Every year we set the same high-reaching goals, whether it be getting on that treadmill or finally quitting that ill-fated 8-shot latte addiction. I spent most of 2015 in a state of complete flux and failed to achieve any of the goals I had set. This, along with turning thirty that year, made me very aware of how my lofty goals and actualities were not lining up. I recently unearthed my Thirty Before Thirty list and was heartbroken. Out of thirty goals I had set for myself when I was in my twenties, I had only achieved five!
The reality of this is that all of these goals tend to make us miserable. The failure of realization, no matter how small or large the goal, is a source of misery, especially for perfectionists like myself. There is only so much time in the day and time tends to pass so swiftly, especially as we get older. We are standing on the precipices of change and chance and we have the ability to jump headlong into oblivion or to focus on more mundane tasks in hopes that we will be better versions of ourselves.
This year I resolved, rather than to pick and choose unrealistic goals that I may or may not reach, I would live without the confinements of traditional goal-setting. Instead, I would focus on being a better version of myself simply by being present in my life. In a world that is constantly in transition, we tend to lose ourselves in the flood. Rather than lamenting over weight gain or all of the unfinished projects I have piling up that I may or may not ever finish, I would like to spend this time living and simply being. If I accomplish things, it is because I consciously am living in the moment and not because I am living by an unrealistic task list that I may be lucky to complete a portion of in my lifetime, much less in a year.
Rather than spend time making lists that ultimately will make you feel guilty, why not make a list of things that bring you joy (or better yet— bring others joy?) What are simple tasks that enrich your life and make you feel like a better person? How are you contributing to your world? Living presently and setting reminders for myself of things I actually want to do seems much more reasonable than setting goals for things I will half-heartedly attempt.
I began an introspective investigation into this during December and came up with the following items that make me feel like I am being an active participant without setting unnecessary goals for myself this year. In a way, I am reverting to my childhood and remembering what it was like to be present, kind, creative, and open-minded.
being present: Spending time each day simply existing. By reflecting on what is happening in the here and now, we can become aware that what is happening in this moment will never happen again in the same way. Because we tend to spend so much time rushing around, we forget what it is like to be focused. I remember sights and sounds and even smells from my childhood, attached to memory, because I was much more present at the time. I would like to continue working on being more present in my daily interactions with the world and in my relationships with others.
being nice (just because): Giving compliments. Doing thoughtful things for people we love and people we don’t even know. Taking time out to give back some of the wonderful gifts we are given, even if they are in small ways. Even just smiling at someone as you pass them can be a gesture of kindness and goodwill. I know that for me personally I spend a disproportionate amount of time in my own head and often neglect the simple things.
being creative: Being creative is central to the balance of happiness for me. I am resolving to attempt to think more creatively and attempt to find more innovative solutions to common problems throughout the day. Like any other skill, creativity needs an outlet and needs occasional sharpening to achieve maximum potential. But instead of only focusing on my creative endeavors, I hope to spend this year (and the rest of my life) helping others achieve their creative goals.
being open: Not jumping to conclusions, judging, or lacking trust. Building relationships through mutual admiration and differing values. I find that often I get bogged down by my own perceptions of my tiny universe and fail to see the viewpoints of others in the light they are meant in. By being open to the world and what gifts it brings through people and situations, we can kick suspicion to the curb and learn to appreciate that our differences are what make us unique and wonderful.
Those are just some ways to actively participate in life. What are some strategies you all use in place of goal-setting?