeing it as a 2-3 year discovery.
Peg Cheng says
“What we want is what we need.” So true. Thanks for writing in, Jenny, and for all your support and encouragement these past couple of years! 😀