At the dawn of each new year I spend hours contemplating the highlights of the past and strive to make goals and resolutions to help the coming year surpass the old. Yesterday you got a glimpse of last year's highlights, today you're going to be subject to some of my goals for this year!
When I was a teenager I started a tradition of writing a letter to myself on each birthday. I'd recount some of the great things of the past year and set some goals for the coming year. I've done this ever since. I pulled out last year's letter to read yesterday and realized that I've fallen into a giant rut. The things I've been hoping will change haven't changed for the past few years, my complaints and wishes are much the same and while I am busy and spend most waking moments doing things I haven't really accomplished all that much. Let me explain.
I've made resolutions for as long as I can remember and I jumped head first into the whole 'bucket list' phenomenon. I spend a lot of time admiring people (alive, imagined, historical) and their accomplishments and adding things to my lists to hopefully measure up in some way to their greatness. And I fall prey to the religious trend of feeling guilty for not being 'good enough'. And I've already mentioned more than once here the tendency to get caught up the whirlpool of social media pressure (blogs, pinterest, facebook etc.) and the quest to outdo everyone's perfect and exciting lives. But while this all keeps me very busy doing things I've stopped (or at least significantly slowed down) in my progress to become someone.
Most of my complaints in life are about my job and my relationship status, things I can more easily blame on others or circumstances. Seriously flawed thinking, I realize this but there you have it. Between that and the comparison game mentioned earlier I spend a lot of time doing, doing and doing in an effort to forget about the things I don't have or trying to compensate for them in some way. It's easy to look at someone else's seemingly perfect life and feel discouraged about your own failings. This is in part why I started this blog in the first place, to help me focus on all the great things I do have in my life. And it has helped, but my natural tendency is to measure myself against others and even my own expectations for things rather than trusting in God's will and his plan and simply learning to accept life's circumstances and doing the best I can with what I have. So, this year I've vowed to make some changes.
A friend posted this article a few weeks ago that hit me pretty hard. It's full of awful language but if you can get past all that it's a great read. If you'd rather not wade through the f-bombs I'll give you the gist of it...
You are (to an extent) nothing more than the sum total of your useful skills.
What you are inside only matters because of what it makes you do. Who you are is your 'dirt', what it makes you do is your 'fruit' and 'by their fruits ye shall know them...'
Everything inside you will fight change.
Focus on giving yourself a skill that would make you ever so slightly more interesting and valuable to other people.
Another thought I just love comes from Gordon B. Hinckley:
“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
Armed with these thoughts and a few reminders from other sources I'm determined to focus on becoming, not just doing, developing skills, attributes and habits that will help me to change the world around me for the better and learning to more fully enjoy the ride while I do so.
So, this year I'm going to try to:
- be not just on time to things but a few minutes early (I'm compulsively 5 minutes late --at least-- to everything!)
- do my darndest to stop swearing!
- send birthday and/or thank you cards to strengthen relationships with people far away
- find a new outdoor activity that will force me to meet people and step outside my comfort zone (kayaking and rock climbing are at the top of the list at the moment)
- focus on prayerfully studying my scriptures instead of just reading them
- make a point to sit by someone new at church each week, introduce myself and then remember their name!
- find a new job that will push me and give me more opportunities to grow
- start a daily meditation program
- perform one random act of kindness each day
- find a cause to champion (I have a few charities I donate money to but no one that gets my time)
I still have a few 'experience' type goals that will be more cross off the list type things than actual development but a girl's gotta have a little bit of fun, right?
- complete a Pinterest project each month (some good does come from the Internet, I promise!)
- attend at least one live performance each month
- re-read a favorite book each month
- read a poem a day
- travel to a new country and visit at least 2 new states (Thailand, Texas and Kentucky are leading the list of options so far)
- see the POTUS live and in-person
- hike Old Rag
- finish writing my book
- make my own pickles
and a few that are not so much fun as important:
- stick to a budget!
- set up a retirement fund
- learn to tailor my own clothes
That's not every goal but it's most of them. It's going to be tough but I'm hoping it will be worthwhile, that I'll stick with it and keep the effort up (something ongoing is always harder than a one shot event) and make some much needed changes in my life so that in next year's letter I'll have something new to say! And I'm relying on you all to check up on me every now and then and keep me motivated!
Do you make goals and resolutions? How do you go about doing it? How often do you stick with them? What are your tricks for success? I'd love to hear about it! Oh, and Happy New Year!