One of the more frustrating aspects of setting goals, I’ve found, is that once I’ve set one goal, I tend to pile on more and more. Why? Because, well, it’s just so satisfying seeing my list of goals and seeing the work I’ve done towards them. It feels good to realize I’ve challenged myself and achieved. Harder to determine, especially with recurring goals, is which to focus on and which to let go. I have a lot of ideas about good goals for myself, and often, one ideas leads to another and well…that idea leads to ten more and twenty more and suddenly I have ten pages of goals!
As June nears, I’ve been looking more and more towards my New Year’s Resolutions to see how good I’ve been about keeping them up to this halfway point. I started off with a simple list of eight things.
1. Blog once a week
2. Make one home-cooked meal a week
3. Run twice a week, do yoga on Sunday
4. Meditate every day
5. Run a 10k by mid-year
6. Write one letter a week
7. Start each day with 365 Tao
8. Take at least 10 photographs every week
By the end of January, though I hadn’t kept to my running goal, I’d met every other. I was feeling so proud, so I added being more active on social media like Instagram and drawing every day. Then, I thought, “Hey! Doing a little yoga every day would be nice too!” After that, things started to get out of hand. I started keeping a daily journal and using the 1 Second Everyday app to catalogue my everyday experience in a one second video. Each night, Todoist reminded me there were at least one or more tasks I hadn’t completed. It’s just really difficult to cook, run, blog, meditate, write, read, photograph, draw, and practice yoga with routine perfection.
There are so many lovely parts to living a predictable and stable life, but there are also a lot of curveballs and unpredicted paths that open up new strands of life that lead us astray from our daily goals. And that’s okay. I always have to remind myself that the unexpected things that throw me off my daily routine are rewarding in their own right.
If the weekend is full of museum visits and Italian cafés and friends, it’s okay to miss a social media update, it’s okay to miss a meditation. It feels frustrating (especially to see my run streak in Headspace go to zero!), but I’m so grateful to have that routine, and also, to have the pleasure of occasionally going off course and just soaking up a day without worrying about my personal score sheet with myself and perfection.
At the end of the day, goals and resolutions are a wonderful guide to achieving things I’ve dreamed about doing, but they are not a strict road my life has to travel. When I unexpectedly find a book I love and spend the night squirreled away reading it, forgetting the time and the slow-cooker recipe I meant to try, when I unexpectedly spend a day researching contract-writing, when I unexpectedly decide to go to a meet-up in Manhattan, when I choose to spend my time in pursuit of an unknown rather than a known outcome, these events are worthwhile deviations.
I’ll close with a summary of one of my favorite Frog and Toad stories by Arnold Lobel. (If you read these books as a kid and haven’t returned to them as an adult, you are in for a treat when you do. They are quiet and charmingly subtle stories about friendship and life.)
In the story, Toad wakes up and because he has a lot to do, decides to make a list. On his list he writes “wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, go to Frog’s house, take a walk with Frog, eat lunch, take nap…”, but when he is on a walk with Frog, a wind blows his list away. Toad cries “My list is blowing away. What will I do without my list?” However, he refuses to chase after his list, because the action “running after the list” isn’t one of the items he wrote on his to-do list. Instead, Toad sits down and decides he can not do anything without his list. When Frog cannot find the list, he returns to Toad, and as it grows dark outside he says “Toad, it is getting dark. We should be going to sleep now.” Happily, Toad remembers “Get to sleep” was the last item on his list, so he writes it in the dirt and crosses it out and says “Now my day is all crossed out!”
Of course, it seems silly to us, that Toad would be so paralyzed by his to-do list that he couldn’t chase after his list or do anything he didn’t remember from it, but sometimes goals and routines are just like Toad’s “List of Things To Do Today”. They can easily narrow our vision for the great possibilities held in each day, each month, each year. In the end, we’ll cross out the things we remember the most, the things that matter. And if we forget a few things on our lists or change our course, that’s okay too. So, as far as my Resolutions go, I’ve fallen behind on a few, but I think I’m doing just fine.
If you’ve fallen behind on some goals lately, I hope you’ll be kind to yourself and consider re-evaluating which are the most important to you, and which might be okay to give up to the wind.