for when goal-setting starts to feel like striving

This past Tuesday, after a week of family, traveling and not much down time, the familiar end-of-the-year panic hit me.

Taylor and I are hanging out at home, with nothing really on our to-do lists, and all of sudden that becomes a real problem in my mind.  My mind starts yelling at me, “It’s the last week of the year! You’re not doing anything! You’re so unprepared for 2016!”

And just like that to-do lists and made-up tasks threaten to take over what was supposed to be my week of rest at home. Anyone feel me on this?

In a moment of clarity and grace, I recognize my soul isn’t in a great place and I hit the stop button. I get alone, pull out my journal, and start writing. As I’m processing my thoughts and this anxiety that’s crept into my heart, I realize this isn’t a one-off occurrence. Thinking back over the past few years, I can recall this specific anxiety making an appearance right around the end of the year. Its voice is familiar, and sounds a lot like, “You’re not enough” and “You’re wasting your life because you don’t have a plan” and “Look at how much everyone else is accomplishing. What have you done?”

In the past, I’ve responded to this voice in different ways. Some years, I give in completely and desperately fill my schedule with trivial tasks and to-dos that make me feel busy (read: important, worthy). I went back to work feeling exhausted. Last year, with all the best intentions, I responded to this voice by setting goals in different areas of my life, complete with specific action items for each goal. That lasted until about March, and then life got a little crazy and that process went on the back burner.

When the end-of-year-anxiety hit this year, the temptation to fill up my last few days of rest with meaningless tasks was in full force. The temptation to sit down and write out a list of goals, to make a plan for 2016 was strong. But neither one of those sat well with my soul. It felt too much like striving, like I wanted to feel like I was in control of my life, and have a handle on what’s coming next. In reality, as I look ahead to the next 12 months, I have no idea what they will look like. Truly. And I don’t want to pretend like I do.

So this year, I’m not setting goals. Not because I think goal-setting is inherently bad or harmful, but because I’m not in a place where that’s a healthy, life-giving practice for me. It too quickly turns into measuring my identity and self-worth by my accomplishments and performance. It too quickly turns into a crutch for control.

This year, I’m choosing to lean into the uncertainty. Instead of setting goals, I’m asking the Lord for a word or phrase to characterize the next year. Instead of asking myself what I want to accomplish, I’m asking “What do I want to be about?” And for me, in this season, those shifts are helping me walk into 2016 honestly, with an open mind and heart to God’s will and not my own.

 

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february goals

There is a reason the picture above is of a beach. The reason is that I am officially over cold weather.

Please remind me I wrote that in six months when we’re on our second straight month of triple digit temperatures and I’m complaining about how hot it is.

But for now, bring on the sun because all this dreary, rainy, grey-sky weather is wearing on me. I’m severely lacking in Vitamin D. And we don’t even have any snow or negative degree temperatures. I have a new found respect for all you mid-westerners and east-coasters.

In Texas, we shut down if there’s a 10% chance of rain and the temperatures are anywhere near freezing. So, there’s that to chew on while you’re shoveling 3 feet of snow in -8 degree weather and then heading to work like normal people.

Anyway, I digress. It’s February. Which means it’s almost March, which means springtime. In an effort to not jump too far ahead, here we go with a recap of January… let’s just say it was touch and go this month. 

Goals for January: 

– I received The Artist’s Way for Christmas. It’s a 12-week self-guided workshop to uncovering your creativity. I want to start that this month. Started it, and am loving it! Morning pages are my new favorite thing.  

– Purchase a nice camera: the first step to upping my photography skills. Haven’t gotten to this one yet. We had a few unforeseen expenses this month so it got bumped. February! 

– Complete my 2014 Annual Review. I found a template for an annual review last year, and loved it. It’s a guideline to help you think big picture about what you want this year to look like, what are your desires, your dreams, and then gives you the framework to plan out how to get there. It’s simple, but eye-opening. The template I use can be found here if you want to check it out! Mostly done, but I have a few other things I’ve been wanting to add for about a week. 

Finish A Sun Also Rises. Find a good fiction book to read next. I’m thinking maybe thisDone! And ASAR is maybe one of my favorite fiction books I’ve read. My friend described it as “the Wes Anderson movie of novels” and I think that’s so true. If you like Wes Anderson, you’ll love this book. 

Have a “dreaming” date with Taylor. We celebrated our first anniversary the last weekend in January, and got to spend a few days really dreaming of what we want the next year to be. So fun. 

– Limit alcohol and desserts to the weekends. A little holiday cleanse 🙂 Ehhh… let’s just say I did pretty well on the alcohol part, and not so great on the dessert part. I have a killer sweet tooth. 

Goals for February: 

– Purchase a nice camera. For real this time. 

– Get a membership at Austin Public Library. Our new house is right next to one! Taylor and I are both hard copy book people, so what a great way to save some money and not have to read off a screen 🙂 

– Read one book. 

– Paint the TV stand in our living room a different color. 

– Go on weekly walks around our neighborhood with Taylor and Rio

– Limit pressing snooze on my alarm to ONE time.*

*One exercise in The Artist’s Way asked us to list out five subtle bad habits that could be holding you up from unleashing your creativity. Pressing snooze multiple times in the morning is one of mine. It takes me longer to be up once I get out of bed, and gives me less time in the morning to prepare for my day. My prime creative time is in the morning- if I sleep too late, that time disappears. So, this goal is geared toward breaking that habit. 

Crazy that it’s already the second month of 2014! What are your goals to keep you going through this dreary winter weather? 

january goals

It’s a new year, a fresh start. Our planet made another successful orbit around the sun, and here we are in 2014. We’re three days into January, and my social media feeds have been inundated with resolutions, hopes, dreams and goals for this upcoming year. When it comes to resolutions, and more specifically goals (since that’s what I’m working on here), I’m learning that I have a mixed heart. There’s part of my heart that feels a rush of energy, charged up with a chance for change, a new beginning. That part looks forward in anticipation and excitement of what’s to come. And then there’s part of my heart that cowers in anxiety. A part that wants to hide, and cringes at the thought of making goals because the fear of not achieving them is, in that moment, paralyzing.

I’m learning the balance. The balance between to-do lists that cause busy-ness and a false sense of worth, and practical steps toward maximizing gifts I’ve been given. I’m asking the question:

Am I investing my resources into the things I say I care about most?

Are the things on my list of goals steps toward bigger picture dreams, toward what I want my life to look like, toward uncovering desires that have been stirring in my heart…. or are they just tasks to fill a day and make me feel like I’m someone important?

For me, as I think about goals for this month, and overall into the next year, that is the most important question I could ask. Do the goals have real purpose, is there godly intention behind them or have I slipped into obligatory goal-setting to prove myself?

I hoping and working toward the former. That my goals would be steps of faith. That I would be actively pursuing the life God is calling me to.

Here’s a wrap up of my goals for December: 

– Create a system for writing that is a) realistic and b) life-giving and not obligatory. Done! I sat down last weekend, looked at my schedule and blocked off one set chunk of time to brainstorm, write and dream during the week. I also blocked off a 2nd, backup time. I would like to write a little bit each day- even if it’s only journaling- and produce 6-8 blog posts a month. 

– Finish reading A Moveable Feast. Begin reading The Sun Also Rises.  Done! I am loving my little Hemingway kick right now. A Moveable Feast I loved- hearing from Hemingway’s perspective on Paris and his early days of writing made me want to move there and camp out in cafes all day. And I’m LOVING The Sun Also Rises- such great storytelling. Can’t wait to finish it. 

– Not wait until the week before Christmas to buy gifts- don’t give in to the stress that our culture often associates with the holidays. Done! Feel really good about my gift choices this year. They were done early, and were socially conscious purchases. 

– Exercise at least 2 times a week. I think I MOSTLY did this goal, but I fell off a bit the last few weeks with exercise. Getting out of the house and moving around is just so good for my body, mind and soul. I start to feel my mood drop when I go too long without being active. This is an on-going goal for me. 

– Cut out social media on the weekends- be present with the life happening around me. Same as above. I feel pretty decent about this goal. There were a few times that I began scrolling through Instagram out of habit, but for the most part I consciously tried to avoid social media on weekends. I think I’m going to continue this one also. 

– Carry on my family tradition of making sand tarts. Done! And it was so much fun. My mom ended up coming into town, and it became a family affair. My brother and sister joined in on the fun also. They were delicious and fun to carry on the tradition with my family. 

And here’s where I hope to put my energy in January: 

– I received The Artist’s Way for Christmas. It’s a 12-week self-guided workshop to uncovering your creativity. I want to start that this month.

– Purchase a nice camera: the first step to upping my photography skills.

– Complete my 2014 Annual Review. I found a template for an annual review last year, and loved it. It’s a guideline to help you think big picture about what you want this year to look like, what are your desires, your dreams, and then gives you the framework to plan out how to get there. It’s simple, but eye-opening. The template I use can be found here if you want to check it out!

– Finish A Sun Also Rises. Find a good fiction book to read next. I’m thinking maybe this.

– Have a “dreaming” date with Taylor.

– Limit alcohol and desserts to the weekends. A little holiday cleanse 🙂

Your turn: I’d love to hear your goals for the month!