Sunday, December 4, 2011


I was thinking about it this week and I realized that I'm happy with who I am, but not content. It's a really good place to be in, actually.

I adore setting goals. I make New Year's Resolutions. And new semester's. And right now I have three pages of sticker-chart hanging on my bathroom wall. (Yes, one of the rows is for "write in journal/blog.") It's nice to keep in mind the things that I want to do, the person that I want to become.

And I understand that, while my intentions may be good and my effort admirable, I probably won't make all of those goals. I might not get to the Serengeti before I turn 30 to cross it off my list. It's getting to the time of the year when I can look at the goals I made for 2011 and realize that I probably won't lose 10 pounds before Jan 1, nor will I pass my prospectus exam, unless the university system radically changes during finals week. And similarly this week there are several rows on the sticker chart that are relatively barren. "Don't eat after 8:00" for example, and "do >15 min. of service." I still think those are worthy goals, but for one reason or another, it didn't happen this week, and I think that's okay.

After all, there are some pretty cool ones I did keep: I'm a regular flosser for 3 weeks now, and I've been pretty good about reading the Book of Mormon, getting to bed by 11:00 pm, tidying up and, yes, writing something on here or in my journal. This year I did lose weight, and I did pass my field exam, and I cross several things off of my "30 before 30" list this year, including a traditional hike through the English countryside and making a wedding cake. I like to look back on these accomplishment and think about them.

So why do I do this? Why do I have to set a goal on Goodreads for books to read this year, or try to visit 10 Christian denominations while I'm in Texas, or read everything Shakespeare wrote? Part of me worries that this is a "list-worth" problem, that my self worth is tied up in doing good things, proving to others that I've done cool things. For example, I read all those books, but was it close enough? Did they enter into my soul?

I love even my failed goals, though, and I don't want to hate myself if I don't achieve a goal, or if I end up modifying that dream. One reason I love my failed goals is that something is better than nothing. Even though I only did creative writing 3 times this week, one of those days was an obsessive day where I pondered a lot and ended up with 11 single-spaced pages. Even though I only did service for 15 minutes, it's 15 minutes more than I perhaps would have without the reminder. I got something from it.

Another reason why I love even my failed goals is I think that the goals I set describe who I want to be, and who I want to be determines a lot about who I am. The half-marathon I ran this year represents my becoming an athlete, a runner, which, if you had asked my 14-year-old self (the one, may I point out, on the track & field team) if she was a runner, or wanted to be, I don't think she'd concur. But, after running a half-marathon was on my "someday" list for several years, I actually started running more often and longer and I did it. That one I achieved, yes, but there are many failed goals, like my plan to do 100 hours of service in the summer, that still represent a good change in my intentions, an ideal that means something to me.

Finally, I think goals represent a sort of optimism. I can get better. I will get better. Of course, ideally the goals that you set will fall into those business school acronyms and be properly specific, measurable, etc., but any goal (and a real goal, not just a fantasy) suggests a path from where I am to where I want to be, a path that exists, that's a possibility, and that's wonderfully reassuring.

Also, it helps when you get stickers everyday. I love stickers.


mlh said...

Maybe I ought to mention, in a more pragmatic sense, that I give myself rewards, which is great because often I don't like to get things for myself, so my "goal money" (a dollar for each one I'm consistent on, and 2 if I'm perfect) pays for new iTunes, grocery store magazines, scented lotions, and other bric-a-brac I have a difficult time otherwise justifying.

Makayla said...

I think that sometimes it's important that goals change too. For example, I decided in the year after I got home from Texas that I wanted to buy a Mustang, and go on one more study abroad. I had the chance to do both. I bought the car, and every time I went to prepare to apply to the PERFECT study abroad (the Yucatan... seriously?) I felt really weird about it. Like the answer was no. And then every time I tried to visualize myself spending summer term in Merida, I kept having it overrun by visions of me riding around Utah and surrounding areas in my car, with various people in my family. So. Sometimes the goal and the move toward it seem to be more important than actual achievement.

Sara said...

Well, who doesn't love stickers? :)

Jamie said...

I do agree about the danger of 'list-worth,' but on the whole, goals can really help us orient and then focus. I just came across a 3x5 card from my mission that says, "If we don't try, then we don't do; and if we don't do, then why are we here?"

I love the concept of progression. I wanna see your sticker chart.

Margaret said...

I agree - I think that we decide who we want to be, and then try to do the things that make us that person. It's the whole point of having ideals - we don't always live up to them, but that doesn't mean they're worthless. They're just something to strive for. I love that you are continuing to strive!

Anna said...

Oh, how I adore stickers! :D Been an avid fan of your DC antics for a while, you're awesome! And thus, I shall be looking forward to more posts :)