It seems that at the beginning of every new year, whether I intend to or not, my brain shuts down for a while and everything I had planned gets put on hold. It’s as though I’m racing through life with my foot on the gas, and then January comes and all of a sudden the accelerator doesn’t work, and instead of freaking out or panicking, I just sit back in the drivers seat, loosen my grip on the steering wheel, and coast. For a good week or two, my body and mind pull back their energies to recharge and prepare for the rest of the year. If I let myself think about all of the things I “should” be doing, I might start to panic, but I just… don’t. It’s kind of nice, actually.
During this mental down-time, I try to let myself play. I give myself permission to get lost in a book, or spend hours making art and being creative in ways I don’t normally let myself (like my attempt at watercolor and hand lettering above). I also spend this time thinking about some of the bigger things that are always in the back of my head, but which I normally push aside because I have a million other things to do. I reflect on who I am, and where I want to go, and jot down a very rough map of how to get there. I’m sure many of you are doing the same in the New Year, making resolutions and reflecting on the past, so I thought I’d share some of my own goals and aspirations, and also my thoughts on goal setting in general. Maybe you can relate.
I approach New Year’s Resolutions a little differently than most. I don’t like the idea of resolving to do something, or forcing myself to take on a goal that is unrealistic, or which will leave me feeling disappointed in myself if I don’t succeed. I think resolutions in that traditional sense are destined to fail, because the moment I slip up (and I will slip up), it’s over. Instead, I try to think in more general terms about where I am going in life, or what type of person I want to be — something I am always working towards, of course, but which is easy to lose sight of in the day-to-day grind, when I’m constantly looking at the ground right in front of me. So instead I look up, step back, and try to evaluate the path ahead. Am I on the right track? What can I improve? What should I be doing more of, or less of, to get where I want to go?
(Just to clarify, this does NOT mean I know where I want to be ten years from now, or that I don’t do anything but work towards one ultimate end goal…. or that there even is an ultimate end goal. Just that I try to think about what makes me happiest in life, and aim myself in that general direction.)
Once I have some general goals in mind, I break them into smaller, more actionable pieces. Setting big goals with high standards and high stakes is a recipe for failure, at least for me, so instead I try to give myself manageable baby steps. Baby steps are easier to take, but they also mean if I fall down it won’t hurt so much, and I can brush myself off and keep going. If I tell myself my goal is to exercise every day, and I miss a day… I have failed. It’s over. But if I tell myself the goal is to be healthier, and then make a list of little things I can do to get there over time… then if I miss a day of exercise I won’t punish myself, I’ll just pick up again the next day.
That’s my philosophy on resolutions, in a nutshell, but I would love to know:
How do you handle goal setting? Do you set big goals and hold yourself to them, or are you a baby-steps kind of person like me? I’d also love to know what your resolutions are for the year, if you have any, and maybe we can cheer each other on.
Here are some of mine:
Host more dinner parties.
It should come as no surprise that I love to cook for my friends and family, but to be honest, it hasn’t been happening as much as I’d like it to. I’ve been wanting to host more dinner parties for a while now, but kept coming up with excuses not to, like the house not being nice enough, not having enough chairs, not having fancy cloth napkins (yes, that was seriously one of my excuses). Well, I’ve done some thinking, and realized that’s dumb. Yesterday, I set the table with mis-matched dinnerware, paper napkins, and a couple of folding chairs, and had the most amazing meal with incredible company. Lesson: don’t let the little things hold you back from what matters most. Good food, and great friends.
In 2015, I started a gratitude journal. I’ve tried keeping journals in the past, to no avail, but this gratitude journal was — and is — very different. Instead of writing about my day in the usual way, which tends to develop into rants, and anger, and frustrations, I wrote about how much joy there is in my life, and how thankful I am for the people and things that make my existence as wonderful and comfortable as it is. If you had asked me before if I was a grateful person, I would have said yes, but since starting this journal I’ve realized I took a lot of things for granted. I appreciated them when I thought about them, but I rarely did. Making it an (almost daily) practice has helped me look for the good in every day, seek out the positive side of negative situations, and say thank you more often and more sincerely to those around me. Plus, every page is like a physical, tangible reminder of how much happiness and love I have in my life, and whenever I’m feeling fear or sadness I can look back at those entries and be uplifted. It might sound kind of dumb, but starting that journal is the single best thing I did in 2015, and my goal is to keep it up in the new year.
Make time for reading and meditation.
I love to read, but I tend to get so caught up in doing doing doing, that I don’t give myself permission to sit still. Reading and meditating are both things I want more of in my life, and they come down to setting aside time that is devoted to not doing anything, and not feeling like I need to justify spending a little time for myself. In my couple of weeks of mental restoration, I’ve already started diving into many of the books on my reading list. I’m considering sharing them with you as I go, or maybe doing a kind of virtual book club for anyone interested in reading along. Right now I’m in the middle of several, including: “The Art of Eating” by MFK Fisher, “Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal” by Mary Roach (an equal-parts fascinating and hilarious account of everything you ever wanted to know about digestion, and then some), and am about to dive into “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert (which ties right into my next resolution). If you want to hear more about what’s on my reading list, or talk books with me, let me know in the comments and maybe we can make it a thing!
This is last, but by no means least. In many ways I am an introvert, and yet I insist on putting myself out into the world via the internet, which even to a skilled extrovert can be daunting. Being authentic is scary, and while it’s something I always try to do, I don’t always succeed. When you’re constantly scrolling through the most amazing instagram feeds and facebook pages, it’s hard not to compare yourself to their greatness… and there is a fine line, I find, between being inspired by, and comparing yourself, to others. Comparison is a slippery slope that can lead to feeling inadequate, and like you need to follow in other people’s footsteps in order to get where you want to go, rather than carving your own path or going wherever feels natural. This is really just a personal reminder to myself, but I’m sure many of you can relate, and maybe even made a similar resolution to yourself. As you are no doubt aware, David Bowie passed away this week, and in listening to interviews and reading articles I came across an amazing quote which I absolutely love:
In 1968, Bowie was a gay, ginger, bonk-eyed, snaggle-toothed freak walking around south London in a dress being shouted at by thugs. Four years later, he was still exactly that — but everyone else wanted to be like him, too. If David Bowie can make being David Bowie cool, you can make you cool. — Caitlin Moran
So those are some of my personal goals for 2016 — what are yours? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
Before I take off, I’ll leave you with one last quote I always remind myself of at the start of every new year:
This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and make a purchase, even if it isn’t the item mentioned, I will receive a small percentage (at no extra cost to you). This helps support this blog, and makes it possible for me to bring you tasty recipes! I only link to items I personally own, or would recommend to my own friends and family. I am not paid to recommend any particular items or brands, so all opinions are my own.