Goal-setting is celebrated in American culture. In elementary school, we were encouraged to share our aspirations and awarded for following rules and exceeding expectations. Long before receiving formal grades for performance, stars and smiley faces adorned notebooks indicating that a day’s work was praise worthy. I lived for the praise, the approving nods and attention from my teachers. An obsession grew from an innocent need for affirmation from those who were tasked with teaching me how to survive, and maybe even succeed, in the world.
I was often asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. But I said whatever I needed to say to impress those interrogating me. It seemed harmless enough. Asking a little girl what she wanted to “be” as if we ever arrive and stay in one place or one role. I’ve accepted that evolving is all I know how to do. I know how to take the fragments of my failures and frame them, calling them mosaic windows that add a little color to my perspective. I don’t know how to “be” much less sit still and savor a moment. I have to keep going, keep discovering, keep loving, keep learning.
Goals are misleading. They indicate the existence of an absolutism that isn’t realistic. There’s an assumption that achieving guarantees satisfaction and opting not to achieve indicates failure. Each year, when we sit down to make a list of resolutions, we curse spontaneity and we cast out miraculous energy that wants to operate in our lives.
I hate resolutions that aren’t carefully planned with a list of disclaimers and options for amendments. As a person who struggles with body image, I learned that a personal resolution to lose weight isn’t realistic if it isn’t preceded by a decision to get counseling and heal from years of toxic eating habits and a lack of self love. We demand so much from ourselves. We require more and more each year, without leaving room for healing the previous years’ disappointments. What if we made fewer goals and made more commitments? Deciding to live more and worry less or stop obsessing over the details and learn to admire the big picture.
Instead of making a list of what I plan to do next year, I’m celebrating this year by making a list of things I’m proud of ranging from “moving across the country” to “brushing my teeth twice a day”.
Reasons Not to Make Resolutions
- You’re already incredible.
- You are too hard on yourself. Take a break from being your loudest critic and worst enemy.
- You deserve to relax. Look back at all you’ve conquered. When is the last time you spent the beginning of the year celebrating where you are instead of pushing yourself toward another finish line?
- Resolutions don’t always allow you to do critical work like healing from last year.
- Stay in the moment. Don’t spend this gorgeous day obsessing over days and months to come. A wise man once said, “tomorrow will take care of itself”.