Woosh! We sailed through December at the speed of light, and now I’m finding myself at mid-January and I don’t know how I got here! Our schedules have moved on to life as normal with work and school, but the house still looks decidedly like the holidays are upon us, although my Christmas tree is looking sadder and dryer with each passing day (or at least it still did when I started writing this post…it’s been a few days since then and we got our tree down in the meantime…phew!). I’m also kicking off the new year with a cold, which could work out well as far as my tree is concerned–a few well-placed sneezes and I could probably startle the needles off their branches!
Facebook and blogs have been awash in resolutions and goal-setting, and around the middle of this week I started feeling panicky. I love goal setting and projects and dreaming and planning for the future, but it seems like that train has left the station and I didn’t have time to get on it! I haven’t settled on any resolution, I haven’t written down any goals, and we didn’t even fill out our yearly stocking recap (more on that later, hopefully…)! Argh! Can we say left behind?
I had to take a deep breath, though, and remind myself of what I’ve learned over the past few years: it’s okay to do what works for you, even if that’s not the same as what works for everyone else. Just because your path looks different doesn’t mean it’s going to take you to any less spectacular places.
This tired, overwhelmed mother is beginning to learn her limits and embrace herself. SMART goals may be all the rage, but I’ve learned my temperament and current life circumstances don’t lend themselves well to strict expectations. When I set expectations but don’t live up to all the specifics, discouragement sets in and I stop making progress.
I used to be a huge perfectionist, and if I set my mind to something, I accomplished it, no matter the cost. Know what that got me? Sickness. I got tired, I got rundown, I got excessively anxious, and I got sick for more than a year. Faced with the prospect of ongoing illness and worsening exhaustion, I made the only choice I could–I started to let go of perfect. I overhauled my life in both major and minor ways. I said no more often. I started learning how to embrace the journey, not just keep my eye on the prize of the destination. I began learning how to give more grace, both to myself and others.
What works for me? Intentions. Intentions are purposeful destinations on which to fix my attention, but they still allow me the flexibility to have pyjama days or to change their emphasis throughout the year as my circumstances require. They also help me to shift my focus from the need for perfect results to appreciation of the process.Last year, I set a few intentions – delight more, drink more water, be more present. I’d say I made progress in all those things–maybe not as much as I’d have liked, but I also dealt with a very busy travel schedule on the part of my husband, ongoing sleep problems with my littlest, an extended family trip, and some unexpected parenting challenges with some behavioral and emotional issues.
I’ll give you an example. Every year, I make some sort of plan to be healthier/eat better/lose weight, etc. In the past, I’d set specific goals about the number of pounds I’d lose, the amount of sugar I’d cut back on, the frequency with which I’d exercise, and every year, when I fell off track, my lack of progress would snowball into defeat and I’d quit. This year, I didn’t set any specific goals other than set the general intention of taking care of my body. While I’d hoped that would lead me to weight loss and glowing health, it wound up leading me to a place where I could release some of the paralyzing body anxiety I’ve been carrying since I started having babies. Do I love my body yet? No. But I’m not controlled by feelings of having a “fat day” or self-hatred when I indulge too often in sweets. If my focus had been on specific, quantifiable physical results, I don’t think I’d have been able to broker this sense of body peace. I wound up at a different destination than I’d originally anticipated, but it was a good one nonetheless–maybe even a better one than the one I would have selected for myself.
What I like about intentions is they set me free–free to pursue, free from the fear of failure, free to adapt to where my year naturally takes me. I need that freedom that this point in my life. Most days, I feel like I have so little control over anything. The days on which I have the most to accomplish are inevitably the days during which a child gets sick. Or the mornings in which I just need a few extra minutes of shuteye wind up being the mornings a child wakes up before dawn. I need the freedom to be okay with where life is taking me and still have some degree of intentionality about it.
This year, I selected a word as my intention. That word is “system.” I’ve realized that it’s much easier to do things that are part of a routine than if you have to think about them and plan for them everyday. Take brushing my teeth. I never forget. It’s just part of the process, and I don’t expend any energy thinking about it–it just gets done. So many other things in my life, though, are haphazard, which means I expend precious mental energy on planning their execution. I’d like to take on a few of these haphazard tasks this year and put them into some sort of system that works more seamlessly for me. Possible areas to systematize are drinking water, weekly power hour (organization and calendar time), laundry (don’t get your hopes up, Tahd…), exercise, Bible reading, cleaning off my counters, making our beds, date night schedule, menu routine, blogging schedule…I could go on, but you get the idea. 😉 We’ll see how much progress I make!
It’s not too late to have an intentional 2016. We don’t have to start perfectly or establish lofty goals, or even establish specific goals at all. That’s what I keep reminding myself as I flesh out my hopes and dreams for the coming year–nobody was checking my resolution list to make sure it was ready to go by January 1. I’m not behind and there’s no need to catch up…only a need to start now, exactly where I am, and make progress, whatever form that happens to take this year.
How about you? Any goals or resolutions made? Any intentions set? How are you doing on them?