How to Name a Goal

I’ve been struggling a little with how I want to articulate my goals for 2018.

I’m not usually big on New Year’s resolutions. As I’ve said on this blog many times before, I always think of September as the new year, because my life is so tied to the academic calendar.

This past September. though, wasn’t just a regular “back to school” start to the year. It felt like a seismic shift in our family. It wasn’t just that my maternity leave ended and I went back to work, but that I went back to work to a position that required full-time hours. I’ve always been working, with the exception of the first six months of E’s life and all of 2015 when there wasn’t any teaching to be had, but previously I’d been able to fit the work in around my family. Even when I was registered as a full-time student for the PhD, I never actually worked more than three days a week on it once E. was born.

Something approximating full-time hours (because I’m still cheating and staying home with P. one day a week) was a real shock, for all of us. E. had never had someone other than his parents pick him up from school in the afternoons.

The fall was a big period of adjustment (although it took much longer for me to adjust than anyone else).

We survived the fall.

That makes it sound probably worse than it was, because everyone was largely happy with the new routine (I’d still rather be home an extra day, but c’est la vie).

What didn’t happen, at least from my perspective, was this: we didn’t really ever slip into a groove. We made the routine work, but we weren’t settled in the new rhythm yet. On the surface, we probably looked under control- the house got cleaned and everyone ate and the kids went to activities and had clothes that fit and we didn’t forget appointments- but I think Q. and I both felt like we just careened from one week to the next, always only one step ahead of total chaos. (That we avoided chaos at all is almost entirely thanks to Q. who took on the lion’s share of the house management.)

It is quite possible that this is just normal life for two working parents with two little kids, but we’re not used to feeling so out of control.

It wasn’t a comfortable fall.

So I feel like there is value to setting some resolutions or goals for 2018, because I think it would be useful for me to sit back and look at my life and see what is working and what is not and to think about what I can change to improve things.

I just haven’t quite worked out yet how I want to approach it.

I have an all-or-nothing kind of personality, so it’s not at all practical for me to make resolutions like “do x every day” because as soon as I start missing days I tend to decide the entire thing’s a disaster and I quit. I once made an abortive attempt at a photo 365 (starting in 2016) and gave up even before January was half over because I’d missed a few days. In July it became clear on the photo blog which inspired me to start the challenge that she’d missed a bunch of days, including quite a few in quick succession in the summer. It was honestly shocking for me to contemplate the idea that you could keep doing something even if you hadn’t done all the rest of it perfectly up to that point.

I have to be careful with numbers because my inner perfectionist loves to tell me I’ve failed at things. That’s why I really liked Ana’s idea about posting 30 times in 30 days during NaBloPoMo: even if you missed a day, you could still complete the challenge. I didn’t quite get there, but I also didn’t give up almost immediately after missing a day, so I call that a win.

At first I thought about choosing a word for the year, to keep it simple. But the best word I could come up with was “less” (as in less stuff, less stress, less worrying, etc.) and that didn’t seem to encompass everything.

From Ana’s blog I heard about the Happier podcast’s idea of 18 in 2018, which seemed promising for about fifteen seconds before I decided that I’d get overwhelmed with 18 things, even if some of them were small.

I usually like goals better than resolutions because I’m a very results-oriented person, especially results that come with lots and lots of external validation. But some things lend themselves better to resolutions than goals (I am happy to resolve to “floss more” as opposed to working towards the goal of “not having my gums bleed copiously every time I go to the dentist”). Plus sometimes I don’t want to do the thinking to make sure all my goals are SMART. And sometimes the process is more important than the result: from a results-only perspective, my happiness boot camp back in 2015 was a total failure, in that I didn’t keep up with my charts and didn’t stick to the plan and didn’t achieve most of the goals (although the ultimate end goal was a success as I did end up much happier).

I take choosing my resolutions/goals seriously, even when I usually don’t achieve them.

Does that make any sense?

How do you approach your goals/resolutions? What works for you? What are you hoping to achieve in 2018?

1 Comment

Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Choose Happiness

One response to “How to Name a Goal

  1. Pingback: Progress, Not Perfection | Res Cogitatae

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