Why I don’t set goals in the New Year and what I do instead

Reflection canyon

I was sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself as I started reflecting on the shitty reality of 2021. To say it wasn’t my best year is like saying, “she has pretty eyes” about someone with small brown eyes and short eyelashes just because there is nothing better to say.

So much change happened in 2021 that I wasn’t prepared for, and yet personally, it truly was, by definition, a complete success. I lost 27 pounds and kept it off, which was my biggest goal of last year. I learned a morning routine that enabled me to practice my writing without the distraction of my kids or husband. I am more healthy and more fit than I was in my 20s. I have practiced vulnerability with those closest to me, which is saying a lot coming from a recovering you-cant-make-me-talk-even-if-you-have-to-beat-it-out-of-me personality. I have practiced emotional maturity valiantly and have reached a point in my life where I can forgive those who have wronged me, knowing it is a result of their own emotional immaturity more than it is a reflection of me.

But the caveat to all the highlights of 2021 and the personal improvements I have made is that I am still left with the sad realization of everything that was left behind and all the people and things I have had to wave goodbye to on my journey to a new life and a new me. (Out to sea through the riptides of life.)

I think it is important to take time to reflect on your life to really put things into perspective. Taking time to reflect is crucial if you want to stay on the trajectory of growth and movement because if we never take time to reflect, it’s too easy to aimlessly meander through life only to one day when you’re 88 years old, look in the mirror and say “well shit, what the hell do I have to show for this life of mine?”

As a society, though, we are programmed to reflect on our lives and reevaluate our goals at the beginning of the New Year. This process of reflection and goal setting helps to really drive home new goals, current aspirations, fuck ups. And while I’m an advocate of reflection and goal setting and all the things the world tells us we need to do to grow into a manicured, successful adult, I’m not a fan of following the crowd. Especially when the crowd has a 91% chance of failing, according to Discover Happy Habits https://discoverhappyhabits.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/. Setting goals at the onset of the new year almost feels destined for failure. And, well, to be frank, I’m not a fan of failing.

Maybe I’m a little bit unconventional with the goal-setting process, but I refuse to do it at the onset of a New Year because the odds are already stacked against me. It feels like starting a diet on Monday after spending the weekend binge eating because you know you won’t be able to eat what you want come Monday morning. It’s stupid how we rationalize things, isn’t it? So for me, I convince myself I’m “for real” if on the day I have a thought or a desire to change, I start NOW. Not on Monday, not tomorrow; I start at that exact moment. Slow and flawed, but I start now rather than letting days of shitty habits form.

For me, that looks like this: the thought crosses my mind that I need to work out, and I actually go work out. Or I think, man, I’ve been eating a lot of junk lately, so my next meal is a healthy one. This works for me and makes my goals of fitness and healthy eating manageable and not so restrictive. Yes, there are times when I make the choice to buckle down and get strict with myself about my workouts or diet, but my day-to-day life is extremely reasonable and set up to not make me hate myself in the process. Anything that makes me feel like a failure is something I do my best to steer clear of.

And yet here I am at the beginning of 2022 in the company of the world, looking at my year as a failure.

Here’s the thing. The process of reflecting at any point in your life either drives home just how bad you messed up or highlights just how much you succeeded. But no matter what your 2021 looked like, a brutal hard look at your life in the past few months or year is necessary to ensure that you continue to progress. It might make you feel a little like a piece of shit, or a lot like you’ve got your shit together a little more than the year before.

I’m a mix of both.

If we are being completely transparent with one another, I can say 2021 was more difficult than 2020. And that’s saying a lot considering the world basically stood still in 2020. But there was a certain kind of bliss that came with the shutdown of the world. I held no responsibilities. I drank every single night. I didn’t have any pressure to hang out with people I really didn’t want to. I did what I wanted when I wanted, and the government literally paid me to stay home from work while I quite literally wasted my life away.

But this past year was a different kind of difficult because it required me to swallow a new kind of normal. It was a shift in the world that I don’t think I was fully prepared for that left me seriously contemplating my life choices and questioning what was really important to me. And in the end, this is what I have arrived at.

2021 was a year of cleaning up the mess. It was an unclogging of the pipes and getting rid of toxic fumes that permeated my life. It was taking out the trash.

But reflecting has made me realize why the process of 2021 ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied, no matter how “successful” it might seem on paper.

I haven’t replaced it with anything different. Instead, I’m alone. I changed a lot of bad habits and replaced them with good ones, but I have not yet found a group of kind, compassionate, good-hearted people to replace the toxic ones that I left behind in 2021.

It’s like deciding your bed sheets and comforter are no longer serving you. So, you strip your bed of them, throw them in the bin labeled “goodwill,” and lay in bed wondering why you are so cold.

You need to replace your old sheets and comforter with new ones before you can fully feel the benefits of warmth and comfort from the change you made, the softness of the new.

I haven’t bought new sheets. And I’m laying in my figurative bed alone, wondering why it’s so damn cold.

There is no doubt that 2020 was a free-for-all, full of gluttony and anarchy. But I made some serious and necessary changes in 2021 to strip away all that wasn’t serving me.

Now 2022 is the year I need to go find what lights me up and makes me happy so that I can replace all that I got rid of in 2021.

I’m going shopping. Figuratively, of course.

Now, I want to hear from you!

a penny for your thoughts?

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