Setting the bar

The new year is here, bringing resolutions and goals with it. Toward the end of 2013 I set four simple goals  for finishing the year well, and the results were mixed. 

My first and fourth goals were the easiest to manage. I saw some of the most amazing sunrises and walked into some terrific snowfalls without snapping a photo and posting it online. As I worried less about bottling up beautiful things to share with people, I became more observant and appreciative. Juice drinking went pretty well too. I even like a few new fruits. Mango? Who knew.

I hate that I didn’t practice Spanish more though. There was definitely enough time in the day — I just didn’t make it happen. My final goal was to spend less time on Instagram. This went really well for the first week or so before I threw in the towel.

Goals are wonderful because they help us chart the course each day. When we can look to the goal and remember its purpose, we can wade through the small choices and big decisions that bring us to the desired result.

Goals are also incredibly frustrating. I know that social media like Instagram takes up more time than it should and often bums me out — so I set a goal to change that and to improve my daily life. Why then is it so hard for me to stick with it? Same with the Spanish. I want to do it, but I don’t. And in those moments, goals don’t look like such inspirational reference points. They end up looking more like flashing neon signs which point to our shortcomings.

English: Original Whitey's "EAT" sig...
English: Original Whitey’s “EAT” sign in Arlington, VA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is why New Year’s resolutions are so tricky. They represent optimism and hope for a better year, a better life and a better you. But they also carry the weight of failed attempts and disappointment. As 2014 rings itself in, the goals and dreams are already piling up in my mind. I will make a budget and stick to it. I will get in shape and run a 5k. I will save enough money to move out on my own. I will cook more often.

But what if I don’t reach any of these goals in 2014?  Evidence from the last two decades or so indicates that at the end of 2014, I will still wear the same size pants and still hate running. I will still spend too much money on shoes I don’t need and drag my feet with writing projects and homework assignments.  My 2013 was filled with unfulfilled goals, and who’s to say this new year will be any different?

This is the part where I have to interrupt myself with some encouragement. While this last year had its fair share of dashed dreams, it also had some unexpected victories. I decided on a totally different career path, started grad school and am still really happy with the decision. I flew to Peru, made wonderful new friends from Ohio and around the world, and had the adventure of a lifetime. Old friendships have been stretched and new friendships have been strengthened. I earned money for writing poems and building fairy-sized furniture. I quit one job and started another. I swam with dolphins and snorkeled with my family in Mexico.

These things were never goals or resolutions — but life keeps happening even when we don’t lose 25 pounds and stop eating red meat. So yes, I am starting 2014 with some lofty and specific goals in mind — and I really hope I am able to meet them. But regardless of where I set the bar this year, I am confident that it will be and adventurous, wonderful 2014.

xo, Mallory

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