Ugh. Goals. Goooooaaaallllls. Gooooooaaaaalllllss. The mere thought of creating and tracking goals for my personal life brings forth a myriad of emotions and a cold sweat. On one hand, I love fantasizing about the wonderful things I could achieve throughout the year. In my mind’s eye I visualize ticking yet another box on my elegant list of SMART goals – categorized and alphabetized, of course – and I physically feel the pride and confidence future Jen has knowing her discipline and hard work paid off. On the other hand, goal setting is risky and it requires work. Committing a lofty goal to paper, but not achieving it (or even worse, failing to even try) makes my stomach hurt. I’ve done that too many times and I just can’t. Let’s be real, the chances of me following through are very low because unlike the goals I’m required to create at work, the only one holding me accountable for reaching personal goals is me. So why indulge my grandiose sensibilities and get my hopes up that this time will be different when statistics validate my skepticism?
According to Statistic Brain Research Institute, we are a nation divided when it comes to New Year Resolutions. 41% percent of Americans usually make New Years Resolutions and 42% never make New Years Resolutions. Looks like my love/hate relationship with goals makes me average. Thanks, ‘Merica, for the validation. The same study states that over 27% of resolutions are broken in the first week and over 42% of those who did create resolutions fail to ever achieve them. No bueno. If you’re reading this and you’re in your twenties, you have nearly a 38% chance of successfully completing your resolutions. As if we need more proof that some aspects of aging are evil, the over 50 crowd report achieving their resolutions 16% of the time. Oh the humanity! Statistically speaking, future future future Jen will only become more of a loser in the goals game as the years roll. Maybe I should tell people my resolution is to not make New Years Resolutions? Boom! Problem solved, goal accomplished. Look at me beating the odds. Vegas, anyone?
As I reflect on my life, the achievements that I’m the most proud of and have required the most work and discipline to accomplish did not begin on January 1st with a well-thought out plan or a time table. However, far too many athletes and entrepreneurs credit their success to goal setting to deemphasize their value. Can there be a middle ground? I want to accomplish stuff, and most days I’m okay with working hard, but I don’t want some arbitrary goal, even one that I deem worthy at a particular moment, to become something I obsess over.
At the end of 2016, Emily, Rosa, and I were driving home after our last race of the year, high on endorphins and celebrating Emily’s success in achieving the goal time she set to complete a 5k. I got caught up in the moment and bad influence of my friends (I kid, I kid) and set not only a goal time for running a mile, but also a 5k race pace goal. Seriously, why did I do this? My goal paces are realistic, however, I haven’t hit either one. During the year my focus on achieving the goals had peaks and troughs, depending on the weather, my travel schedule, or my mood. Most days I’m cool with the possibility of not reaching either goal this year, other days it makes my eye twitch. Rationally, I know caring about the goals is stupid, there are far more important things on which to focus. I also know I could have tried harder to achieve the goal pace and there is still a possibility l could tick those boxes this year. My value as a person is not increased or diminished based on a race pace, and not achieving it certainly does not minimize the accomplishments I’ve made this year that weren’t identified during the infamous endorphin-high car ride. I accomplished some pretty cool things I couldn’t have fathomed back in December; I ran a half marathon with Abi and a few others in our tribe, became a fitness instructor, strengthened friendships, began co-facilitating a fitness class every Monday with Rosa, trained for a triathlon with Emily (it was canceled due to hurricane Harvey…what a jerk), participated in National Run in Your Sports Bra day and did not die, co-sponsored a 12-week summer health challenge with Dana, Rosa, and a couple other friends, and started this blog with JARED.
So where does that leave Jennie Wilkins at the end of 2017 and is there a plan for 2018? I am proud of the forward progress achieved this year and the plan for 2018 is to forge a middle ground for identifying and tracking achievements. I will continue to work on decreasing my pace until I reach both pace goals, and when I do, I don’t think I’ll set future time related running goals because running isn’t all about the pace, ‘bout the pace (no treble), it’s more about new experiences in both distances and locations (hello 200 mile relay race, we’re coming for you in March 2018!), as well as the discipline of getting outside and burning off the crazy (you’re welcome, world).
In 2018, instead of creating specific goals, I’m focusing on a couple key desires, and will base making decisions with them in mind. 1. I desire to simplify, I will practice mindful, restrained consumerism. I don’t need many (most) of the things that inhabit my dwelling, but I do kinda like my stuff! I can get lazy about returning items that I brought home but inevitably didn’t work for the intended space or event. Even with the things purchased that I do love, the feelings of gratification wither and I’m stuck with stuff I have to store or feel guilty about donating; regrettably some of those things still have the tags attached. What a waste of time, money and effort! I endeavor to do better. 2. I desire to be a better friend to others and myself. I have high expectations of my friends and even higher expectations of myself, my lens can be hyper critical at times. While the critical and detail loving attributes serve me very well in my career, mentally applying them to those I care deeply about can lead to unrealistic expectations and festering resentment when those expectations – both stated and unstated – aren’t met. I strive to use my grace lens more often to not only to embrace, but to celebrate my humanity and that of my friends; to lighten up, communicate with kindness, not take things so personally, chill, and love us for who we are instead of some unattainable, unsustainable ideal of ourselves.
Sounds simple, right? If only. The desires identified are nebulous and lofty, goal setting purists will not approve of my middle ground, and there likely will be missteps along the way that may be hypocritical and not at all consistent with the direction I aiming, but I don’t care (yeah, I do, but I’ll gird my loins). It’s my life and I’ll decide for myself if this approach works for me and determine for myself if it is ultimately a success. It is the braver, unpaved path, it makes me feel like a rebel…I like that. What about you? How will you pursue yourself in 2018?