I don’t really do resolutions. For one thing, they are too easy to break, feel guilty over, and simply ignore. What I do, is set goals. Goal-setting is much more substantial than a vague resolution. I can resolve to write more in 2017. Or I can set concrete goals, broken into manageable chunks, and have a much better chance of achieving what I set out to do. There’s no guarantee. Last year saw some big life changes that made my goals go out the window, replaced by new goals that I had to work toward (and reached!). This year, the same thing could happen.
A common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. I could stand to drop a few pounds – or better yet, convert that mass to muscle. To that end, I’ll set goals. I got a pedometer/watch for less than $20 from Amazon (it’s not great, but it’s functional if I pay attention to it) and set up a daily step goal. There’s not a lot of good places to walk right near the new house, but there’s a park a half-mile away, and if I drag my daughters out, it’s a good thing for them, too. I’ll sit down with them, choose days and times, set alarms and notifications on Google Calendar for us, and we’ll do this thing together. That’s a set, concrete goal, not just ‘oh, I’ll lose some weight’ which has no accountability or deadlines.
The other thing about setting goals is that you need release valves. if I resolve to write 2000 words a day, 365 days a year, something’s going to give. That much pressure to perform, when I have a sick day and only manage 500, or I’m on the road and can’t manage any, or I miss a day, and then another goes by and then why am I bothering to do this I can’t do anything I suck I’ll go eat worms and die… You have to build in some leeway. Not planning to fail, but planning for a human. We can’t all perform at the top of our game day in and day out. I certainly can’t – I’m no superwoman. So instead of planning 2000 words a day, I’ll plan to do that 5 days a week, 10K words a week total. If I miss a day, or take a day off, I’m still on track. Half the battle here is the mental resolution, and I don’t mean the New Year’s kind. I mean the perseverance and endurance to carry on even when you have to stoop and pick up the balls you’ve dropped first.
I often feel like I’m a juggler in life. I have a lot of balls in the air – motherhood, wifely duties, self-maintenance, housework, business, school (yes, I’m graduated. No, I won’t stop learning, it will just be lower pressure), and more. Some days, when I’m overwhelmed, a ball gets dropped. Some months, I look back and realize that one ball spent more time on the floor than in the air. I have had to make decisions to drop a ball and leave it, like shuttering the performing business last fall. I just couldn’t cope with one more thing. The process I use to decide what to drop is sometimes instinctive (self-maintenance gets neglected, and yes, I know why that’s bad, but if I’m not paying attention, that’s the one ball I know I’ll drop. So I have to plan around my own tendencies), and sometimes carefully thought out. I’ll triage the balls, when the time comes, and decide how much time/energy/resources I have, how many I can support, and which are highest priorities. The ones at the bottom of the list I let fall, until the crisis is past.
None of this is done in a vacuum. The First Reader is often my sounding board when I’m struggling with a decision, and as my partner in life, it’s his role to make decisions alongside me that affect the whole family. I don’t choose paths unilaterally and then tell him about them. That wouldn’t be fair to him, and I’d lose his support in time, which I can’t do without. When we are making goals for the whole family, we sit down together as a family and do that. We did that last night, just before the New Year, talking about chores, duties, earning money, and daily minutiae. The kids are certainly old enough to take part in that, but even if they weren’t, we’d still make them part of it. It’s good for them to be a part of what it takes to keep a household running smoothly. I was surprised at their interest in our monthly budget meetings, as they pulled up chairs and listened in while the First Reader and I planned where the money would go – ahead of time, rather than running around at the end of the month wondering where it had all gone, and how will we make it to the next paycheck. Goal setting is good there, too!
Back in my early adult life, when I first analyzed setting goals, and how to do that, I came across the ‘eating an elephant’ metaphor. It’s still pertinent. One bite at a time is far less overwhelming than ‘you want me to do what?! By when?!’ I want to write two novels this year. It’s not a big goal. It’s relatively modest. But that is about 220K words, which seems huge considering my good days of writing are averaging 4K (not counting the long dry spell I’ve had). I can do that. My other big goal does seem a little more difficult – to gain full time employment and start on my new career. I don’t have a handle on that, yet. I’ll be writing posts here on the blog about that journey soon. Speaking of the blog… I am returning to daily posts. I miss the outlet it gave me, and the impetus to get up, get moving, blog, and get on with the rest of life. Also, it’s a good way to keep myself accountable. I miss having an accountability group – I left the writing group I was part of, afraid I was irritating people, and feeling like I was a waste of space, last year. I’m still worried I may not be able to write, that I’ve lost the magic that created Pixie Noir and later books. That doesn’t mean I won’t try, just… I think the blog will be good for me to keep some finger movement going, if that makes sense. Like now, as I’m rolling past a thousand words and feeling like my brain and fingers are warming up and working together.
Happy New Year!
May it be a blessed and bright one for you, and yours.
May your goals be manageable, your growth measurable, and your joys uncontainable.